Succession planning? What’s that?
Business succession planning is a series of logistical and financial decisions about who will take over your business upon retirement, death or disability.
Small business owners – because they are human – are notorious for not having a succession plan. “It’s too soon to worry about that”, I’m only 40, I’m not going anywhere!”, “My family can decide after I’m gone”. Real head in the sand thinking and a great way for the business you worked so hard to start and grow to wind up belonging to someone else at no profit for those you left behind.
In fact, 58% of small business owners have no succession plan, according to a study of 200 privately held businesses by Wilmington Trust.
If you don't have a succession plan your death or inability to continue running the business could put your heirs in a tough spot. Succession planning isn't just about control and ownership. There also may be tax issues, training concerns, or finding a viable exit strategy if there's no relative or current employee willing (and able) to take over. ( Daniel Kline in an article for The Motley Fool) Honestly, is this something you and your family needs to be worrying about when you can no longer run your business – for whatever reason?
The best way to control what happens to your business -- in many cases your life's work -- is to take the proper steps to execute your plan. Even if what you want may anger your family or employees, it's always better to handle it now when it can be discussed than to leave it for lawyers after you're gone.
There are many options: select a successor and train them as the company grows and changes is the best. Then at the appropriate time, you can slide gracefully out of the owners chair and into your golf cart with no problems. The other option used by many is to sell your business to someone else. This will take a great deal of due diligence on your part – but in the end can be a fine solution.
Life can come at you fast, and the future can become the present in an instant. Bottom line: If you own a business and haven't built out your succession plan yet, it's time to get started.
Here’s another reason for succession planning: you’ve just closed a deal for supplying a jillion of your widgets to a big manufacturing company. The contract will last three years – the really big manufacturing company wants to know if your business will still be around in three years – or at least still functioning. They have the right to ask you if you have a succession plan. Won’t you look smart if you already have one?
A great starting place for information about succession planning is the Small Business Administration. They have a training module named Selling a Small Business and Succession Planning. The cool thing about this training module is that you can download and then use the Participant’s Workbook as your guide – or at least a starting place, because at some time you will also need a lawyer.
Here’s where to find the SBA guide: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/files/PARTICIPANT_GUIDE_SELLING_SUCCESSION_PLANNING.pdf
Googling “succession planning checklists” will get you plenty of information. One of the better checklists I found is https://www.cibcwg.com/c/document_library, and the document you want is CIBC BUSINESS TRANSITION PLANNING CLIENT CHECKLIST.
When you talk to your family or employees about succession planning, they will all immediately tell you that you’re a long way from needing to think about it. However, in their secret heart of hearts – they worry about how they will carry on if you are not in the picture. Having a succession plan in place will give everyone peace of mind.
You must assume that your employees will miss work before you start hiring because it happens. But, if you (and they) plan for it, business will continue as normal.
We are hiring people, not machines, and people have commitments above and beyond their jobs. Some have elder family members or children or even a spouse to care for, and that can mean they need time off or to be able to work from home. How you plan for this is important.
It would be nice if the person you are interviewing told you up front that they have responsibilities at home - but they usually don’t. And things change, so lack of responsibilities now doesn’t mean they won’t appear later. The lesson from this is: assume from the beginning that there will be times they need to be off.
The first thing you should do is sit down with the person who may need to take time away from the office/plant/warehouse and discuss how their job can be done if they are not physically there. Obviously, your fork lift driver can’t work from home, but do you have a back-up certified operator that they can train? Can your payroll clerk come in after regular hours? Can you add a phone line to your warehouse supervisor’s home that they can use to take care of business? Or can you change the hours they work to fit their need? If working from home or changing the hours are not viable options - look at how the work can be portioned out so that others take up the slack. This is the last resort of course, because you are adding to the work load of others- so you want to be sure that you do this fairly and that the appropriate training takes place. Both you and the employee who needs to be out should be sure to express your appreciation for the help.
The majority of employees who find themselves needing to take time away from work want to keep earning a salary and they want the work to get done, so they may have solutions that you won’t think of - which is why it is most important for you to sit down with them and make a good faith effort to work out an accommodation.
FLSA and ADA require that good faith effort is made, so going into solving the problem in partnership with the employee is your best bet for a win-win outcome.
When your employee comes to you regarding time away document the conversation. Just a note in your daily planner is usually enough to start with, but if things get sticky, full minutes of the meeting and maybe another person in the room with you will become necessary. Remember that you want to reach consensus with the employee if at all possible. Working with the employee who needs time off is the right thing to do, but be sure to keep the well-being of your company in mind!
Finding and Keeping Good Employees
It’s no secret that good help is hard to find, and even after you find them, they’re hard to hang on to!
Hiring someone to help in your small business shouldn’t be too big a challenge, you think. Just put out the word with your friends and relatives and potential employees come flocking in the door - right? Yes, you will find some potential employees this way - you might even find the best this way. Word of mouth is still how most people find a new job.
The applicants you get this way may not be the best fit for the position though. Before you spread the word, advertise, or start combing the internet, be sure you know what you want. Make a list of the knowledge the position requires i.e. typing speed, software knowledge, speaks Spanish, etc. Describe to yourself your ideal employee’s characteristics: outgoing, able to travel, organized, clean, good communicator and so on. Once you know exactly what you require in an employee, you will be positioned to start looking for the right one.
After you’ve found the right one (don’t forget that EBR Consulting can help you with that), you still have work to do.
Where will they work, do you have the right equipment, are there safety issues in the shop/office/plant that the employee needs to be trained in? What are their hours, do you have a dress code, how do you want them to treat the customers/other employees? Even is this is the only person you have working for you, it’s not a bad idea to have an employee handbook. (We can help you there, too!)
The most important thing you can do is train your employee right the first time. No one is going to walk into a new job knowing everything they need to know. You can let the new guy shadow you, showing them how things work as you go.
Shadowing you does two things - it teaches the new employee how things are done - and it also teaches the new employee how you want to treat customers, other employees, the public in general. So be very sure that you are setting the example and walking the talk that you expect your employees to follow.
Keeping this good employee after you have spent time to train them is another thing to keep in mind. More training is always welcomed by a good employee. This is accomplished in several ways, depending on the size of your company. You can transfer them to different departments to learn the other parts of your business if you have them. You can send them to classes to learn new skills or pay for them to take online courses. In a 2018 survey, 42% of employees say learning and development is the most important benefit when deciding where to work followed by health insurance (48%) (Udemy)
In a small business, this training may seem too time consuming or too expensive for you - it is the best way to spend your time and money because you want to have an employee who you trust - then you can go out and grow your business some more!
What’s New and Where Do I Go for Help?
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the launch of the New and Small Business Assistance and the Compliance Assistance Toolkits webpages. In addition to these new resources, the Wage and Hour Division recently made available compliance assistance videos that provide brief, plain-language explanations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) requirements and protections. The videos provide essential information employers need to understand their obligations under the law.
In other words - the government is here to help - and speaking for small business owners - I’m glad! Here’s the website: https://www.dol.gov/whd/smallbusiness.htm
If you have employees - you must have posters about the Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws affecting employees - and you are required to post them where those employees can see them. Many states also require posters, as well, so it can seem pretty daunting!
There are vendors who will happily sell you current posters (laminated and in color!), in fact, they’ll even set up a contract with you to supply new ones every time the laws change. Two of the vendors we can recommend are JJ Keller (https://www.jjkeller.com) and Labor Law Center (https://www.laborlawcenter.com/labor-law-posters)
These services can often be more than a small business owner needs though, and something you can easily manage on your own in the beginning.
The nice thing about every state DOL site I have visited and the federal DOL site is that you can download and print a copy of the laws directly from their site and some states even offer free copies.
