10 Foolproof Workplace Tips For Your Small Business

Yesterday (March 20, 2014), there was a fatal car accident in San Clemente, my hometown.

The traffic was HORRENDOUS for up to twenty-five miles away from the accident site. The freeway was shut-down, and when it opened back up, there was a solitary lane available for the seemingly endless sum of rush-hour drivers.

Thinking I was more clever than the rest, I took a “tricky” shortcut; to my dismay, there were many, many clever drivers who had the same strategy. The side-street traffic was at a standstill.

But, about twenty minutes into the millimeter crawl, residents from the homes in the neighbor hood we were suffocating came out of their houses and carried on conversations with drivers who parked their cars and exited their vehicles for a quick stretch break. There were adolescent children riding around on skateboards with signs that said: “Iced Tea for the Drivers,” offering a cold beverage for those of us who were getting restless, irritable, and discontent.

As I’m smiling in my Ford Fiesta, it dawned upon me that the unity exemplified in this unsatisfying situation was creating an amicable environment, which made the traffic problem seem less overwhelming.

When I came to this conclusion, I immediately thought about crises in business.

Our initial reaction to small business chaos is to point a finger and/or lash out at the individual whose lap on which the problem falls.

Don't Point Fingers. It doesn't look good on you.

Don’t Point Fingers. It doesn’t look good on you.

I could have easily (and I did for a short time) focused on the accident directly, augmenting my irritation at the two trucks that crashed, and concluding that the whole accident was just one large inconvenience for me only. But how selfish is that? I can sit there and point fingers, but then I am not exerting compassion towards the victim of the crash, the family who is grieving the loss of a loved one, and the guilt of the living truck driver who has to cope with the fact that a man died in an accident involving himself.

Facing a small business blunder is never easy, especially since we have limited manpower and even more limited resources. Our first instinct is to sit in self-pity, obsessing over the inconvenience it has caused me.

Mistakes, conflict, and chaos happen. The fact is inevitable.

During the early 1950’s, President Eisenhower described his position on the foreign relation policy with reference to the rise of communism in Vietnam as the “falling domino” principle or the “domino theory.” After Vietnam succumbed to the communist regime, Eisenhower believed that this would evoke the subtle communist communities in bordering countries. He was quoted: “The possible consequences of the loss [of Indochina]… are just incalculable to the free world” (history.com).

How true is that? Now, let’s apply it to small business or any business for that matter…

When we push the coworker who is already down, we create an acceptable, hostile work environment; a hostile work environment decreases productivity; decreased productivity severely hinders sales and leads; hindered sales prevents profit; a profitless business is the end–then, there are no more dominoes.

A compassionate workplace is to business success as a healthy engine is to a vehicle.

Our workplace is the life-force of our business. Keeping up with the maintenance of your engine, and you have a smooth driving vehicle; ignore the “check engine” light, and your car will eventually come to an abrupt stop.

Here are some tried-and-true tips for maintaining a healthy workplace…

  1. Start a monthly team meeting. Or, you can have a weekly meeting; the more the merrier. Our CFO, Julie, conducts a monthly meeting where we discuss the current projects in each department. She gives credit where credit is due, congratulating departments when they have successfully closed a deal, fixed a bug, landed a new marketing contact, or augmented sales. After the meeting, our whole office feels rightly informed on the progress of the business and supportive of everyone’s work.
  2. Create a social calendar. We spend eight or more hours with our coworkers per day; that’s forty hours a week we spend at the office (more than we see our significant others, some weeks!). Offices tend to have more rigid communication, less personality. When we take the time to schedule social events, whether it be a restaurant dinner, a catered lunch, a trip to the bowling alley, we provide a more relaxed environment. Conversation shifts from strictly professional apt of personality, to friendly. How many times have you been in a crisis and called up a friend for support? A healthy work environment is composed of friendly individuals, who support each other through difficulties.
    Some of the TO ladies at dinner with a customer.

    Some of the TO ladies at dinner with a customer.

  3. Utilize an instant messaging service for inter-office communication. At our office, we utilize the Microsoft feature Lync, which allows us to IM anyone in the office. When I first started working here, Lync provided a safe, social anxiety-free environment for me to chat with people who have been at the office for years. Whether we participated in small talk, or discussed a project, we were encouraged to use Lync to keep the lines of communication open at all times.
  4. Have a new employee? Send out a welcoming email. This is my favorite part of my job. Remember when you first started working at your job? Did you feel uncomfortable, like the people all the way at the other end of the office were foreigners? That’s how I felt. So I started sending “welcome” emails for all new employees, where I include an infographic with their picture, and fun facts about their personal life. It breaks down the solely serious exterior we tend to construct when we first start working at a new job.
  5. Refrain from closing office doors, keep the line of communication open. If you don’t need to have your office door closed, don’t close it. Conference calls, meetings, and webinars are the only reason you should have your door closed. Period.
  6. Provide community food. What brings people together more than a slice of really good pizza? Nothing, of course! Food provides a common interest in groups of people. Whenever we have food catered to the office, it creates a community in the conference room… Laughter and crunching fill the air, and it is glorious.
  7. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Your grandma probably said something like, “laughter is the best medicine” or something of the sort. She was right. Companies I worked for in the past were insanely quiet; nobody talked and God-forbid anybody laughed! At Trade Only someone is always laughing; when I hear someone across the office laughing, it encourages me to share that funny story from the weekend that I wasn’t going to share.
  8. Encourage desk decor. The marketing team here made a pact: we would each choose a movie poster that best represented our personality and hang it over our desk, judgment free. I chose a Star Wars “Dark Side” poster, Liz (VP of Marketing) chose Commando, and Tina (email marketer) chose Pulp Fiction. Every time I see the poster, I revel in the happiness it brings me that I am allowed to express my nerdy, “dark side” self in the office, and everyone takes joy in it.
  9. Keep up the encouragement. Motivation is key to success. If you don’t have motivation, you won’t have the drive necessary to finish the little tasks, making the bigger tasks completely unmanageable. Designate a part of the office where you choose a quote of the month or quote of the week. Even if nobody acknowledges the quote, I guarantee it will catch someone’s eye when they’re hanging up the phone or getting up to go to the restroom, and it might change their day.
  10. Send team emails. Our VP of marketing does this amazing thing where she sends a “Great Job” email to the US team when we get great customer feedback or our coder creates a fantastic looking website template. It really boosts the morale of the office; I’ve even heard my coworkers talking in the kitchen, congratulating our coder for creating such an amazing template, which they were only able to see because Liz sent an email with the link.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.