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.

The Jelly Jar

jelly

The group sat around the cafeteria table, their jars in front of them. Most of them remained silent, shaking their heads. Arlene had really underdone herself this time.

Arlene was another member of the department in the executive ranks. Over the past year, she had come to each person who was sitting at the table requesting their help. She needed their expertise, their relationships with the customers, and their time and energy. She made no excuses why she needed that help, either. She said several times, “Without your help, I can’t make the numbers I need to get my bonus.” At Arlene’s level, that ran into five figures. They appreciated her honesty and could understand her motives.

Each member around that table put in significant effort for Arlene and her bonus. They had to forego work that would contribute to their achievement of their bonuses, leverage their good will with the customers, and put in some significant extra hours. They did it for teamwork and to help a fellow member of the department.

All that extra effort worked, and Arlene made her numbers, assuring her bonus. She was generous with her words of appreciation to the group, thanking them for helping her make that bonus. At holiday time, however, the situation was different.

For each member of the team, she proudly gave them a gift of…a homemade jar of jam or jelly. To add to this, she gave them a gift card to a local coffee house, each card in the amount of $5. She remarked it made her feel good to contribute to a local charity that made jams, and gave it with a smile to each member of the team. Yes, the jellies and jams were homemade, but not by her.

Sitting at the table, each member of the team was staring at their jar of jelly or jam. On top of each of jar each member of the team had placed their high-value gift card. Eventually the silence was broken by one member of the team who made a proposal. Each person at the table would chip in for a loaf of bread, which they would bring in, use the cafeteria toaster, and they would have some delicious toast and jam, all courtesy of Arlene.

That managed to get people laughing and talking, with suggestions that they could really go for broke and buy some butter to spread on the toast and have with the jam. This evoked even more laugher and talk.

When the laughter had died down, they each made a promise. They would spend the new year focusing on their goals and reaching them with the same energy they had given to Arlene’s request. As for any further request Arlene made? They would give it the same amount of respect that she had shown them in her gifts.

The sealed that promise with a toast of their jelly jars.