I am in awe of the Basic Compliance Toolkit. Here’s what it contains:
· Family and Medical Leave Act poster
· Employee Polygraph Protection Act poster
And all the publications and posters are available in Spanish as well.
Why do you care? If you know the laws, you avoid one of the biggest pitfalls of business ownership by protecting your investment from fines and lawsuits. And if you know the law - you know you must have these posters and they must be placed where your employees can see them.
What other treasures are in this great Federal website?
You're Invited! EBR Consulting is hosting the networking meeting at our Regus offices on Thursday, November 15 from 1 to 2 pm. Come for lunch and bring plenty of business cards for networking! The address is 405 State Hwy 121- Bypass, Suite A250. It's at the corner of Rockbrook and 121 (Sam Rayburn Toll Road).
Consider outsourcing those costly back-office responsibilities
Business owners are always looking for ways to maximize their investment. One area that they sometimes over look is outsourcing human resources. For most businesses, that isn’t your core competency, and it has a potential for big and costly mistakes, so why not turn it over to an expert and get that headache out of your hair?
The benefits of outsourcing HR
For starters, outsourcing HR will likely save you money as it helps reduce the cost of maintaining non-revenue-generating back-office expenses. A fully-functional human resources department requires additional office space and highly-trained and experienced HR staff.
You need to ask yourself if you can afford an experienced enough HR professional (salary, benefits, and perks) who not only can handle the day-to-day but can also stay on top of increasingly complicated federal, state, local employment laws and compliance-related issues, such as:
If you’re ready to make this transition, give EBR Consulting a call. We can help make it painless for you.
It sometimes seems as if we spend more time looking down at our phones than we do looking up at what’s going on in the world. Mobile phones have become a very emotionally charged issue in the work place. Employees want access to their phones. Employers fear that mobile phones distract employees from what they are there for – to work. So, what’s the right answer?
There’s no doubt that phones can be useful for many things. We’ve turned the word Google into a verb, and it seems like anytime we are unsure about something we just “Google it.” Of course, we use our phones for a calculator, a notepad, a calendar, and may other tools.
So, if mobile phones are so useful in the workplace, then why do some employers still insist on banning them? Well, maybe it’s because there is a fair bit of research suggesting that phones act as nothing but a distraction.
But taking it away can be even more harmful
So, what does happen when you separate a person from their own personal mobile phone? The result is something called ‘nomophobia’ – which is simply short for ‘no mobile phobia’. And yes, it sounds like a little bit of a joke – but it’s an actual thing, and it’s been measured by scientists.
According to Dr Kim Ji Joon, when people are separated from their mobile phones, they often experience a range of the effects:
Dr. Joon explains that this is because more people now feel as if their phones are an extension of themselves, especially now that Generation Z will be arriving soon to a workplace near you.
Hire the right people, then give them freedom
What if you focused less on whether or not you restricted mobile phone usage and more on whether you hired responsible people. Do you really care what employees do with their mobile phones? If an employee is unable to use their mobile phone in the workplace, do you think they will be more distracted because they are thinking about the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Not having access to a mobile phone could be more of a distraction than having access to it. And if you are hiring responsible employees, wouldn’t they have the common sense to recognize when their performance is being impacted by their mobile phone?
Confidentiality, risk management, and data security
Of course, the argument isn’t entirely about whether mobile phones distract employees from their work. You also need to consider whether a mobile phone can introduce a risk to the workplace. For example, if you’re dealing with sensitive data, do mobile phones increase the risk of a data breach?
It is possible to manage an open mobile device policy, even in heavily regulated industries. Many companies have found ways to implement strict protocols regarding passwords and viewing and sharing restricted content. It does take more oversight on the company’s part, but the result is happier, more engaged employees.
Work and life overlap too much to outright ban mobile phones at work
In many industries, work and life overlap. Employees are sometimes expected to respond to emails and messages from home during off-hours, so it seems only fair to let them address personal matters on their personal devices during work. Perhaps consider approaching a mobile phone policy like other company policies such as flextime.
