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Taking Care of Business

From the Archives – MACS ACtion May 2013 Edition

By: Jacques Gordon

In Takin’ Care of Business released in 1974 by Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO), the group sings “If you ever get annoyed / look at me I’m self-employed / I love to work at nothing all day.” As someone who has worked for others but who is now deemed (at least by the IRS) to be self-employed, being “your own boss” is not as easy as BTO made it sound back when I was in college.   

Responsibility of Business Owners

            Multiple responsibilities fall to the owner of a business that employs others. Maybe most important is keeping the business solvent. This way employees get a regular paycheck and any benefits that go with the job, such as health care insurance. The owner must be paid last to keep the business operating with its full workforce. Employees must also be provided with the means by which to do their jobs. This includes a clear job description that states the essential functions of the position and any special requirements, such as being able to lift a specified weight or use specific software.

            Interestingly, the small business person often finds out that the owner’s position has no specific job description. Every business owner must be able to market the business to attract customers. They also need to manage both the work and the workforce. It is almost self-evident that building and maintaining strong customer relationships is key to a successful business. However, how that is accomplished is neither self-evident nor easily attained. Attracting new customers to your business is important, but in what media do you advertise?  Further, how do you price the product or service to attract the customers you really want?

Keeping Business Happy

            Keeping a customer is at least as important as attracting new customers. Of course, one of the surest ways to keep a customer is to do a good job for them, whether it is selling a quality product or providing superior service, all at a justifiable price.  It is also crucial to keep the customer informed about when the product will be delivered or how long it will take to complete the service.  Customers may not want to hear bad news. However, they will certainly be much more irritated if they are not notified about unexpected costs or delays and simply forced to take a late delivery or be presented with a higher bill.

            In addition to attracting and managing customers, the owner must also manage the workforce.  Obviously, hiring qualified people for each position is important. The business owner should also be prepared to provide some level of training for almost any position. Employee compensation is crucial to attracting qualified candidates for the job. It is never good for a business’s success to either underpay or overpay its employees. Although, I suspect that almost no employee will admit to being overpaid.

Managing the Workforce

            Business owners must keep in mind that there are many things that go into a successful business. This includes employees who do not dread each day of work. Fortune Magazine annually publishes a list of the one hundred best employers. Among the things employees appreciate most at those companies are perks.

Some examples of said perks are a mini-vacation for employees who reach a specific anniversary with the company, a bring-your-pet-to-work day, receiving treats (e.g., ice cream) on an ongoing basis, having a workout or sports facility for employee use, compensating the spouse or domestic partner of a deceased employee at some percentage of that employee’s last salary, getting credits towards products or services of the company, and recognition by management and/or co-workers. The costs of some perks may be beyond a business’s budget, but it is important to find some way to show an interest in the workforce that keeps the doors open for the business.

            Finally, employees should feel free to share ideas with their employers. Employers should keep an open mind with regard to those ideas.  Employers should also never forget the benefits of doing the right thing. Not only does it minimize the chances of being sued or reported to a government authority, but it reduces the risk of employees feeling free to take advantage of their employer because they feel the employer is taking advantage of them. So a successful business owner will never “work at nothing all day,” but when it is done right, there is nothing more rewarding than taking care of business.

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