After 8 years and a handful of companies, I left the world of a full-time employment to start my own consulting business. A bit of a risk, it offered the possibility of flexibility, happiness, and the ability for me to follow my dream of owning my own company. But, I have no idea how to manage a company, let alone employees. So, I sat down to think about my experience as an employee to identify experiences that stood out to help me drive my company pillars.
1. Your employees (AND INTERNS) are the key to your business. Keep them happy.
A 1-way ticket to the city that never sleeps left me working at a boutique design firm in midtown Manhattan where I spent 3 years learning how to work in a small team setting–creating brand identities, building websites, and working one-on-one with genius engineers. I was invited to the owner's Thanksgivings, received a free flight home to be with my family when a family member passed, treated to free Friday lunches (where we ate together, as a "work family"), and never worked past 6pm. Not only did I learn a ton about work ethics, I learned about how to be a good employer (for when I manage my future company). Five years after leaving the company, I'm still welcomed back to the office with a laughter and hugs.
2. Foster a creative environment that employees are excited to work in.
From a very young age we are told to put our "out of the box" ideas away and get to work, but this only hampers our abilities to solve any type of problem in new and creative ways. Some of my favorite memories are working with colleagues (during work hours!) to solve brain teaser IQ puzzles and illustrating amazing works of art on a simple dry erase board. Environments that spawn exploration, ideation, and team/personal problem solving boost employee satisfaction. When employees are put in situations outside of a specific work context, different types of discussions emerge–we build stronger bonds, exercise empathy, and learn how to be team players. So, get out the Legos, K’nex, Pictionary, or Crayola makers. Mind blocks are rarely solved staring at four white walls eating a bag of free office nuts.
3. Hire the "right" person the first time.
At a new start-up one thing you learn is that employee turn-over is happening at an extremely accelerated rate. Yes, hiring is an extremely difficult process of fitting the pieces together–making sure the applicant has the proper skills, personality, and ambition to be a part of your team. In several cases my employer made spur of the moment hires because we were low on staff for a project or under a tight deadline. Unfortunately, those hires didn't always work out and many where let go. This constant hire/fire cycle caused our entire office to live on the edge of our seat wondering if we would be the next one to get left go. This situation is 100% preventable. Make all candidates meet the entire team (in person). Ask them to talk about their work process, their interactions as part of past teams, what makes them happiest. Conduct proper applicant research. You can gather a lot more about someone during a conversation than by browsing a resume or portfolio.