5 Alternative Ways to Run A Business and Keep Employees Happy
Part of being an entrepreneur is understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses. Not only does this help you to identify the high-level tasks you should be focused on, it also gives you an opportunity to think about the kind of people you need to hire to run your company.
There is little sense in bringing on employees who have the exact same strengths as you. The ideal scenario is to find people that have knowledge and skills in areas that are complementary to yours.
Of course, once you find good people to help you run your business, you'll also need to think about how you're going to keep them, which is one of the biggest challenges my business partner and I have at FE International.
Oftentimes, retention isn't about bigger salaries or perks. The culture of your company also has a significant impact on how valued your employees feel and how long they stick around.
If you're looking for alternative ways to run a business and keep your employees happy, the following five examples should provide you with some inspiration.
1. Offer extended paternal leave.
Billionaire Richard Branson's philosophy is that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business. Branson, having been a father (as well as a grandfather), knows how important the first year in a newborn's life is, and how much work it is for the parents, too.
As result, parents who have worked at Virgin Management -- the investing and brand-licensing arm of Virgin Group -- for four years or longer receive 100 percent of their salary for a full year during paternity leave. Moms and dads who have been at the company for less than four years also receive pay (less than that of the four-year group). And those employed for less than two years still receive 25 percent of their salary. So far, these perks apply only to staff in the London and Geneva offices.
However, this is just the beginning. Branson appears to have every intention of offering more flexibility to new parents.
2. Cut your own salary and increase your employees'.
Dan Price is the CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based tech company that handles credit card processing for independent businesses. In April, he announced that he would cut his own salary by as much as 90 percent to increase the pay of all of his employees to at least $70,000.
According to Price, CEO pay is "out of whack." His pay is determined by market rates and what it would take to replace him, but by his own admission, this makes his salary extremely high. He has chosen to reduce his salary from $1 million to the same as that received by everyone else in the company, at least until the company's profits are recovered.
Price's goal is to boost staff salary to $70,000 by December 2017. Employees who earn less than $70,000 will either be getting a $5,000-per-year promotion every single year until their salary is up to par, or will begin earning an immediate minimum of $50,000, whichever is greater.
3. Build a remote team and share its members with other companies.
Brian David Crane, founder of CallerSmart -- an app for identifying and blocking mystery callers -- chose to open an office in Warsaw, Poland, instead of setting up in an expensive tech hub like New York or San Francisco. With his core team of engineers, designers and project managers in one office space maintaining regular hours, he is able to keep overhead low.
He also enables his team members to work for other companies. This allows them to consistently find and work on a variety of different projects.
In short, Crane is able to keep costs low, attract the best talent and keep his team unified. Employees are happy because of the variety of work they get to engage in.
4. Communicate like a small company, no matter how big you get.
Julia Hartz is the cofounder and president of Eventbrite, a company that has generated over $3 billion in ticket sales for various events across the world. It has also been voted "Best Places to Work in the San Francisco Bay Area" five years in a row.
Eventbrite has over 500 employees, but Hartz cites her decision to operate like a small, lean team as one of the reasons she has been able to keep her team happy.
Kevin and Julia Hartz hold weekly sessions called Hearts to Hartz, in which they review key company metrics, share the latest news, offer business updates and answer questions, both in-person and digitally. In addition, people who work at Eventbrite are affectionately referred to as "britelings."
Internal surveys are also distributed to generate transparent feedback from employees to share their thoughts and contribute to the ongoing development of the business.
Flexible work hours, constant transparent communication and unique work environments all factor into the overall company culture and employee satisfaction at Eventbrite.
5. Identify and bring in speakers your employees will love.
Birchbox was cofounded by Katia Beauchamp and Haley Barna. It offers a subscription service for women and men to try beauty product samples. Employees cite the Birchbox Speaker Series and the ability to create a relationship with influential speakers as a unique and attractive perk.
This initiative hasn't just increased employee morale, either. It has also led to new partnerships, built on the enthusiasm of brand partners and allowed the company to build valuable connections.
Birchbox doesn't choose speakers at random. It gives considerable attention to the right fit for its employees, a strategy that has panned out for the company.
How can you keep your employees happy?
Could you offer extended paternity leave, cut your own salary to boost your employees', build a remote team, communicate regularly and transparently with your staff or bring in qualified speakers to inspire your team members?
Do you have other ideas you'd like to explore? Are there other perks or benefits you could offer your employees?
There are many different ways to keep your employees happy. By taking the effort to find them, you'll gain a better reputation as a business, build a stronger company culture and, most of all, retain the talent you hired.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor