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Small Business

Managing Your Business

Motivating Employees by Focusing on Them

Rather than put the kibosh on college basketball brackets, The Motley Fool in Alexandria, Virginia, endorses hoops fever by offering a “bracketology" class and giving employees the opportunity to win extra vacation time if they choose their teams well. This multimedia financial services company says it wants employees to feel happy, inspired and supported at work.

“Caring about your employees is the number one motivator," says Amy Perrone, vice president at Shelli Herman & Associates, an executive search firm. “Find out what's important to them. Perhaps it's being able to take off when a child is sick," says Perrone. And maybe it's having permission to talk about basketball ad nauseam at work.

At Coast to Coast Computer Products, top-performing salespeople of the month have the option of working a reduced number of hours the following month. “This kind of flexibility is invaluable," says CEO Rick Roussin. “Some take advantage of it. Others don't and some use it on an as-needed basis. But the fact that it's an option is a strong motivator."

Unite Your Team

When all or part of your team isn't gathered in one place, it's essential to make an extra effort to create a cohesive unit, says Bill Fish, founder and president of Reputation Management, a firm that helps companies protect their online images. Fish says he borrowed the “Student of the Week" idea from his son's preschool and adapted it to fit his employees.

“Each Monday, I send the form to a different staff member, and they fill out where they went to school, favorite books, restaurants, quotes, and other items," says Fish. “This creates an environment where you feel like you know the person better even though you don't see them in the office on a daily basis."

Jason Parks, owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency, has a standing first-of-the-week engagement with his team to get them in the right mindset for the days ahead. “I send my employees a motivational video clip from YouTube. I pick a different theme every week." Whether it's the latest TED Talk or a coach's football huddle, he says, an appropriate motivational speech can boost employee attitudes and company culture.

Empower Employees to Be Better

Day-to-day perks have their own special power to motivate employees. The owners of Anne Vaughan Designs, a handcrafted jewelry company, work side-by-side daily in an open floor plan with their employees. They have music streaming into their studio atmosphere every day, rotating “who chooses the music so everyone gets to hear their musical picks," says co-owner Aaron Vaughan.

Roussin says he tries to offset the "just another cog in the wheel" feeling that employees have at some companies.

“I maintain a well-stocked library of personal growth audio, videos and books that can be accessed at any time by all employees. I also bring in motivational speakers with a focus on personal growth, as opposed to ways to attain professional success. If the individual is empowered in their personal life it translates to their work. My one guiding principle has always been that to grow the company you need to grow the individual."

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