Making A Difference In 2020 – The Best Year Yet

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Here we are at the beginning of a new year and a new decade. This series of short articles will explore ways in which SMEs can make a positive difference as we move through the decade.

Last week I looked at the need to be value driven and to have a clearly communicated vision which drives what we do. Today, I focus on how to be a really great employer. It interests me that there are many employers who seem to resent employment laws which focus on minimum or living wages, good employment conditions and fair treatment of all staff.

Without staff most of us would not have a business, let alone make any money. Making a difference starts at home – it starts with the people we employ, the products and services we sell and the people we sell to.

Let’s start with the people we employ. Think about your own staff and work through this checklist – what do you do well and what areas do you need to improve on?

• What processes do you have in place to recruit the right people in a fair way regardless of age, gender, culture, sexual preference or background?

• Recruit for attitude and train for skill – be clear what attitudes and behaviours you are looking for in your staff and develop your own recruitment skills.

• Make time for a lengthy induction into the business, roles, the team, competitors, customers, products and services and so on.

• Make sure your terms and conditions of employment exceed those laid down in law – aim not to be good but to be the best.

• Train and develop all your team, all the time.

• Go out of your way to motivate, engage, stimulate and excite your staff.

• Encourage self-learning and use delegation as a way of encouraging staff to do more.

• Take an interest in your staff as people, not just as employees – find out about their families, their struggles and challenges as well as their achievements.

• Actively promote work life balance.

• Build your team – remember that ‘none of us are as smart as all of us’.

• Share positive feedback from customers with the team; discuss negative feedback; avoid blame and focus on what everyone can do to make things better next time.

• Promote a positive, can-do culture and encourage everyone to be problem solvers.

• Always thank people; celebrate success and accentuate the good things.

Your staff are a precious asset – treat them that way and they will always do their best for you. Too many employers blame staff for their own short comings. Poorly trained staff will find it hard to satisfy customer needs. They will feel bad. They will lose self-confidence. They are likely to leave. This is not smart business – it is much more effective and cheaper to train and develop your own high performing people than spending time and money on constant recruitment due to poor management practices in the first place.

If you want to make a lasting difference, start by becoming an employer of choice – have a queue of people wanting to work for you! Make sure all your staff are ambassadors or champions for your business.

The simple things work best. Get to work first so you can greet your team and have a drink waiting for them. Thank them at the end of the day, ideally face to face but if not make a quick call or send a text. Ask them for their ideas and acknowledge their efforts. Give praise where it is due – catch people doing things right! Remember their birthdays. Enquire about their families. None of these things cost anything but they can all make a huge difference to the morale and efficiency of the people you employ.

If you are not sure where to start or simply want some external advice on your own practice for making a difference, then please contact me.

Next week, I will explore how we make a difference by delivering exceptional customer service.

If you have an issue or query related to this article, please contact Chris at or text to +6785500556. Go to for more information and ideas.

Chris Elphick is Partner in Breadfruit Consulting, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Melanesia and other parts of the Pacific. He is an experienced trainer, coach and business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises. He and his partner Hazel Kirkham live in Vanuatu. Breadfruit Consulting is also involved with developing mentoring services for new and young entrepreneurs.

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