You would be surprised to learn how many business owners update me about their business by saying, “Business would be great – except for the people.” While some may be joking, there is some truth in some business owners’ struggles to relate, understand and manage the people they hired into their company. Every business has a mosaic of personalities, and as business owner or manager, it falls on you to facilitate the highest performance possible from each person to keep your business profitable. What do you do when you find it difficult to work with certain people or you identify conflicts between employees? Some employees may be more social or introverted; aloof or friendly; self-directed or needs direction; linear thinker or big-picture; detail-oriented or conceptual. Here’s how you keep business great while leveraging the talent of your employees.
Set expectations for the company: Implementing clear company expectations is important for you as a business-owner because it sets a standard of performance that you expect to see from everyone that has been clearly communicated and understood. Whether it is punctuality, deadlines or the completion of admin tasks, you can always refer to these expectations with employees to determine if there are any discrepancies between what you expect and their current performance.
Use assessment tools: Set aside time for your employees to utilize workplace personality or interpersonal assessment tools so that they have a chance to learn more about their traits and tendencies and how they fit into the larger business team. As a business-owner, you will have a clearer image of how your employees fit together as a team, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’re unsure of which assessments are available to you, there are many free resources online, such as the Myer’s Briggs Personality Assessment (link) or True Colours (link) that can help guide your conversation.
Have regular performance meetings: Once you have an understanding of the different strengths and weaknesses within your team, you can initiate ongoing conversations surrounding self-awareness and professional development with your employees. For example, if you have an employee who is now conscious of her tendency to dismiss others’ ideas during meetings, your coaching conversations should involve improving her open-mindedness.
Delegate with differences in mind: Having a better understanding of your employees will help you understand what tasks are best suited to which employees, which can improve motivation and job satisfaction, as people are more likely to perform better at tasks they enjoy doing. When possible, identify tasks that highlight the strengths of your employees, such as delegating a business development task to an employee who is sociable and shines in a networking setting.
Support weaknesses: It’s important not to ignore weaknesses as they surface during this process. Encourage your employees to embrace areas where they can build and learn from you and your colleagues.
Encourage team building: While understanding is a big step to managing differences on a team, making an effort to build team and encouraging relationship-building is equally important. Encourage your employees to get to know each other, either informally or through team-building activities, so that they can get a clearer picture of WHO their colleagues really are. This builds mutual empathy and an appreciation between colleagues, so that even if some elements of a person are frustrating or difficult to deal with, your employees are able to see positive elements of their colleagues as well.
Do you see a variety of differences among the people in your business? How have you leveraged strengths and weaknesses on your team? I look forward to your thoughts below!
The goal of the Women Business Owners 3-part blog series for my blog was to bring a female perspective to the unique challenges faced by business owners. In Part 1, I researched the potential obstacles for women when undertaking business ownership that may contribute to the gradually narrowing disparity between the number of male vs. female entrepreneurs. The aim of Part 2 was to delve into the journey of successful business ownership in an interview with the owners of Bayview Sheppard RMT, who openly shared the ups and downs of their story with us. In a fitting conclusion, Part 3 of this series explores the value of mentorship in business and who better to give voice to this topic than the successful business owners themselves.
For Helen Milic and Lisa Macchia, the “Go” button was pressed nine full years before the two ladies thought they would take the plunge into business ownership together. As much as they initially envisioned putting-off starting a business until the youngest of their children attended school full-time, in January 2005, circumstances arose where the women realized that their time was now or never.
They opened the doors to their clinic three months later.
As Registered Massage Therapists, the Helen and Lisa completing schooling knowing that they would be self-employed in terms of attracting and maintaining a solid clientele base. The ladies rented a room in a clinic together, and while their families were young, their highest priority was the ability to leave work at the end of the day to be present and attentive mothers and wives.
When I asked Helen and Lisa the most difficult part of beginning this journey, three factors came up without hesitation: Money, Time and Family. The ladies recall an appointment at the bank in early 2005, business plan in hand, and remember how the female bank associate laughed in their faces. On paper, the finances and time needed to realize their business goals did not add up.
