When I started my company, Journyx, 13 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn't have the experience needed to effectively manage people, so I had to learn these skills through trial and error, and quickly, in order to keep the company going. After all, human resources are a company's most valuable asset.
Over the years, I've lost sleep when we were close to missing payroll, watched as competitors copied our software bit for bit, and then celebrated along with hard-working employees as we achieved success. Today, Journyx has 50 employees and several million dollars in sales with absolutely no outside investment. Here are some of the things I learned along the way about managing and motivating employees to reach their highest potential.
Businesses today face fierce competition on all sides. The only way to survive in such an environment is to be relentlessly creative. New products, services and ideas are the best way to outshine the competition and win market share.
In order to keep creativity alive in a company, you have to surround yourself with different types of people. Forget partnerships, listen to your customers, and hire high school kids, foreigners, people from other races and religions, and Martians, if you can find them. Different people bring different perspectives to the table, something you need not only to succeed, but merely to survive.
Here in Austin, we have the luxury of proximity to the University of Texas (UT). From this well of intellect we continually draw for ideas and young energetic labor. Not only do they bring a fresh perspective during their internships, but if they're a good fit, they can remain with us upon graduation and become a long-term asset to the company. If not, they can at least get a letter of recommendation and some real world experience to put on their resumes. It's a win-win situation.
Build People Up
I've learned that I can only be a mentor when I know what I’m talking about, which is not everywhere. Having said that, I’m good at lots of things and when those things are relevant, I try to step in and help. I’ve found that when I'm there to aid an employee who needs some help, they see that I care about them and in turn, that makes them care more about the company and the job they’re doing. It's important to let people know when they're doing a good job, as well. I like the phrase, "catch people doing something right" because it expresses the best way to mentor.
Think Outside the Box
One of the most difficult tasks for a manager is to keep employees motivated. It can be especially difficult to do this when money is tight and bonuses are not an option. A couple years ago, I got a little creative. I bet the sales team that they would not exceed their quota for Q1 by 33% and promised that if they did, the leadership team would dye their hair. Well, the sales team blew the doors off and beat their numbers by 45%. We held up our end of the bargain and dyed our hair neon blue for a week, and I have pictures to prove it. It’s also important to remember that you can’t take yourself too seriously.
As you can see, there are many ways that managers today can keep employees happy and their performance high. All it takes is a little understanding and the willingness to try new things. The investment for such initiatives is low, but the return just might surprise you.
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Tips & Tricks from Software CEO Curt Finch