Control What You Can Control, Influence What You Can Influence

I was asked by The Boss of a family-owned business to help him control his employee turnover. I reviewed his financials and found a mediocre profit, but everything looked to be in order. The next step was to look inside his organization. I spent time with his department heads and, after some time, I began to understand the root cause of the problem. It often takes a little time for me to get the real stories from the employees because, at first, they see me as an extension of The Boss, I have even been told that I am “in The Boss’s back pocket”. After a few conversations, this myth is dispelled as I tell all my clients from The Boss down that I do not work for The Boss, I work for “The Company”. If I must tell The Boss he or she is wrong, so be it. This encourages more candid and honest conversations with the employees, who by the way usually know the problem and have a good idea of what a solution should be.

In this organization, The Boss had family members working in the business. In the eyes of the employees, they have special privileges and can do no wrong. I asked the employees if the family members were good at their jobs. In most cases, their job performance was not an issue, the other employees said; it was the family members’ entitlement attitudes that were the problem and the reason most past employees left the company. According to the current employees, The Boss was unfair and favored his family over his employees. When I discussed this with The Boss, he agreed that this was the case.

The Boss was a second-generation owner who became The Boss of the company when his father passed. He felt he had a huge responsibility to keep the company going, to support the family members working at the company, and to support his mother who was still receiving a salary from the company, although she did not work there for years.

I explained my view of his turnover problem and the lack of profitability it causes. The problem was one of inequity and a lack of respect for The Boss’s management style. The solution was for The Boss to understand the foundation of his business was his employees. I asked The Boss if he could talk to every customer every day. Of course, he said he could not which meant The Boss had less influence over his customers than he did over his employees. I explained that he could talk with every employee every day to encourage them, motivate them, and show them they are valued! By talking with each employee daily, he would create a stronger relationship with them, and they would feel more loyal to him and the company. In essence, “The employees would do what The Boss needed them to do and like it!” The Boss needed to see his employees as the future of his business and focus on them, not family security. Security would come as a result of a greater employee focus.

I believe The Boss was granting privileges to his family members as a substitute for the financial security he felt he was not providing them. This was damaging to the business’s culture and the main cause of his employee turnover problem, which in turn was eating away at his profits. The Boss needed to invest more of his time in the foundation of his company: his employees. In turn, the employees would offer an awesome buying experience to his customers, who in turn would provide financial security for his family. Bottom line, The Boss understood holding himself accountable would be a first step to lowering the employee turnover, improving profitability, and establishing security for his family.