Keeping Your Business From Being the Next Goldman Sachs


Greg Smith, a former Goldman Sachs executive director, made headlines this week upon leaving the firm with a bang—airing his grievances with Goldman in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, blasting the group out for what he described as its "toxic and destructive" atmosphere.

While chances are your small business employees won't have access to editorial space in the New York Times to vent about your poor management skills, they too may be sharing in Smith's workplace frustrations. Even if you don't have a Goldman Sachs-sized budget, you can take small steps to keep your workers happy, without spending a ton of money, according to Michael C. Bush, founder and CEO of The 8 Factors.

Bush said employee satisfaction is not something small business owners are necessarily thinking about day-to-day, because of the operational tasks they face daily.

"They are busy fighting today's problems," he said. "They are under-resourced and don't [always] have HR departments. They tend to go a longer period of time without focusing on the most important thing in the business, which is their people."

Small businesses should think about employees for a small period of time each day, rather than when it comes time for worker reviews or salary negotiations, he said.

Here are some tips from Bush for keeping your workers happy and not finding your business on the opinion page of your local paper, a la Goldman Sachs.

No. 1: Do you know your workers? Think about if you actually know anything about the people that work for you, Bush said. Listen carefully and make the time to have that chat with a worker by the water cooler or on your lunch break. This will help determine what they value—and they will notice you are showing interest.

"People value the simplest things," he said. "It's a huge advantage, getting to know your employees. Think about your people, and whether or not they are thrilled to be a part of the environment you have created."

No. 2: Give regular, positive feedback. Rather than giving all of your workers a raise at a certain point in the year, Bush said it's to an employers' advantage to do something small more often, like treating him or her to a lunch for their good work, or getting them an iTunes gift card.

"Spending $20 is far cheaper than a 1.5% or 3% raise," he said. "If you do these things for your people, you may find that down the road you're not even talking to them about that raise."

No. 3: Think about bartering. If you can't afford to treat workers to lunch or buy them a small token like a gift card, Bush suggests seeking out other small business owners in the area and bartering your services. See if they will give your employees a free haircut or meal, in return for free work from your business. This is a big morale booster and doesn't add unnecessary costs, he said.

"This builds support small business to small business, and everyone benefits from that," Bush said.

No. 4: Listen to their feedback. Give workers the chance to air their opinions within the company, and take what they say seriously, Bush said their ideas may prove to be worth your while. This will also keep them engaged and invested in their work, and doesn't cost a dime.

No. 5: Give bonuses, not raises. If you do want or have to give your workers cash, do it in the form of a bonus rather than a raise, Bush said. These one-time increases in costs aren't as painful to your bottom line, and also allow workers to appreciate the money upfront, at once.