As a small business owner, every aspect of the company is in your hands. Yes, we mean everything: the physical location that you call your home office, which office equipment and appliances that you use for everyday operations, and the people that you choose to hire to work for you. Remember, you’re not just a business owner — you’re somebody’s boss.
With that in mind, think about all the previous jobs you’ve had that resulted in a negative experience. What about those jobs made them bad places of business? We’ve all had those jobs, between rude and insufferable bosses to a toxic environment that made you dread coming in every day. Now think about the jobs you’ve had that were positive places to work. Why did you enjoy that particular business or businesses?
You wear many hats: Business owner, supervisor, communications specialist, and more. In your role as The Boss, what are you offering your employees that make your business a great place to work? If you are scratching your head and can’t seem to think of any good reasons, we’re here to help. Read on to learn some tricks for making your business a better place to work.
Start From the Inside
Try to objectively look at your office space. If someone had never entered your building before, what kind of environment would they see? We mean from a client and from a prospective employee’s standpoint. If someone were to walk in and had never seen your facility before, would it seem like a pleasant, welcoming environment?
Making your office as comfortable as possible is essential for anybody walking in for the first time. It might seem like a daunting, expensive task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many inexpensive, easy ways to make your business feel more homey to your patrons and employees.
- Does it always feel cold? Adding electric heaters can instantly help to circulate warm air and get everyone feeling a little more comfortable. You can purchase very small, yet effective space heaters that are perfect for placing underneath employees’ desks and keeping them toasty warm while they work. Naturally, take the necessary precautions: Don’t allow anything to be draped over the heaters, and ensure that anything flammable is far, far away from them. You don’t want your business office to have a fire in an attempt to provide comfort.
- It might amaze you what a fresh coat of paint can do. No matter what shade you choose, a freshly painted office is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to freshen up your business. Even if a single can of paint starts at about $40, you can score deals. Ask the person at the paint counter where their missing bin is. You can find gallons upon gallons of paint cans that have been returned or rejected by previous customers for the color not quite matching their vision. These are marked down significantly, and if you’re lucky, you can sometimes find a five-gallon bucket for a discount.
- Add greenery in various places around your business. Our caveperson instincts love to see Mother Nature’s touch indoors, and even a bunch of artificial plants can instantly transform the atmosphere. Whichever kind of greenery you choose — real or artificial — make sure that you’re properly caring for them: Regularly watering live ones and dusting fake ones.
As the business owner, it’s on you to ensure your office environment is a welcoming place. Make it a priority for people walking in for the first time to have a good impression of the place that is your home away from home.
Transform Your Technology
You likely already know that the Energy Star label is synonymous with an energy-efficient device. It’s highly common to see it on windows and doors, as well as other construction material, but did you know that your electronics and another tech in the business place can also serve the same purpose? Electronics built with renewable energy is made to save you money in electricity as well as provide a longer lifespan for the item in question.
Some examples of energy-efficient technology include:
- Computers and laptops. These kinds of electronics are made with internal parts that will consume less energy overall, power down after a certain duration of idle time, and will overall perform the same business functions, but using fewer resources.
- Printers, scanners, and copy machines. Like computers, the internal workings of these technologies will consume far less energy than their non-Energy Star counterparts. It is not at all uncommon for these to go to “sleep” after X amount of idle time, and when you need to use them again, “waking” them is as easy as pushing a button.
- Break room appliances. Even if the 30-year-old refrigerator that you inherited from your Great Aunt Mabel is still running pretty well, donuts to ten is that it’s costing your business more money than it’s worth. Old mechanisms consume far more energy than they need to, and technology has come a lot way in kitchen appliances. Consider restocking your break room with a new stove, microwave, fridge, and yes, even coffee maker. You won’t just be saving money on your monthly energy and electricity bills, but your water bill will also start to improve as well.
Once you begin noticing the Energy Star label, you start seeing it all over the place. When considering business upgrades, look carefully at pieces that can save you money in the long run. Even if you have no idea where to begin, you can ask any sales associate at stores like Lowes and Home Depot to give you their professional opinion.
In the same vein, don’t discount the importance of technology that is up-to-date. This means, alongside your technology being green and energy-efficient, that it is also properly patched and updated to match the current version. Imagine trying to launch video conferencing software at the most crucial moment, only to discover that it needs a massive update that will delay your meeting by several minutes. This applies to custom software, too. If you have a software developing team, ensure that they’ve got everything up to snuff to their latest versions.
Give Employees Good Reasons to Stay
Did you know that approximately 69% of employers have a hard time filling jobs? Think for a moment about why that might be. What is your business offering to employees that will increase their longevity with you? If you are drawing a blank, we’ll make it easier: BENEFITS. Employees that have a great set of benefits like health care plans and employee assistance programs are more likely to stick around and not stray elsewhere.
It might seem like an unnecessary cost, but give some serious thought into how much it costs to hire and train a new employee — only to have them walk out a few months later. Don’t be a Frank Shirley in your business and give your workers the resources that they need to not only live and sustain a healthy life but also give them reasons to stay long-term. Even if you can’t afford a full benefits package, other ideas might be:
- Grief counseling, as well as marriage and family counseling. Some companies offer these benefits through their employee assistance program, but you can also offer them as standalone services.
- A company attorney to help with legal advice. This doesn’t have to only be business-related legal advice, but anything within the scope of the attorney’s line of work. Employees might have questions regarding traffic tickets, state regulations involving cannabis, advice on divorces, or anything else that you can think of. Hiring someone to be a liaison for your employees is a fantastic work perk.
- Paid and personal time off. Look, we get it: Running a business is money, and it seems like such a waste to pay for time that nobody is working. But come on, think again about those awful jobs you’ve had in the past. Paid time off and personal days can make a huge difference in your psyche and willingness to actually continue working a job, and employees appreciate it. You already know this. You were in similar trenches once.
Karma means getting back what you put out into the universe, and it is the basis for the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you treat your employees with the respect they deserve and give them benefits to match, they will be more likely to stick around and keep doing their best for you. Even if you can’t afford a full insurance and benefits package, the perks that you can offer could very well make the difference between a long-term and a short-term employee.
Enhance Curb Appeal
While your business’s interior is incredibly important, think also about what it looks like from the outside. Is it welcoming and friendly, or will someone passing by clutching their wallet a little more tightly and zoom past at breakneck speed?
You don’t want to project negative associations with your business, which is one reason why curb appeal is so important. It’s not difficult to do, but it does require some legwork and elbow grease. Some simple, yet effective curb appeal ideas include:
- Patching cracks in the concrete, or pouring new concrete to replace the old and crumbling variety. Concrete that is not well-taken-care-of screams “I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY BUSINESS!” to prospective clients who don’t know you, and can potentially deter them from even considering you as a resource.
- Raking leaves, pulling weeds, and overall maintaining an attractive landscape. Well-placed flowers and shrubs can make a world of difference in terms of curb appeal. Remember those caveperson instincts that like to see greenery? Don’t only apply that rule indoors, do the same outside.
- Swap out old, dingy, or burned-out soft white light bulbs for LED bulbs. Not only are this super-bright and help maintain a sense of security outside the building, but LEDs are energy efficient and can last up to 25 times longer than standard light bulbs.
Imagine walking past a business that looks like the house from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Would you be very inclined to walk inside and inquire about services? No? Neither would we. Keep your business’s exterior looking as good as the interior to attract more business and to give people positive associations with you.
Seek Professional Help
Success in your business doesn’t always have to do with your physical location and employee happiness. Your marketing tactics play a huge role as well. Whether you have a marketing team onsite or not, outsourcing professionals can help you to draw in new customers and take the excess load off of your employees.
Looking into a product design firm can help you with so many different business aspects. Consultants can help you with everything from designing a new logo and reconfiguring your mission statement to redesigning how you package your products. It can be an added expense, but think of how much more you can make with an enhanced marketing strategy. It costs money to make money, and hiring professionals to help you do just that can help to keep your business fresh and interesting to clients. Plus, you’re not putting as much pressure on your existing employees to complete the projects along with their normal workload.
Another idea is to look into professional actors. Television and radio commercials can reach a huge local audience, especially if you’ve got people involved who actually studied and honed their craft. This doesn’t only mean people playing a role, but also voice overs for commercials. Tone and inflection make an enormous difference in how your message is portrayed to the public. Leave it to someone who knows how to use these to your advantage.
Who said running a business was easy? As Wesley tells Buttercup in The Princess Bride: “Life IS pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Your company is a labor of love, and it’s worth putting your time and money into making it a success. Happy, loyal employees are the backbone of any successful endeavor. By creating a friendly and positive work environment, you are setting yourself up for a long-term, well-run company.