Fair Firing: How to Let an Employee Go

Firing an employee is one of the most unpleasant parts of being a leader in any industry—particularly in small business, where teams tend to be tight-knit. It’s a decision that triggers an emotional reaction—you’re never quite sure how someone will take the news, or what the consequence might be.
Although the process is never easy, the way you approach letting someone go can make it less painful for both you and the employee in question. Here are four tips to help you fire an employee fairly.

Tip #1: Have a Process in Place

When it comes time to let an employee go, it should never be a surprise. Your employee handbook should clearly set forth the rules and guidelines you expect each employee to adhere to. When an employee breaks a rule or fails to meet a set expectation, be sure to issue a formal warning documented in writing. When issuing the warning, clearly state what the consequences will be if changes aren’t made. Providing employees with clear guidance as to what you expect, and a clear process of warnings and opportunities to improve, will give them the best possible chance of shaping up before you ship them out.

Tip #2: Work out the Details in Advance

Before having a discussion with your employee, make sure to nail down all of the details of their departure: when you’d like them to leave, what property they need to return, what passwords, security codes, and keys need to be changed, etc. Also make sure to have all of the documentation of events leading up to the firing decision on hand during the discussion in case the employee disputes any of your claims.

Tip #3: Have a Witness

In many cases, especially if you anticipate resistance from your staff member, having a witness on hand during the firing discussion is a good idea. That way, you’ll have a third party to corroborate your story if the fired employee accuses you of any misconduct.

Tip #4: Do It Quickly

When you’ve made the decision to let an employee go, don’t drag out the process. Once the details are ironed out, schedule a chat with the staff member expediently so you can both move on.

The Bottom Line

Every part of the firing process should be conducted with this thought in mind: Treat your employee as you would want to be treated if you were in his or her shoes. Be as fair as possible, but also be firm once you’ve made your final decision.

6 Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

At a small company, each and every person plays a pivotal role in your business’s daily operations. As owner, this means that hiring is one of your most important responsibilities.
Hiring criteria will vary depending on your company’s size, industry, and location, but these 6 tips apply universally to anyone looking to bring on new staff member.

Tip #1: Clearly Define Each Role

If your job description is vague, you’re going to have a hard time finding a candidate who’s interested—at least a candidate that you’d want to hire. Make sure to clearly define the responsibilities of each new staff member you’re hiring for, and tie each role back to your business’s overall mission.

Tip #2: Look for a Good Fit with Your Vision and Culture

Just because someone has relevant work experience doesn’t mean that they’ll be a good fit for your position. When reviewing cover letters and conducting interviews, make sure to look for signs that a candidate will mesh with your business’s vision and culture. For example, if you own a daycare whose mission is to help prepare kids to succeed in elementary school, and a candidate doesn’t really care much about education, they’re probably not going to help you achieve your goals, even if they’ve had previous experience with childcare.

Tip #3: Enlist Your Team’s Help in Recruiting

You’ve already done the hard work of hiring great people for your team, so why not enlist their help to hire other great people? Most employees are happy to recommend potential candidates for open positions, especially if there’s a referral bonus or other incentive in place.

Tip #4: Don’t Settle for a Lesser Candidate

It happens to everyone—an employee quits suddenly, leaving a gaping hole in your staff and causing more work for everyone left behind. But hiring the first candidate you interview just to get someone in the door will likely cause more hiring work in the long run. Take your time and find the right person for the job, even if it means longer shifts for you and your staff in the meantime.

Tip #5: Take Candidates for a Test Run

A candidate can look great on paper, but when the rubber hits the road, they don’t actually have the skills or learning aptitude the job requires. Restaurants, bakeries, and other food establishments already have a stage system in place that makes test runs a part of the hiring process, but other small businesses can adopt a similar system when it makes sense. It benefits you as the employer by seeing how a person will perform on the job, and it benefits the potential employee by giving them a chance to experience what their day-to-day would look like.

Tip #6: Have a Clear Onboarding Process

Once you’ve hired someone, make sure to have a clear onboarding process in place. Throwing someone in the deep end with no guidance, or training them piecemeal over the course of a few weeks, will put the new person (and your business) at a disadvantage. Take the time up front to develop documentation and training plans to make the onboarding process as smooth as possible.

The Bottom Line

People are a key component in a small business’s success. Take the time and effort needed to hire great staff members who will help you achieve your goals and make a positive contribution to the culture and vision you’ve created.

[Guide] A 5-Point Checklist for Online Marketing Success

Whether the busy season is just around the corner, or you’re right in the middle of your busiest time of year — having a plan to make the most of your online marketing programs is the clearest path to success.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to get all this stuff done; I certainly don’t have the time to come up with a marketing plan.”

That’s why we’ve put together this checklist.

Online marketing success boils down to answering five important questions:

  • How will new customers find your business online?
  • How will you stay top-of-mind and build relationships with new and existing customers?
  • How will you get customers to come back and do business with you again and again?
  • How will you encourage them to tell their friends/connections about your business so you reach new customers?
  • How will you evaluate your success and make smarter choices?

