“When I’m gone, when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…” – Anna Kendrick
You can have a terrific business, establish a wonderful environment for employees to flourish and grow and feel respected, offer terrific pay and benefits, and be the kind of “World’s Best Boss” that would put The Office’s Michael Scott to shame, and there can still come a time that an employee might leave your family.
As a Sicilian, I don’t use the word “family” lightly, for with a small business, that’s really the kind of relationship that many of us develop in our companies. At my shop, we typically have between five and six total staff including myself, so we all work very closely with one another, and quickly develop bonds. I spend 40-plus hours a week with my guys, often under tense, “in the trenches” conditions where we rely on and trust the work and skill of the person next to us. These relationships definitely grown into more than just employer/employee after several years of constant contact.
Like many of you, our company also invests a lot of time and energy into our employees with both formal and on-the-job training. Hiring a new guy is always a difficult, stressful process, so we strive to keep good employees for a long time.
But despite the best intentions, things happen and people move on. One of our techs, Marc, recently got married and his wife wanted to move to be closer to family. It was clear that commuting from Ohio to Myrtle Beach was not going to work, so my employee of seven years handed in his notice and worked his last day this past Friday.
When you work with someone day in and day out, it can become too easy to focus on and see their flaws and foibles. They didn’t do this right. They forgot to write this down. They didn’t check this before leaving the job. They were 12 minutes late again.
But when they are gone, all of the things that they did do right become far more apparent and their true value to your firm is much more readily appreciated.
In looking to hire a replacement for my lost tech, I quickly realized all of the things that our company had come to rely on Marc to do. Over the years, he had learned and become responsible for all of our legacy ELAN housewide systems and the few remaining Niles IntelliControl remotes we still have in the field. Some of these systems are many years old—programmed on an ancient Toshiba laptop we not-so-affectionately refer to as “Old School”—and involve programs and programmers that we would ordinarily never need to train a new employee to use. When we started using URC as our principal smart control, Marc quickly came up to speed on the programming, and we could turn him loose on any new remote install or programming service call. Marc and I attended Control4 training together, where we were able to bounce programming suggestions off each other on projects. He was also our principal security panel installer. And not to mention the level of trust and confidence he had earned over the years of his employ.
I can remember many years ago when I coached a high school golf team, I was able to help one of my players get into Yale. When the Yale admissions officer called me, I felt proud to be able to help that young man on what would undoubtedly be a major step toward a successful life. (I’m sure his 4.3 GPA and high SAT scores didn’t hurt his chances either.)
As an employer, as much as we may hate losing a valued employee, we should still do what we can to pay their careers forward and steward them toward their next job if possible. Helping them land their next job—if they want—should really be the final step in the successful employer/employee relation.
I reached out to Control4 and connected Marc with a contact in Ohio and wrote him a letter of recommendation that will hopefully make it easier for him to land his next position. I’ve no doubt that he’ll be an asset to wherever he ends up.
Further, as business owners and managers, we should never forget the power of a simple, sincere “Thank you.” After a long, hard day, spending a couple of minutes telling your crew what a good job they did and how much you appreciate what they do for the company goes a long way.
If you can’t remember the last time you told your guys how much you appreciate what they do for you and what they mean for your business, then what are you waiting for? If you don’t appreciate them, I promise you, some other company will.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.