Standing Behind Your Staff

by Melanie Spring on April 22, 2011

Your (sic) Fired
Every entrepreneur dreams of the growth their business will take. You work alone in your bedroom for awhile, then start hiring people, get an office and everything goes smoothly.

The company culture is fun and vibrant, you have the perfect staff that fits your overall vibe, your clients are incredible, nothing can go wrong… until something does.

Not all entrepreneurs were trained to be “managers.” Recently I wrote a post about being a “leader” rather than a manager, based on Seth Godin’s book, Tribes.

As a business owner, your staff is key to your success, and leading that staff is up to you. You have to rely on them to make good decisions, behave in front of clients and put their best foot forward in every situation.

You expect your clients to understand your company culture and only want clients who fit that. But not all clients are created equal.

While setting up my company culture, I was clear on the fact that I wanted it to be fun, relaxed and laid back, yet hardworking, excited and deadline-driven.

Our clients are always #1 and everything else comes second. But in my view, although the client is the key to success, standing behind my staff is even more important to the success of projects.

If I cannot stand up for my employees, why did I hire them?

Recently, a client reminded me that no business fits every client when they spoke disrespectfully to me and about my staff under the guise of being “helpful.”

Being a relatively young business owner, I understand that I don’t have 20 years of experience in my field but I’ve already proven my success and will continue to do so.

When a client talks down to me and/or my business, I feel disrespected … especially when it’s by another female entrepreneur.

Our dreams include working with people who understand who we are, how we work, why we are fun to work with and those people are thrilled to work with us.

Our clients love our design services, want to come to our relaxing office space, and know that we’re not a typical company.

We’re a little silly, and like to make the sometimes cumbersome design experience more fun.

When confronted with this particular client situation, I felt I only had two options: reprimand the employee the client insulted, or fire the client.

I could shake my head at my employee and just say “maybe you shouldn’t do that anymore” or do what my bosses in the past have done and add it to the employee handbook.

Or I could tell the client that our silliness is part of our company culture and we don’t do “stuffy,” even for our corporate clients.

My decision: fire the client.

No one insults me by talking down to me, nor do they insult my staff without causing me a sudden urge to smack someone. A few years ago, I might have reacted differently and insulted them as well, but part of how we work with people is never to give what we don’t want in return.

Being positive and happy for each other and our clients is one of our main initiatives.

In my experience, mismatched values lead both parties to dissatisfaction. It’s in the client’s best interest to allow them to find a company that fits their values.

And it’s in our best interest not to have to fake our company culture to try to please that one client.

If you take anything out of this, realize that your work environment and employees are like your home and family.

Treat them respectfully and always stand behind them, even if you have to bite your tongue to do it.

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Image: misterbisson via Flickr, Creative Commons

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.

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