Once you answer one of these questions, you’ll quickly find that answering the others becomes simpler over time.

Whether you’re brand new to the concept of online marketing, or an experienced marketer looking for ways to do more business — this easy-to-follow checklist can help.

Get your copy of the 5-Point Checklist for Online Marketing Success today!

If you have any questions about the information in the guide, or need help with any of your online marketing challenges, let us know! Post your questions in the comments below. 

5 Decision-Making Don’ts for Small Business

As a small business owner, you’re faced each day with a constant stream of decisions. Most are small enough that they don’t require any special consideration. Answering big questions that will shape the fate of your business, however, can pose a challenge for even the savviest entrepreneur.
There’s no magic formula to help you make great decisions every time you’re faced with a choice, but there are a few mistakes you can avoid when deliberating. Here are 5 don’ts when it comes to decision making.

1. Don’t Ignore Your Gut

It’s important to consider the logical outcome of each option and its impact on finances, resources, staffing, morale, etc. However, ignoring your gut to pursue a decision that may seem like the best option on paper can be a mistake. There’s a lot to be said for intuition—after all, our brains process a lot of information subconsciously that we access in unusual ways. If a decision doesn’t sit right with you, even though it seems the most logical option, you may want to keep looking for an alternative solution.

2. Don’t Let Personal Bias Blind Your Judgment

Everyone has blind spots that distort the way they view the world, and business owners are no exception. Work with close business colleagues, friends, or family to figure out what these blind spots are, and keep them in mind when making a decision. Otherwise, you may not see the whole picture clearly enough to make the best choice.

3. Don’t Ignore Advice from Others

When the decision falls on your shoulders, you may think that it’s your responsibility to weigh the pros and cons alone. This attitude can cause you to miss out on valuable advice from trusted mentors and business associates who can serve as a sounding board for your ideas. If you’re struggling to come to a decision, asking for a second or third opinion can help you settle on a choice.

4. Don’t Let Others Decide for You

On the flip side, if you’re faced with a difficult decision, you may be tempted to ask others for advice to avoid having to make a tough call yourself. While it can be helpful to hear someone else’s reasoning, the ultimate decision should be yours. After all, you know what’s best for your business better than anyone else.

5. Don’t Second-Guess Yourself

Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it. Don’t second-guess yourself or keep rehashing your options endlessly. You won’t know for certain what the outcome of your decision will be until you’ve committed to a course. Whatever happens, you’ll either be able to celebrate success or learn from your mistakes. Both are valuable experiences you need in order to help your business grow.

The Bottom Line

The decisions you make will shape both you and your business. While you won’t make the best choice 100% of the time, you can use these 5 tips to make wiser choices going forward.

How to Create a Great Culture for Your Small Business

Larger companies often spend a lot of time thinking about and investing in their culture. As a small business owner, you may think that culture is something for businesses with big HR budgets that can accommodate foosball tables, espresso machines, and team retreats. But the truth is, cultivating a great culture is just as important for small businesses as it is for big ones—and it doesn’t require a huge monetary investment.
What Is Culture and Why Does it Matter?

Think of culture as the persona behind your business. It has a life and personality all its own. It determines how people behave and interact with one another when you, the business owner, isn’t there to keep an eye on things. If your culture is great, people will be excited to come to work and partake of it; if your culture isn’t great, people aren’t likely to stick around for long.

How to Create a Great Culture

A great culture isn’t just about amenities. Sure, snacks and happy hours are nice, but if your employees don’t enjoy being at work or hanging out with their coworkers, free stuff isn’t going to help.

Culture starts first and foremost with you, the leader, and continues to grow based on the contributions of your staff. Here are 4 steps you can take to ensure you have the kind of culture that makes employees want to work hard and play hard for your company.

1. Hire People Who Fit the Culture You Want to Have

If you own a bookstore that specializes in sci-fi and fantasy books, then you probably don’t want to hire people who think that Star Wars is lame. If you want to cultivate an atmosphere of calm and welcoming in your yoga studio, then you likely shouldn’t hire high-strung, military-style instructors. Think about what your ideal work environment looks like and make sure the people you hire are ones who will thrive in that environment.

2. Create a Culture around Your Mission

Culture should always tie back to your business’s mission. If employees are passionate about what you stand for, they’ll be dedicated to accomplishing the goals you set forth—and happy to invest their time and effort in your business.

3. Let Everyone Contribute to Your Culture

While there should always be an “owner” responsible for managing your business culture, every staff member should be allowed to contribute. Encourage regular feedback from employees about what they like best about the culture, what they like least, and what new ideas they have for improvement.

4. Reinforce Your Culture on a Regular Basis

Whether its posters on the walls, company get-togethers, or a song you sing in the morning before opening, make sure to find ways to constantly reinforce your culture. A new employee should be able to get a sense of your business’s culture within the first week of working for you. If they can’t, then your culture might need some work.

The Bottom Line

Creating a great culture for your small business is like raising a child. At first, you’ll invest a lot of time and effort into helping it grow; after awhile, your culture will evolve as more people contribute to its growth.

