Half-Baked

Gloria didn’t need the work. Recently retired, she would be solvent in her retirement if she spent carefully. However, extra money never hurt and the job looked interesting. It would also get her out of the house.

The job was with a local bakery. While it had a couple of locations, it wasn’t one of the big chains in the area, which attracted her. The bakery billed itself as ‘gourmet’, which usually meant that they charged premium prices for their goods. She applied to the want ad and was contacted by the owner of the locations.

Gloria had experience baking. She had her own successful cake business for several years until she found working that and her regular job just too exhausting. She also had experience in corporate America, giving her the skills to prepare for the interview with the owner by ensuring she had a portfolio of her baking, her resume up to date, and a great attitude coming from her lips.

The owner met her in one of the locations. A pleasant younger woman, she looked tired. She explained she had been working in the stores more than she should because, “Well, I just can’t seem to keep anyone for any amount of time”. She looked over Gloria’s portfolio and admitted she was impressed by what she saw. Carefully, the owner told Gloria this would not be a baking job, but more of greeting customers, fulfilling orders, and other jobs like that, though she would try to find time to utilize her baking skills. It all sounded good to Gloria.

Then the tough question came. What rate of pay did Gloria want. She was prepared for this and wasn’t going to ask for an outrageous hourly wage. Instead, she asked for something reasonable for the market.

This was greeted by a frown by the owner. She explained that her chef made that amount, but her counter help made much less. Gloria asked what that hourly rate was, and had to hide her shock at the answer. It was pretty much minimum wage, which the owner made clear was about all she ever paid the counter help.

Gloria professionally and politely informed the owner that the job wasn’t for her at that rate, which the owner took in stride. “That’s too bad, because you would have been wonderful.”, the owner admitted. “It’s puzzling to me that I can’t seem to get good people to stay.”, Gloria heard the owner say to one of the employees as she left the shop.

We justifiably cheer for the small business owner. They are the backbone of the business community. We sympathize with their struggles and all the hurdles they have to overcome. We understand that they can’t compete with the big box stores in benefits and other areas. So, when they say they can’t pay a higher rate, we understand. They need to make a profit to stay in business, don’t they?

What is puzzling is that these same owners express confusion when an employee leaves for a better paying opportunity. It shouldn’t. If you look at it that we are all in the business of ourselves, then we are all small business owners. If you had the opportunity to raise your own profits, you would? Why then are you confused when your employees take the opportunity to raise their own profits?

You have a vision for the business you lead. Your mistake is that you expect everyone else to share that vision and be willing to sacrifice to make that business viable. As a leader, you need to understand that isn’t going to happen unless you make that happen. You need to give your people a reason to stay.

You also need to understand that people need to be in the business of themselves. That may mean a small setback for your plans for your business by giving more to your employees. If you are unwilling or unable, then you have to expect your employees to do what is best for them. All the sighing in the world won’t help. Rethinking your goals will.

According to Gallup, the cost of onboarding an employee is one and a half times their salary. How much is that costing you in poor service to existing customers, the cost of customers leaving to follow that employee, and lost opportunity for you to grow your business because you are working the register? What is that in comparison to a higher wage?

In the end, it will be up to the leader to decide what is more costly to them. However, if you have a steady stream out the door for higher wages, it may not be them. It may be you and your fiscal policy.

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