Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

The COSE Strategic Planning Course offers small business owners invaluable advice on a range of subjects to help them grow their business. We asked some recent graduates of the program what their takeaways from the course were and during the next several weeks, we’ll be relating to you their insights. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, Inc. She talked about the importance of not trying to be a one-person show at your company.

Q: If someone were on the fence about enrolling in the COSE Strategic Planning Course, what would you say to encourage them to enroll in the program? 

Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, Inc.

I would tell them it’s the best money you will ever spend in your life. And the reason why is because a lot of times we, as business owners, have been in business a while but when it comes to the COSE Strategic Planning Course, you realize you know nothing. You don’t know as much as you think you know. I came to this class and was completely overwhelmed, stressed out and pulling my hair out and thinking I can’t make it. After 10 weeks, however, I had a new lease on life. They helped me to revise the way I look at my business.

For instance, one class focused on the topic that you shouldn’t be doing everything like the books, the accounting, the payroll. But that’s what I was doing. And that was too overwhelming. So, the first thing I did was I knew I had to get a bookkeeper. I had to get someone qualified to take over that responsibility because it was one less hat I had to wear.

The second thing I learned is that if you don’t have the right people in the right positions in your company to help you grow, then your business is not going to grow efficiently or effectively. I sought to find someone with experience and a master’s degree. You can’t train someone to be that kind of person overnight—especially as a small business person, you don’t have the resources to train them. But if someone comes in the door with that experience, that training and that knowledge, it’s so much easier for them to hit the ground running. That’s something I learned when I came here. I’m still in my 30s, but I’ve been in my business almost 10 years and I had no knowledge this is the way I needed to run my business. I wanted to be the business owner and work in business development, but how can I do that if I’m in the office 80 hours a week? By the time I’m finished doing all that, I’m exhausted.

Also, the mentors and the speakers they brought in are just unbelievable. If you attended all of those talks separately, you would easily spend more than what the course itself costs. In addition, once you go through the course, you become part of a family for life. It’s just like a sorority or a fraternity. Once you join, you’re there forever. You can always come back and sit in on a class to get more education. It’s amazing.

Anyone who is on the fence about signing up, I would tell them that you need to invest in yourself. If you want to be successful, you have to invest in yourself and your business and it will be worth it because you will achieve what you want to achieve.

Learn more about how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can help your business grow.

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  • Next up: Lesson Learned: Personality Assessments Help Identify Top New Hires
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  • Lesson Learned: Personality Assessments Help Identify Top New Hires

    A recent graduate of the COSE Strategic Planning Course explains why she is now a believer in adding personality assessments to the hiring process at her business.

    We asked some recent graduates of the COSE Strategic Planning Course about their takeaways from the course. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, who talked about how personality tests can help your business focus in on making the right hire.

    RELATED: Learn how COSE’s Strategic Planning Course can help your business grow

    What’s one thing you learned during the COSE Strategic Planning Course that you plan to implement at your business?

    Maia Ballard, RWJ Wiring

    I think one of the better classes was the one that dealt with doing personality assessments on both yourself and your potential hires. It helps you determine who you are as a person; you think you are this one certain personality and it turns out you have a different personality.

    RELATED: Personality assessments can help you find and retain top talent

    The personality assessment class is just amazing for you as an owner because it also helps you choose the people you want on your team. You can’t have 10 of the same types of people on your team. You have to mix and match. You need achievers, mediators, etc., and you need to have everyone on board to make the business successful. It was an eye-opening class because while I had heard about educational assessments and intellectual assessments, doing a personality assessment had never come to my mind.

    Had I known about this years ago, it definitely would have changed our whole game. It was one of the best classes and if you’re trying to grow your business, it’s worth making that investment to find out about the personality of the person you’re trying to hire. When you’re hiring people, they will lie, they will try to deceive you, but the truth comes out if you have an independent firm evaluate it. Your hands are off of it entirely and you are not emotionally attached at all. That was one of the best classes I took and I’m glad I did. Next year when they have this class, I am going to audit it when it comes back up because you have to continue to learn and invest in yourself and grow.

    Read more on how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can help your business succeed by checking out the other stories in our “Lesson Learned” series:

    Lesson Learned: Have an Exit Strategy

    Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand On Its Own

    Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

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  • Next up: Let's Get to Know Generation Z
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  • Let's Get to Know Generation Z

    You might not know much about them right now, but in just a couple short years Generation Z is going to be having a significant part of the staffing strategies of businesses everywhere. Take a couple minutes now to understand what comprises this up and coming generation.

