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Good Employees Are Hard To Find

Every time I see a TV show about running a business, they always say that it is wrong to micromanage.  A lot of times the owners of small businesses have to work 80 hours a week because they’re afraid to let go.  They’re not sure if they can trust others to do as good as themselves.  Their fear is certainly justified; they have more skin in the game than anyone else.  The moral of the story always ends up being that for the business to grow, the owner must let others take more responsibility.

I feel fortunate that I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I am too busy to do everything.  I have too much on my plate and I can’t do it all.  I’m willing to do all of it; I have just reached my limit for a lack of sleep.  Learning from the mistakes mentioned above, I started paying people to do things.  My thought was that the economy is bad, so people need money.  If I offer to give people money, then they will be gracious and allow me to go to bed before 1:30am.  It turns out that it isn’t as easy as I originally thought.

Letting Go Was the Easy Part

It was really interesting to find out that I had no trouble letting go of the control.  It honestly felt liberating to think that all I had to do was pay a little bit of money and my task list got shorter.  I was multiplying my effectiveness because for 1 day’s worth of work I’d get 2 or 3 days worth of things done.  Even when things  were done differently or not as well as I would have done them, having less pressure on me made it feel like a net win.

The real heartache or difficulty was to get people to do their job.  I can’t count the numbers of people I’ve met since May that have had an opportunity to make money but turned it down or just plain dropped the ball.  I find it so strange that when I’m paying someone to do something they actually fail to do it.  Or they’d get around to it when they felt like it.  From their position, they were doing me a favor…which is the completely wrong attitude to have.  We needed each other equally; they needed a little more business and I needed a little more sleep.  If that symbiotic relationship didn’t exist, no one would have cried.  They’d have a little less money and I’d have a little less sleep.

A concrete example would be with one of the local window installers.  There was a hole in my kitchen window, I needed a few screens, and my sliding glass doors wouldn’t open. I figured this would be a great thing to outsource. I called a window person at 7pm one night and left a message.  Their message said, “if you’re calling after hours, we’ll return your call the next business day.”  Well I didn’t get a call for 2 days.  No biggie.  By the time I got off the phone, the owner personally told me that he was going to run by my house that afternoon and I was going to meet him there.  He never showed.  Almost 2 weeks later someone else from the company called and asked if I would like to have my window fixed.  I politely told the person that if they are too busy to keep their appointments then they really didn’t need my business.

Later, when I was running a background check on a tenant, I called a private investigator to do it for me.  I could have done it myself but this person is trying to get a small business started.  So on Sunday afternoon I sent over the information and was told I’d be put in the queue.  After still not hearing anything, on Tuesday afternoon I called to see what was going on.  No work had been done yet so again I said, “don’t worry about it anymore, I’ll get it done elsewhere.”

The Unexpected Outcome

Those two particular cases added more stress and took more of my time than if I just did it all myself.  Unfortunately those individuals soured by taste for small businesses.  Generally I love entrepreneurs and I take pride in trying to help them grow.  Frequently I’ll use their services just as a means of my own philanthropy.  It breaks my heart to know there are so many folks out there, struggling to make ends meet while they start a business, but fail to realize the amount of effort it requires.  Starting a business is not like working for the government or as employee 12786 in a sea of cubicles.  I think all of the infomercials have caused people to think that “being your own boss” means you get to set your own hours and approve all of your own vacation requests.

The saying is that 9 out of 10 businesses fail.  It makes me wonder if 9 out of 10 business that fail had owners who weren’t willing to go an extra mile?

The Next Step

The truth is, without the help of many individuals and businesses, I’d probably be alone at my other house laying tile right now.  And really, I’m sure the owners of those business will do fine, it’s just that they run their businesses in a way that I’d never run mine.  I’d stay up until 3am if that’s what it took to service each one of my customers.  But I’m weird so I can’t fault the “normal” people.  I’ll just make it a point to support my fellow weirdos.  It also taught me to be more upfront with my expectations.  If I told the investigator that I wanted a quick turn around, I could have been told that it wasn’t possible right away.  I wouldn’t have had to wait 2 days to find out this person was too busy.

All of this leads me to my final point and a conclusion that I promised in the title.  If your boss has ever had an employee before, then he or she will know that it is very difficult to find someone who takes responsibility and just does their job.  They appreciate not spending their entire day making sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to.  If you can consistently give your boss what he or she needs without constant nagging, then your boss will do everything it takes to keep you happy.  Knowing that you are the last person who will ever get fired and the first person who will get a raise, now that will get you one step closer to infinite happiness.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Kathy-isms – Smart Path to Happiness linked to this post on August 30, 2009

    [...] Children will always complain about having to do things they don’t want to do.  Having to eat broccoli will be the most terrible thing they could ever think of happening.  For the rest of us, we feel fortunate to have jobs so we can afford to poison our children with vegetables.  As grown ups, we’ll always have to do things at our job that taste like celery (or maybe even radishes!) but we aren’t children so we can control the way we react.  You don’t have to pretend like you are excited, but paint on a smile and say, “I’d be happy to”.  It’s no fun to force people to do things they don’t want to do and your supervisor will greatly appreciate having a low-maintenance employee.  You can read a much more in depth conversation of why it is good to be good to your boss in Good Employees are Hard to Find. [...]

  2. A Ray of Light – Smart Path to Happiness linked to this post on December 11, 2009

    [...]  So many seemed to be riddled with poor quality, poor customer service, or poor morals.  In Good Employees Are Hard To Find, I discussed some companies which were given an opportunity but dropped the ball.  I could spend [...]

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