How to Mediate Employee Disputes

It’s easy to lead a team when things are going well, but how you lead when times are tough is what really defines you as a manager. A great small business leader knows when and how to handle employee conflicts.
If you’re new to managing your own staff, you may be daunted by the prospect of having to step in and resolve a dispute between employees. Don’t be! Even if you’re not a mediator by nature, these tips will help you approach conflicts in a productive way that ensures a speedy and fair resolution for everyone.

Tip 1: Know When to Get Involved

The majority of conflicts can be worked out between the individuals involved, without outside assistance. In most cases, you probably don’t need to step in unless an employee requests your help or the dispute is affecting business operations.

Tip 2: Intervene Promptly

When the time comes to step in, don’t delay. The sooner you can begin to assess the situation, the sooner you can help your employees come to a resolution, thereby minimizing any negative repercussions.

Tip 3: Remain Neutral

When it comes to mediating disputes, it’s essential that you remain neutral. Personal opinions or emotions should have no place in your decision-making process.

Tip 4: Listen to Both Sides

Make sure to hear out each person’s side of the story in private before bringing them together to reach a solution. This allows each staff member to speak his or her version of the truth without worrying about how the other person might react.

Tip 5: Get at the Real Issue

When listening to each person’s story, don’t just listen to what they say: Dig deep and discover what the real issue is behind the conflict. While the surface dispute may seem inconsequential, there’s probably a deeper conflict behind it. You won’t be able to resolve the matter until you figure out what that deeper conflict is.

Tip 6: Reach a Concrete Resolution

The worst thing you can do as a mediator is leave a dispute unresolved. Make sure that once you’ve talked through the issues and made a decision on how to proceed, everyone knows what their takeaways are and what’s expected of them next. Otherwise, there won’t be a clear resolution, and the conflict will continue to fester.

The Bottom Line

Disputes are bound to arise between employees, but if you get involved when needed, remain neutral, listen to both sides of the story, and implement a fair resolution based on the actual issue at hand, you’ll be able to turn negative situations into positive learning experiences for both you and your staff members.

[News] 80% of Mobile Searches for Local Businesses Result in a Purchase

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Mobile News] Study Reveals 80% of Mobile Searches for Local Businesses Result in Purchase

News Source: Street Fight

A new report from Neustar Localeze and 15miles indicates that consumers are increasingly turning to mobile to find local businesses when they’re ready to make a purchase. The key metrics include:

  • 79% of smartphone owners and 81% of tablet owners use their devices to search for information on local businesses.
  • 80% of those mobile searches for local businesses result in a purchase, 75% occurring at a physical storefront.
  • Only 50% of consumers are satisfied with the mobile search experience for local businesses.
  • Survey participants noted that information around products & services tends to be lacking or hard to find on mobile. They also noted that accurate hours of operation are a key piece of information they look for when making a purchase decision.

Key Takeaway: It’s never been more crucial to make sure your business location, hours of operation, and products & services are easy for consumers to access on mobile. Did you know that SinglePlatform provides a mobile-optimized website that includes all of this content in one easy-to-read page? Find out more about how our service could benefit your business.

[Hiring News] Report: Businesses with More Women Perform Better

News Source: Mashable

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology recently released a new paper entitled The Case for Investing in Women. This paper pulls together statistics from a variety disciplines to make the case that hiring more women contributes to an overall better working environment. A few key facts from the study:

  • Fortune 500 companies with 3 or more female directors have a 66% higher return on investment and a 42% higher return on sales.
  • International studies across a variety of industries found that teams with more women have greater psychological safety, group experimentation, and team confidence and efficiency.
  • Teams with at least one female member have a higher collective IQ than teams of just men.

Key Takeaway: Many studies, this one included, have proven that more diversity leads to more creative teams, which in turn leads to better businesses. When considering new hires, make sure to look for not just a particular skill set, but also someone who can bring a unique perspective to your day-to-day operations.

[Social Media News] Research Helps Businesses Identify the Best Networks for Social Marketing

News Source: Social Media Examiner

This week, Social Media Examiner shared a compilation of social media research findings around trends in user and brand behaviors across networks. Their four key findings were:

  1. Users spend more time on visual networks like Facebook (6:33 hours per visitor per month), Tumblr (1:38 hours per visitor per month), and Pinterest (1:17 hours per visitor per month).
  2. While Google+ is not a high priority in terms of audience engagement for most marketers, the social network is becoming valuable as a SEO tool.
  3. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm changes in January are motivating marketers to mix up their content with photos, videos, links, questions, and offers in order to reach their followers.
  4. B2B marketers are finding the most success on LinkedIn.

Key Takeaway: These findings reinforce industry trends that have been percolating for awhile now. Visual marketing has become an essential piece of the overall marketing puzzle for businesses across the board, and taking advantage of less enticing social networks such as Google+ and LinkedIn is paying off for businesses as well. If you’ve been hesitant to take risks in your small business social marketing, now is the time to get out there and try new things!