From the August 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

One of the best ways to grow your company is to grow your people--that is, increase their value and loyalty by guiding them along their own professional paths, says Genie Snyder, founder of Snyder Remarks ETC, a business consulting and organizational training firm in Athens, Georgia. Ways to do that include:

*Creating position summaries and descriptions for each job.Include both the tasks and skills the job requires, along with the necessary personal characteristics (such as working without supervision or the ability to make decisions quickly).

  • Developing a strategy for each employee to reach his or her goals.Have employees work with their supervisors to map out what they need to do, such as taking classes or reading certain materials, to get where they want to go. Although you'll be supportive, be clear that individuals are responsible for implementing their own strategies.
  • Establishing internal internships and mentoring programs.Encourage senior staffers to spend time with junior personnel so everyone will have a better understanding of the overall operation and how all the jobs connect. This will also help people to learn about positions they may eventually hold.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

Small Talk, Big Results

The art of polite conversation

Whether the situation is formal or informal, familiar or unfamiliar, in the office or out, feeling more comfortable with your conversational skills will increase the likelihood that you'll make a positive impression, says Randi Freidig, a speaker and trainer in Seattle.

"Most people think of small talk as inconsequential, unimportant and a waste of time, but it's really the opposite," Freidig says. "Small talk helps build rapports and eventually trust. It helps people find common ground on which to base meaningful conversation."

Begin with advance preparation. "Any time you're going to be with people, whether it's at a chamber of commerce event or a wedding, have goals," Freidig advises. Do you want to find a particular resource, identify a prospective customer or expand your horizons in another way?

With your goals in mind, think about what you're going to say--both the questions you'll ask and the answers you'll give. "Inevitably, if you run into people you already know, they'll say `What's new?' And most people say `Nothing,' and drop the conversational ball," Freidig says. Instead, have an answer that will help you start a short conversation. For example, you might say "We just added a new product line, and I'm looking for a sales rep to handle it. Do you know anyone who's available?" You've shared something interesting about your company and opened a dialogue that could produce mutually beneficial results.

Stick 'Em Up

Are you properly displaying the required labor laws?

Chances are you're required to post specific labor-law information in your workplace, says Joe Lustig, an attorney and editor with AlignMark Information Publishing in Alexandria, Virginia. Both the federal government and individual states require legal postings. In addition, further posters are required for government contractors and other specific types of businesses. And remember, says Lustig, if you operate in more than one state, you may have to follow different laws at each of your locations.

Failure to properly display posters can mean fines of $100 per violation, says Lustig, along with the inconvenience and cost of intrusive investigations from various Labor Department agencies.

To make sure your federal labor law postings are correct, check with the U.S. Department of Labor at (202) 219-8211 or visit the agency's Web site at http://www.dol.gov For information on state requirements, contact your state's labor department.

Contact Sources

AlignMark Information Publishing, (703) 706-0222, jlustig@alignmark.com

Snyder Remarks ETC, (706) 353-3578, snyderemarks@athens.net