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Treat Everyone Differently

What is the best management philosophy to run your small business?

When I won the Small Business Executive award, I was asked that. “Treat everyone differently” was my response.

Did any of your employees or yourself come with an owner’s manual?  Of course not and one could not be written because we are all different and unique. And if you are a small business owner don’t bother publishing one either. It is not very effective and it makes no practical sense for all the people in your organization to toe the same line and you to be a rule enforcer. It does not work well and produces unmotivated clock watchers.

How effective is it to try to motivate a 29-year-old salesperson who is a mother of two with the same methods as a 40-year-old technician? Not very. I would work the mother’s schedule so she could pick up the kids from school and then go home. One very happy salesperson. The tech was an avid golfer, so I would try to let him off Friday afternoons if he wanted to golf. One very happy tech. An office worker had a brutal commute, so I tweaked the hours to help that. One happy admin. Here is an awesome one: Office workers can’t get out like salespeople and techs, so every six months I would have sales or techs come in to man the phones while I sent the admins to a matinee movie.

None of these cost much. Neither would one work with the uniqueness of the other. In the sense that if each gets a perk, then they are treated equally. This flexibility is a strength of small business and can be easily overlooked. Use it and use it creatively. It is not a method that can be used well in larger companies with over 50 employees without risking disgruntlement.

Don’t be afraid to let an employee use a company asset if it is helpful to them. I let it be known anyone moving could use the company truck, which had a lift gate.  Even if most don’t need it, they generally appreciate the outreach. If the company has old stuff it no longer uses ask if any employee would like it before you toss it or try to sell it. Have a drawing for it if there is multiple interest.
These efforts come down to respecting the individual. Establish a culture based upon that and you have a great thing. Employees have a sense of emotional ownership in a company like that. Nobody ever washed a rental car and you do not want rental employees either. An employee-centric environment is less stressful, more productive and more fun. Sometime business owners want to make a work environment fun “and we are all crazy” type place. Ok, but do not let that keep you from taking that hard look at employees individually.

The message here is for the boss to act like he works for the employees. It’s called servant leadership. You do all you can to remove obstacles from any individual that would help make them more productive and happier. This makes you a genius, reduces turnover, and increases business. You are more of a coach than a dictator, a sort of employee godfather. And guess what? They give you room to be uniquely you, too. Maybe give you a break when you want to bring your three bird dogs to work.

In my experience you can be like this 90% and maybe 10% of the time resort to being a tyrant having to deal with serious incoming.

Customizing things, listening, being humble, and being responsive pulls in employees like a football huddle. Being bossy, egotistical (write this down ‘ego is expensive!’), unavailable, having a short attention span and not listening sends them out and costs you money by employees acting similar which eventually rolls down to the customers.
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books and publish 85 columns as a small business advisor.  

Posted: 12/20/2016 3:18:21 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Business, Human, Leadership, Owner, Resources, Small

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.