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Yaneek Page | Employee quality of life as a measure of business success

QUESTION: Allow me to congratulate you on the good work you have been doing over the years. I have been reading your articles and learning so much. Everything you offer to us business owners we appreciate. My problem may be unusual, but I need to know your opinion on it. I have been in business for almost 14 years. I find myself more worried for my employees’ welfare and how they are managing the cost of living. I wish so much that the business would earn enough to pay them what I want to, but it has never happened, so I do my best with the salaries I pay. Honestly, what I am paying even myself as the owner is very low and much less than I could earn if I was working as a manager in a big company.

These days I find myself at the supermarket worried about how they are surviving. I know they have families, responsibilities, and want to achieve certain things in life, and I feel so bad about the way things are now. I am writing you in tears because today when I was thinking about this I asked myself if I had failed. Maybe it would be better if I close this business and do something else because how can it make sense to be working so hard and can’t even live a proper life or pay proper wages? Tell me truthfully if you think I have failed and should make a change. I am a very positive person and don’t believe in giving up, but I am questioning myself now.

– CH

BUSINESSWISE: I applaud you for putting this critical issue of employees’ quality of life at the forefront of your business dashboard, particularly in these turbulent social and economic times, which have exacerbated the financial pressures placed on many workers.

First, let me answer your last question, whether I think you have failed as a business owner and need to make a change: While I understand that the current predicament is weighing heavily on you, it is not helped by judgement or pronouncements on your journey by me or anyone else.

Notwithstanding, I think your introspection and empathy demonstrate advancement as a leader and people manager, which is worthy of commendation. You are also well ahead of many prominent business leaders who are touted as ‘highly successful’ despite the fact that they show little or no concern for the well-being of their employees even though their businesses are very profitable and have the resources and financial means to do better by their staff. You, by contrast, are a caring leader. I would, however, agree that changes must be made to remedy the problems you have identified in your business.

The solutions to the challenges you face in business now can only be addressed by growing your revenues, containing costs, improving your profitability, and prioritising your employees’ quality of life and your own as key measures of success for your business.

Historically, in spite of the fact that employees are the most important resource in a business, the well-being of labour has never been taken into account when evaluating the health and success of businesses. It is not reflected on any balance sheet, or in any income statement, or in any cash flows. It is not usually reported in any annual or quarterly reports, or filings, and it is largely ignored in the quest for profit maximisation and increasing returns to investors and shareholders.

What you would be doing is breaking the mould, which is consistent with the most progressive views on the future of enterprise and human capital, and I congratulate you wholeheartedly.

Making the change to pay your employees better, and enhance their quality of life, will require, at least in your case, an overhaul of your business and the way you do business.

Start by undertaking a comprehensive strategic planning exercise to review your business vision and mission, critically assess your business model, in particular your income streams, the competitiveness of your products and services, attractiveness of the markets that you serve, cost structure, and efficiency/automation/digitisation of operations.

You should also carefully assess your customer base and customer-spending patterns, especially how their needs have changed, current buying behaviour, and whether your pricing strategy is aligned with the realities in the marketplace and external pressures at this time.

You will need current salary scale data for your industry – local, regional, and global – so you may use this information in assessing how competitive your current compensation packages are, and then to set benchmarks and targets for where you wish to be. It is also helpful to engage employees to better understand their driving force, goals, and changing needs, particularly in this era known as the ‘great resignation’, where many employees are leaving their jobs to enjoy a better quality of life.

Although resources are scarce and finances are stretched, this is a time when you will have to make a critical investment for the turnaround of your company, its long-term health and viability, and the welfare of everyone employed therein, including yourself. If you can’t come up with a turnaround plan, then you will need to make some tough decisions because the current path is worrying and unsustainable.

Therefore, I strongly recommend that you seek expert help from either an experienced and competent business coach, consultant, or expert in financial management. This will be an exciting new path, and it won’t be easy, however, you can make the journey better by adjusting your mindset this minute to celebrate the leader you are becoming, the benefits that will result for everyone, and the peace of mind you will finally enjoy as you progress. I wish you great success.

One love!

– Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.

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