Give employees specific goals and performance metrics that they need to achieve and have less concern about how they accomplish their work. Excellent, high-performing employees should not need to be micromanaged.
Creating a mobile phone policy that works for everyone
I feel like the benefits of allowing mobile phones in the workplace probably, in most circumstances, outweigh the risks. Especially as we move into an age where mobile communication is an integral part of our lives. But how do we create a mobile phone policy that considers the people who are maybe not so tolerant of the noise and distraction these devices create?
Some companies only allow sound when it’s a call – just in case there’s an emergency. All other sounds and vibrations must be turned off. The reason for these two rules is because one person’s mobile phone could be a distraction or an interruption for somebody else.
Like it or not, mobile phones are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Rather than trying to ban them, it might be time to develop a policy that applies common sense and courtesy for everyone in the workplace.
One question I often get is how formal or relaxed should your company culture be? How strict should you be on employee behavior? I always encourage business owners to think about and be deliberate in determining what they want their company culture to be. One thing to consider is how do employees work best.
Traditional working patterns don’t always work
Consider the ‘typical’ office environment for a moment. Traditionally, a typical working day in the office might be split into an 8-hour shift, punctuated by a 30-minute lunch break, and two shorter 15-minute breaks. While this might work well for some environments, it’s not always going to be the most productive work pattern for everyone.
The Harvard Business Review says that employers should consider the Circadian Rhythm when setting schedules. Fortune advises that you should work in 90-minute cycles, making sure you take a break after each cycle. The website Magic Work Cycle advocates a 30-minutes work, 30-minutes play approach.
I’m not saying any of these are the right approach. What I’m pointing out is that what might seem to obviously be the most productive strategy, isn’t always the case. For example, some of the above techniques include far less ‘working’ time than the traditional office environment. But many people report greater employee output when using them.
Three reasons having fun at work could be good for your business
There is some pretty compelling evidence suggesting that letting employees have fun at work is a good thing. For example:
How to help employees have fun at work
There are plenty of ways to encourage a little more fun in the workplace. You don’t have to go as far as writing fun into your employee handbook, but you can create an environment where fun is celebrated, not sniffed at.
Creating office games and leagues can be a good place to start, but you don’t even need to be quite so formal or structured. Simply providing the facilities for having fun – such as a well-equipped recreation room with ping pong tables or a video game console – can help you to get the ball rolling if you’ll pardon the pun. Just don’t make employees feel guilty for actually using them!
Another approach is to simply make sure you’re taking your teams out and spending quality time together, even if it’s just for a relaxed team lunch at a local restaurant. Or maybe you bring in ice cream one afternoon or pay a massage therapist to provide chair massages.
There are lots of things you can do to create a more fun work environment. Why not create a fun committee with a cross-section of employees and see what ideas they come up with?
When you’re the sole employee of your small business, dress codes, absenteeism, and professionalism are not issues. Hiring that first employee brings on a raft of new things you need to consider, communicate, and regulate.
You can access a great deal of information on the internet, from your fellow entrepreneurs in your networking group, or a consultant, but the bottom line is you need to determine and then implement your own employee relations plan.
You should decide from the start how you want your employees to present your company to the public.
That means a dress code:
It also means setting expectations about attendance:
You could get lucky and the first person you hire will be the important right fit - but you can influence your luck with some careful hiring practices:
Hiring your first (and subsequent) employees is a big and exciting step. With a bit of thoughtfulness and planning you can minimize the stumbles and be off to a running start.
Despite your due diligence, your insightful interview, and your fair, firm and consistent counseling, your new hire is just not working out. As this becomes clear, it is important to look at the training you have provided and when the training occurred. Perhaps most importantly, do they have context for what they’re doing. It’s not enough that you just impart your expectations and expertise; make sure they understand why things are done a certain way.
