The Real Housewives of Small Business Ownership

NEWSLETTER Real Housewives of Small Business

My friends and I are cult-like followers of the reality television “Real Housewives” series. In various locations across the country, wealthy women are chosen to have television cameras document their daily lives of self-indulgence and pathological dysfunction. 

Recently, I saw an episode where a mother was following her four year old around at the child’s $60,000 birthday party trying to elicit some favorable feedback for the table decorations fashioned from rare flowers, her diamond Barbie necklace, and the musician singing a specially commissioned birthday song. The fashionably emaciated woman kept pleading with the child, “Sweetie, do you like this?” “Honey, how about this?” The jaded child was clearly not impressed, and the manipulation taking place by her impassive responses was obvious to everyone but the clueless mom.  

How often as a business owner do you feel like this desperate parent? You pay good wages, offer regular bonuses, buy lunches every Friday and sponsor generous holiday parties, yet still have staff that seem perpetually dissatisfied? 

Although your employees are not children, you may be making the same mistake that Sweetie’s mom has been making: basing rewards on what you perceive as valuable and “rewarding” so often that it becomes an entitlement. By re-examining your current benefits and reward offerings and shifting your approach, you should be able to reduce dissatisfaction and increase productivity at the same time. 

1) Cake, Ice Cream and Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey 

The guest of honor likely would have better enjoyed having her friends over for an hour of games and free play topped off with ice cream and cake. Ask your staff what rewards and perqs are meaningful to them, and don’t make the mistake of underestimating the satisfaction of small rewards. 

2) There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch 

In a short period of time, “gifts” like buying lunch every Friday become an entitlement. Don’t believe me? Try taking it away. Keeping “gifts” random and creating a link to rewards from business results increases the value of your dollars spent while driving performance.

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