Solutions for Small Business
Employee Retention Problems

People Management


“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

~Alan Lakein~

Emily owns a boutique investment opportunity firm. She finds her small business has an employee retention problem. “I really need skilled workers,” Emily says. “I feel like I just get them trained and they leave. It’s so frustrating.”

Emily went to an executive coach to try to find out what the problem was.  With a small business, each new hire created a proportionally higher business cost. “I just had to find a way to cut costs,” Emily said.

The coach helped Emily face some painful truths. She was part of the problem.  The good news was there were things she could do as owner and manager to help retain her employees.

Feedback. “My coach helped me realize that I was not very good at taking feedback. I was so focused on getting the job done… and getting it done my way… that I was not listening. As I started to listen, I found that some of my employees had valid concerns and great suggestions.”

When Emily started listening, it did several things to increase employee retention.

  1. The employees felt more important and valued. They saw their impact in the company increase. Especially in a small business, when the input of one employee is taken, it can change the course of the company.
  2. Dissatisfied employees found their problems might be corrected if they spoke up.  That meant the problem could be solved without leaving the company. It also increased job satisfaction among Emily’s workers.
  3. Emily’s business improved. The great feedback helped propel the company to a stronger niche presence. The elevated esteem of the company transferred to the employees as they felt the increased prestige.

Balance. Once Emily started listening, she discovered the burnout, unrealistic expectations and the need to be available 24/7 were driving her workers to leave.

“Those things are kind of expected in our high pressure industry,” Emily said. “But it was time to do things differently.  I studied other methods and came to recognize the benefits of down-time. We implemented deliberate time off.”  Emily created a rotation system.

She had her employees cross-train so each employee could be “on call” as needed.  This gave others time off.  “The difference was amazing!” Emily said. “I could feel the tension lift.  I came in more refreshed and eager to work. My team felt the same way. It was like a new office.”

Training.  Emily found the cross-training essential to help every team member function well. Then no one person was indispensable. But Emily went further.  She wanted her small business to retain every employee. So she had her people look for products, training, and systems to streamline and save time.

They came up with three software programs that her employees agreed would save time and energy. Emily had them all trained to thoroughly understand the systems so they would feel comfortable and qualified using them.

“This was one outcome of my learning to accept feedback,’ Emily said. “We worked together and agreed on the systems. Those systems really added to the life-balance of my employees.”

“Some were hesitant to change over from the old ways.  I know the training was the key to success there,” Emily said. “The proof is that my employee retention is now at 100%. I haven’t lost a worker from my small business all year.”

If you’re a small business and you’re struggling with employee retention, contact Joel for guidance and help.

Talkback: What steps have you taken with your small business to keep your employees?

Image courtesy of Kheng Guan Toh /

Q&A With Joel
Four Questions to Insure the Success of Small Business Succession Planning


“You don’t want to be forced to make leaders in hindsight when there’s a crisis. The moment you become CEO is when you need to start grooming your next CEO.”

~ Bonni DiMatteo, President, Atlantic Consultants ~

Client William asks:  I’ve built up a great business with blood, sweat and tears. Now I want to slow down a little.  I don’t know if I should turn the business over to the kids or promote my best employee.  How do I choose the best succession plan?  I don’t want a family feud.

Coach Joel Answers:  One of the hardest decisions of a small business owner is figuring out the best way for the company to continue to grow and prosper after you are out of the picture.  You are right to be concerned.   Here are some questions to help you make the best decision.

1. What is your vision?  William, what is your vision for the company?  Where to you see it going?  How do you see it getting there?

When thinking of the best leader, you want someone who buys into your vision.  Or you need to be agreeable to someone else’s vision.  Take some time to map out your plan and strategy.

Then discuss it with possible successors.  What is their reaction?  Who is most enthusiastic?

Far too often the second generation does not handle the company as well as the first. You can improve the odds with a clear vision and buy-in.

2. What is their interest?  As you look at family members, who is most interested?  When you consider your employees, who has the most respect, ownership, or concern for the smooth running of the company?

Evaluate prospective successors based on their interest, involvement and commitment. Perhaps one family member shines in execution and another is excellent in sales and marketing.  Which one is best for overall leadership?

It may be hard to be objective. Some may have a strong interest, but their skills are lacking.

However, if your successor is not fully committed to the future of the company, you will be disappointed.

3. Where is their skill level? There’s a tendency to feel that no one can do as good a job as you can.  And that might be true.  But if you’re serious about planning for your succession, you need to evaluate the skill levels and train in the weak areas.

Sometimes there’s a benefit to bringing in a non-family mentor or manager to evaluate and train your successor.  Family dynamics may make it hard to transfer needed skills and knowledge.

The neutral manager can take the emotions out of the training and ensure the correct skill sets are in place for your successor—whether family member or employee.

The coach, mentor, or manager will also be in a position to assess potential candidates in a way you cannot.

4. Are stock shares a good choice? If you determine your children are not interested or qualified for your succession planning, how pass your assets on to them?

Consider issuing stock so they can own the company without having to run the company.  You may determine if the stock will entitle them to a voice in the management or not.  Of course you’ll base this decision on their interests and abilities.

When you asses and ask these questions, it makes planning for your successor a step-by-step process instead of an overwhelming burden.

William, there are many factors in determining succession planning for your small business.   The most important thing is to start now.  Write down your vision.

Evaluate possible successors.  Starting immediately allows you time to train your replacement and ensure conflicts among possible successors are minimized.

Call to Action:

Let Joel help you assess your possible successors and establish the best candidate. Click here to connect with him.


What steps have you taken to choose the successor for your small business?  Have you been happy with the result?

Image courtesy of Jakub /