Published - February 2000

By Dave Jakielo


Now that we have all survived Y2K and realize that life will continue our attention should be focusing in on our firms operations. As we pause to look back on 1999's results you may discover a few of the following issues have effected you:

A strong economy is effecting your ability to hire and retain employees.
Your salary structure and personnel cost are creeping up.
The "work" is getting more difficult and time consuming.

Given the above you maybe asking yourself, "what can you do to turn the ship around before it runs aground?"

The good news is that the economy doesn't seem to be slowing. The bad news may be that the economy doesn't seem to be slowing. Opportunities for growth are greater than they have ever been. However, the window is finite and you need to be positioned to grow now and grow quickly.

Many ingredients are involved in a growth plan but I have found that success in today's environment can be summed up in two words, "YOUR STAFF." The main difference that separates the best from the rest is that the best not only have a good staff or team but they have bench strength too.

When you try to dissect any service company the industry leaders are always set apart by one key element, THEIR PEOPLE. Knowing that this is a key element you may need to conduct an evaluation of your team. A firm cannot be successful without strong players and I don't just mean one star, you need a strong team.

There are numerous examples of sports teams who have one superstar but remain in the cellar of their league, because one person can't do it all. The same holds true in your firm, no matter how talented you are you're not talented enough to be able to take your company to the next level on your shoulders alone.

Traveling around the country I hear many of the same excuses as to why companies don't have any bench strength:

The economy is strong and all the good people are employed.
My office is in the wrong location. If I was across town I know we could attracted better workers.
The school system is not teaching students the right skills.
This space reserved for you to fill in your favorite excuse _______________.

I've heard them all but I've never heard anyone say that "maybe it's me." Maybe my management skills, or lack there of, is the problem. Granted today's workers do expect more than just a paycheck. I have found when interviewing staff members that yes, the money is important, but so is the environment.

By environment I don't just mean the office space and furniture, I mean the "working climate". Here is a quick checklist of questions you should answer, "HONESTLY":

1. Can employees come to you with problems or are they worried that you may shoot the messenger?
2. Do you regularly ask everyone how he or she is doing? And then listen to their response.
3. Do you encourage, celebrate and reward new ideas?

Based on the area of the country where you are located, you may have the same challenge as others, extremely low unemployment. It is an "employee's market" meaning that employees have choices. If you aren't meeting their needs they can look elsewhere for employment.

A friend of mine who has a construction firm was having attendance problems. Some of his workers would only show up for work 4 days a week. When he questioned them why they came to work 4 days per week, they responded, "because we can't get by on three."

Here are some ideas for attracting and retaining superstars.

Open communication. Let people know what's going on in and outside your firm.
Feedback. Let them know what they are doing right as well as wrong.
Training. The number one reason people make mistakes and become frustrated is because they do not know what they are supposed to do.
Be enthusiastic, it's contagious.

Last but not least always remember, "You need them more than they need you." I hope 2000 is your most successful year yet!

Remember this monthly feature will address topics of interest to you. Please send your ideas on topics you would like addressed, forward interesting articles and send your questions to: Dave Jakielo, Seminars and Consulting, 86 Hall Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15205-3214. Phone and Fax numbers are 412-921-0976. Email or visit my webpage at

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