It doesn't take long to become apparent that the employee is not –for whatever reason- managing to fit in. You should not linger in rectifying the problem, and, in fact, they may do it for you! Remember that your company culture is still being established, and this one employee is bending it in a direction you don't want. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, you will not change their basic personality. The more you invest yourself in trying to make a bad hire into a good one, the worse you will feel when the time comes to let them go. Out of fairness to the employees you already have and to the one you need to move along, take your time hiring, don't when you're firing.
When you fire an employee, give them the courtesy that you should extend to any human being. They deserve a face-to-face meeting. Nothing else works. The employee you fired will remember how they were treated and so will your remaining employees. Absolutely never ever fire someone over the internet.
Hopefully, you thought long and hard before scheduling the termination meeting. You have your reasons if you choose to provide them, and a coworker on hand to support you. Your words should be straightforward. Being wishy-washy gains you nothing but grief if the employee believes he has one last chance to affect your decision. Have a termination letter ready to give them when they leave – but don’t just read it to them. Instead, tell the employee up front that you are terminating him. If you choose to, explain why, and then outline the steps of the termination.
After your meeting, the former employee should be escorted from your premises. All company property needs to be returned, and you should act quickly to cancel their email access. In the internet age, the termination will not stay confidential for long. Your former employee can say what they will regarding the termination, you, on the other hand cannot.
Are you required to pay off the terminated employee at the termination meeting? That is something you need to research in advance.
A final step when you terminate is looking carefully at the entire process of bringing on a new hire. The buck stops with you, and it is your responsibility to vet prospective employees.
Look back at the interviews:
Look back at your new hire orientation:
The new hire process provides many opportunities to reveal your company culture. You can never repeat the basics enough. Discuss your goals and how you plan to meet them. How do you treat your customers, your suppliers, and each other? Of course, talk is cheap. What will really make an impression is how you live out these things every day.
After being very critical with your new hire process, determine what could have been better and change it. Establish what works and do more of it. It is your responsibility to learn and do better. That's how you eliminate the dirty job of having to fire someone.
An employee handbook is like the user manual to your company, it will help you and your employees see eye to eye on everything from how much vacation they get to what’s expected of them on the job.
Think about the culture you want to encourage in your company. Look at the size of your company to determine which federal laws affect you. Do you want to be able to terminate unsatisfactory employees in a timely manner? What benefits are you going to provide? Will you need a dress code?
Encouraging a friendly, ethical, and efficient work place for all employees starts with the owner and the Employee Handbook.
To begin; list the expectations you have regarding mutual respect, common courtesy, and consequences for insubordination. Unlawful discrimination or harassment can cause problems you don’t want and your employees should not have to deal with; you can handle this from the start by including wording that prohibits this behavior. Don’t be vague, if you are unsure about the wording, this might be the time to hire a consultant for input.
You should include:
The size of your company dictates the federal laws you are required to follow, and the laws should be included in your handbook. The following are some examples:
Once everyone has understood the new policies, draw a hard line as a business owner. Be firm that this handbook applies to everyone, period. The handbook being in place means no playing favorites. Everyone deserves equal treatment, but you’ll need to make sure of this for the policies within your handbook to be taken seriously by the rest of the team. You as the small business owner and your managers need to uphold the handbook to the highest extent, and that means playing by the rules you set.
Review your handbook at least once a year to make sure that your policies are in alignment with the company’s norms and with your state, local, and federal laws.
You reserve the right to change your policies at any time. When changes are made, your employees should receive an updated handbook or an addendum they can add to their existing book, and they must always sign and return a receipt for it.
Maintaining an Employee Handbook doesn’t need to be a daunting task, but if you are unsure, there is help out there. An Employee Handbook is a critical building block of your new company. It helps set the foundation for your future growth and success. Make sure you put your company on a firm foundation, and if you need help, EBR Consulting is here to make it easy and pain free.