However, nine years later, their success speaks for itself. Having the business grow more than necessary to prove themselves, Helen and Lisa attribute the opportunity to succeed to the strength of their families and husbands. Between sewing curtains, painting rooms and their mothers even taking time off work to be available for the young kids, the women could not speak enough about the community effort that was necessary to see their goals achieved.
These goals of Bayview-Sheppard RMT however, are not achieved without a great deal of careful planning, daily organization and self-awareness on the part of the business-owners. The women recalled a day in recent memory where their hourly schedule seemed impossible to fit into a 24-hour period: Wake-up, make lunches, make breakfast for kids, drop off kids at school, massage, teach after work, back to the office for paperwork, make dinner, get kids ready for bed, phone meetings, check email, bed. Finally.
As women, work-life balance is not an added bonus to business-ownership – it is a requirement for both women to want to continue on this journey. Owning their own business would only work for them if their first priority as mothers was maintained. The women speak of a strong want and need to be present caregivers to their children and attribute their ability to be full-time mothers and business-owners to their business-partnership. “No one truly understands what the other goes through better than we do,” Lisa says, because, in their case, the ability to lean on each other is what makes their goals possible.
Mentorship outside of the advice they provide each other has played a significant part in gaining perspective and pushing their business to the next level. By deciding to enlist the support of a business coach and peer-mentorship with The Alternative Board, the women found a grounding force from where they were able to seek advice and wisdom from sources who wanted to see them succeed but were not personally invested in their business. Mostly, the women found reassurance that they were making the right choices and on the right path.
As for what’s next on the path for Lisa and Helen, their goals are simple: They want to always improve their customer experience by continuing to service the needs of their loyal clients as well welcoming new ones and give back to the community that supports them. With a passion for what they do and shared values as business owners, these women ultimately want to be happy and make those around them happy.
A big thank you to Helen and Lisa for spending time with me to share their story as business-owners. Does their story echo the journey you or someone you know took to business ownership? What have been your challenges and successes been? I look forward to your thoughts below!
Bayview Sheppard Registered Massage Therapy clinic, founded by Lisa Macchia and Helen Milic, opened its doors on March 22nd, 2005, and began operating with only 3 registered massage therapists. Today, they have 24 RMTs on staff and perform a variety of treatments from aromatherapy and deep tissue massage, to pregnancy and hot stone massage. They strive to provide a recognized clinically-oriented health option that achieves undeniable results in the relief of an array of discomforts stemming from stress, muscular overuse and many chronic pain syndromes.
Overall, there are fewer Canadian female business-owners than their male counterparts. Why does this disparity exist? For the next couple of weeks, I will be writing a 3-part blog series focusing on female business-ownership and how women can begin overcoming obstacles to success, either societal or otherwise.
Of all the business-owners I have worked with over the years, only a small percentage of my mentees are female, and I believe with more female presence in the entrepreneurial community, more women would feel inspired and compelled to see themselves undertaking that challenge.
Based on some very preliminary research, there could be several reasons why there are simply less female Canadian business-owners:
- Fewer females in positions of power in business: Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women hold only 14% of executive officer positions*. With statistics like these, perhaps young women do not identify or aspire to become business owners when they do not see female role models.
- Work-Life Balance: Although we now see much more equality between women and men in the domestic setting, women traditionally still take on a large portion of the household responsibilities, which results in less available time to spend putting in the hard hours of work required to get a new business up and running.
- Societal gender expectations: Traits that are often valued in male business-owners, such as assertiveness and drive, are sometimes incorrectly perceived as aggressive and selfish in female business-owners. This can affect a female business-owner’s confidence in reaching her next level of professional success.
- Lack of mentorship: Starting a business can be a very personal undertaking, and it may be difficult to ask for help. Business-owners, both male and female, would benefit from seeking mentorship and business coaching to gain perspective, learn from others’ experience and get support.
Do you agree with some of the reasons why there may be fewer female Canadian business-owners? Would you have added more to the list? Let me know what you think in your comments below.
My next blog will feature an interview with two local female business-owners who will give us some insights into both the obstacles and successes of their business. Stay tuned!
* Information referenced from Business Insider Magazine.