    Generation Z is just entering the workforce, but by 2020, will make up 20% of the total workforce. They have different work styles and expectations than generations that came before. While they will likely be compared to millennials, they have distinct personality types. Read on below for what to expect from this up and coming generation.

    Workplace expectations

    In terms of workplace expectations, their expected salary post-graduation is $46,799. As a millennial who entered the workforce less than a decade ago, my initial salary was significantly lower. However, 77% of Generation Z expect to work harder than previous generations, thus earning the salaries they command. Unlike millennials, who job hop frequently, Generation Z plans to work for no more than four companies during their career. They are looking for companies who will invest in them and vice versa. Commitment from both parties is what they are seeking.

    Attitude toward work

    Their attitudes about their careers are also different than prior generations. More than eight out of 10 (82%) say their parents will help to influence their career decisions. They have a great deal of respect for their parents who likely navigated a recession while raising them. This will also provide them with the fortune of getting along well with Generation X managers in the workplace. An additional 30% say they would take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work for a company with a mission they care deeply about. This aligns closely with millennials who are philanthropists at heart and care more about mission than money. They are also eyeing retirement and perhaps entrepreneurship with 50% stating they would like to retire before age 60 but understanding they may need to work longer.

    Working with Gen Z

    Now that we know a little bit about them, how will we work with them? First, they prefer a collaborative work environment in an office setting. They would like to collaborate in small groups and really get to know their coworkers. This is different than millennials who are strong advocates for telework and work/life balance with much work being completed outside of the office and the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Interestingly, when polled Generation Z found it least ideal to be working offsite with a virtual team. The biggest reason for this is that Generation Z prefers face-to-face communication.

    Similar to the war on talent that took place as Millennials entered the workforce, HR departments will need to think through how to manage this new generation to ensure they are recruiting the best and brightest.

    What’s one way to do that? HR departments will need to ensure they are listening and doing their homework to understand the multiple generations in the workplace and their different work styles.

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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  • Next up: Leverage Staffing to Make Your Small Business Known
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  • Leverage Staffing to Make Your Small Business Known

    COSE members discuss how they're leveraging staffing and marketing to make their businesses known.

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  • Next up: Make the Smart Hire: Presented by Pre-Check
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  • Make the Smart Hire: Presented by Pre-Check

    For small businesses, finding and hiring good employees is an eternal struggle. Steve Millard, executive director of COSE, says at any one time, approximately one-third of the organization’s small business members are hiring. And of that one-third, another third have difficulty filling the open positions they have.

    “Talent is what really drives organizations forward,” Millard says. “That’s why being able to find qualified employees is such an important part of small business growth.”

    Bob Drusendahl understands why these businesses are having such trouble when it comes to hiring. The president and CEO of Pre-Check, a premier provider of comprehensive background and employment screening solutions, says it simply comes down to not having the time. 

    “It’s like Jim Collins says, ‘You have to get the right people in the right seats.’ Frankly, a lot of companies aren’t very good and the reason is they don’t spend a lot of time on hiring. They spend several weeks looking and then they just settle on someone. That’s going to cost them a lot of money on their bottom line because they don’t get the right person for the job.” 

    So, what’s the best way for these small business owners and hiring managers to make the best hire for their respective businesses? It comes down to hiring smart—or, more specifically, Smart Hire.

    What is Smart Hire?

    Smart Hire is a service provided by Pre-Check that adds that extra time small businesses need to make informed hiring decisions.

    “We have our own applicant tracking system to source the job ads that utilizes the same technology that’s in place by Fortune 500 companies,” Drusendahl says. “But we’ve customized it to be optimal for small businesses.”

    Companies that make use of the Smart Hire system are led through a simple process that yield results, Drusendahl says. “The first step is talking to the company to make sure we understand the culture of the company and can match applicants to that culture. We ask qualifying questions about the culture of the company, the skill set the company is looking for, etc. And we seek to find three or more qualified candidates for our clients.”

    Pre-Check’s search process is exhaustive. The company’s team of experienced search professionals will contact schools and others organizations and individuals who might be able to provide insight on candidates.

    The typical Smart Hire contract is for 60 days, though on average qualified candidates are delivered to the hiring company is about 30 days. And, if for some reason a candidate quits within 30 days of being hired, Pre-Check will reengage the search for no additional fee other than costs associated with reposting the job ad.

    Pre-Check also stays hands on with its clients.

