Your Staff are your Business

Ian Fuhr, founder and joint MD of Sorbet, explains why the success of your business hinges on your staff.

Your Staff are your Business

Q: In what ways are staff neglected by franchisees and franchisors?

The most common areas of staff neglect are:

  • Not effectively communicating with staff the difference between the purpose and the rewards of work
  • Not focusing sufficiently on building a workplace community
  • Not understanding what creates employee motivation and commitment.

Q: How important is staff training?

If the purpose of work is to serve, then it goes without saying that the more knowledge and skills the employees have, the better equipped they will be to provide excellent service to their customers.

Related: True Franchise Confessions

Staff training and development should therefore always rate as a critical tool for success. It’s also important for business owners to create an environment in which employees are eager to self-develop.

Q: How important is staff loyalty?

The concept of staff loyalty can sometimes be misunderstood. Employers believe that staff should automatically be loyal to them and the company. Staff loyalty should not be directed towards owners but customers.

They should show their loyalty by ensuring that customers receive the best possible service. If employees are eternally grovelling at the feet of their employers, then what part of their anatomy is facing the customers?

Q: What leadership style can be adopted to improve manager/staff relations?

Manager/staff relations should be based on a leadership style that encompasses:

Trust and Respect

Trust and respect can never be demanded. They need to be earned. Trust is destroyed when promises are not kept and there is a lack of transparency. Respect is destroyed when people are humiliated and/or undermined.

In the franchise world, we have a unique situation in that the development of trust and respect apply to the franchisor/franchisee relationship and to the franchisee/customer relationship. In both, the extent to which trust and respect are cultivated is likely to determine the success or failure of the relationship and the business.


Praise and positive recognition are powerful tools for employers and yet most employees still suffer from praise deprivation. Praise should be given:

  • For any good performance
  • Sincerely, not reluctantly
  • Soon after the event
  • With a slight positive exaggeration
  • Sometimes in private, sometimes in public, depending on the situation
  • As often as performance warrants it.


The desired employee behaviour is often determined by the incentives offered. As an owner, you are likely to get what you reward. For example, if you reward sales, you will get sales… at any cost and any gross margin.

If you reward selfishness, you will get greed and rugged individuality. If you incentivise the sale of certain products, you will increase the sales of those products.

Finding a balance to suit the objectives of the business can be very challenging; so the best way to reward your staff is a combination of individual incentives and team-based rewards.

A healthy balance between the two will ensure that the correct focus and perspective is achieved. Rewards need not always be monetary but they must be meaningful in terms of positive recognition and self-esteem.


Communicate honestly, give clear direction and outline expectations. Give your staff a clear definition of their job descriptions, their work relationships and the results you expect from them. Employees respect owners who are honest, consistent and transparent.

Related: All Walks of Life

Create a ‘place of safety’ in which employees feel free to express themselves openly and honestly – a place where they are not afraid to say what they think and feel and are able to speak the truth without blame or judgement. Always speak from your own perspective.

Never base important decisions on hearsay or use the terms ‘the others feel that’ or ‘someone told me this or that.’ Rather say, ‘I feel you have been underperforming.’ Straight and truthful!

Q: Many employers do not want to spend more money on their staff than salaries already cost them. What cost-effective solutions are there to these problems?

A simple fact of life is that employees feel that their remuneration must reflect their effort and responsibilities. Reward your employees as well as you possibly can without putting too much strain on your business.

Trying to improve your profits by saving on salaries is like trying to improve sales by cutting advertising. It is a false saving. Rather ensure the contentment of your employees. It will save you fortunes in low staff turnover and improved customer service.

If your staff feel well rewarded, non-monetary incentives may work well, but if they feel underpaid, no matter what you do, you will never get their commitment.

Q: What tips would you offer franchisees who are hiring staff?

In these times, hiring staff is like getting married. You are making a commitment to that person and entering into a contract that cannot easily be broken. Therefore you need to be diligent when recruiting staff.

Watch out for CVs in which the applicant has hopped around from one job to the other for short periods of time. Do thorough reference checks and ensure that the applicant will be a good fit in your business culture.

At the end of the day, however, once you have done all your checks, there will still be an element of gut feel. Sometimes it just feels right… and no-one can teach you that

Nadine Todd
About the Author
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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