    “Once we get the initial program going, we don’t just let it run for 60 days,” he says. “What we do is we come back after a week or 10 days and let the client know the response we’re getting. We also consult with our client on whether any tweaks might need to be made to the ad.”

    All of this can be done on for a price that fits easily into the budget a small business has set for hiring. It’s typical for a hiring company to spend up to 30% on a candidate’s first-year salary when they engage an employment screening solution provider. The cost to use Smart Hire, however, is currently just 8% of the candidate’s first-year salary.

    Proven results for clients

    Stephen J. Kovatch, president of Compliance Technologies, Inc., can attest to the effectiveness of Smart Hire. For a recent hire, he says the company tried an Internet-driven service that promised screened resumes, but Compliance Technologies was actually flooded with what he described as “worthless” applications.

    Compliance Technologies then began working with Smart Hire. Kovatch says he was very impressed with the service he received, which included:

    • An organized job search process
    • Professional and branded job postings
    • Skilled resume reviews and candidate screenings
    • Concise and accurate candidate recommendations
    • Interview-ready candidates
    • Excellent value

    “As a result, I made the best hire in years and actually enjoyed the process,” Kovatch says.

    Andy Lembach, the chief marketing officer for Spooner Risk Control Services, also shares his success story of working with Pre-Check.

    “I wanted to take this opportunity to thank their staff for helping in my recent hiring of a sales professional,” he says. “I had been struggling for months trying to find a qualified candidate to fill a sales position at Spooner. I won't bore you with all the trials and tribulations of those fruitless searches because all of that changed when I reached out to Pre-Select Smart Hire. It was such a relief to have this hiring burden off my desk. All I had to do was answer some easy questions, and before I knew it, really good qualified applicants were sent directly to my email inbox. All I had to do was set it and forget it! My only regret was not enlisting their help sooner!”

    Click here to learn more about Pre-Check and how the Smart Hire system can help your small business solve your hiring challenges. 

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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Make Your Culture the Key to Employee Engagement
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  • Tips for Your Business: Make Your Culture the Key to Employee Engagement

    For years, companies around the world have focused on measuring overall employee satisfaction. How happy are our employees? Do they enjoy coming to work each day? Because, it’s been said, happy employees make for a great workplace. Logical, right?  But satisfaction is only part of the story. 

    For years, companies around the world have focused on measuring overall employee satisfaction. How happy are our employees? Do they enjoy coming to work each day? Because, it’s been said, happy employees make for a great workplace. Logical, right?  

    But satisfaction is only part of the story. What many have come to realize over the past several years is that employee engagement – a recipe of satisfaction combined with how committed and involved your employees are to and with your organization – is a much more meaningful measure for employers. Strong employee engagement ties more closely to two outcomes that are critical to the success of any organization: productivity and employee retention. 

    So how do you drive strong employee engagement within your organization? Simply put, it’s all about your company culture. Culture can make or break a company; it is a long-term strategy.  

    Today’s workers, increasingly those of the Millennial generation (ages 25-34), thrive in an environment where they can add value, feel respected, influence work outcomes, be held accountable and have an opportunity to grow their careers. They look for a company that commits to their overall wellness, recognizes a job well done, has a commitment to the community and knows how to have fun. An employee can, perhaps, be satisfied in an environment lacking in these areas, but they likely won’t be engaged.  

    So, what are some ways to develop your culture and nurture employee engagement?

    Communicate – Take the time to define and explain the company’s vision and the role employees play in achieving this vision. Communicate with candor and encourage your employees to do the same. Let your employees know what it takes to get to the next level.

    Celebrate and Have Fun – Work and fun don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Celebrate business accomplishments. Celebrate the CAVS. Celebrate your customers. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Celebrate Throw Back Thursday events.  But celebrate!

    Challenge and Recognize High Performers – Give your strong performers an opportunity to contribute in another area, while at the same time growing their careers. Recognize and reward them for a job well done.

    Collaborate – Employees have ideas on important aspects of your business, like customer satisfaction, efficiencies, innovation and possible pitfalls. They will be more engaged if they are heard and involved in driving the business forward. 

    Gen X and Millennial workers comprise more than two-thirds of today’s workforce. Millennials by themselves will comprise 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. This generation values a collaborative work culture, fun and flexibility, and a company with a social conscience. Developing an engaged workforce will not only drive productivity and employee retention but will also better position your company for the workforce of tomorrow.

    This Tip was contributed by Geo Money, Manager of Branding & Culture at OEC, an award winning technology leader and innovator of original equipment replacement parts solutions headquartered in Richfield.

    This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

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