Category Archives: employees


People and processes

The founder and CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is stepping aside because his combative personality and the culture he created at Uber are no longer in line with the business’s need to be both more stable and predictable and more socially responsible and engaged with the communities where it is operating. His ruthlessly aggressive style has successfully created a ride-sharing industry and grown it to a billion dollar global business, but he had bruised relationships with everyone – employees, drivers, customers, service suppliers, regulators and politicians. Those partners that Uber needs to succeed were instead creating obstacles and seeking more compatible alternatives. It has been clear for some time that change was required at Uber – in leadership, style and processes – if global expansion was to continue. Kalanick finally got the message.

stressed employeeWhat about your business? Are the right people in the right place? Are you?

Has your business evolved beyond the capabilities of the people who got you started? Back then you were looking for energy, enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit and people willing to do whatever was required without costing too much. In the early stages, you, your partner and the office manager were all willing and able to do the sales, administration and customer service, make the coffee in the morning and set the alarm at night. The technician was also the shipper-receiver and the receptionist was also secretary and bookkeeper. The business was smaller and life was simpler.

Now you need more specialized expertise with knowledgeable and experienced management all working together effectively using more sophisticated technology and tools for marketing, sales and customer service, managing more employees with widely varied backgrounds, keeping on top of regulatory requirements, running the business on smart phones and keeping systems secure. Even the coffee machine is more complicated and needs a specialist.

Those early employees deserve your loyalty and respect and should have the opportunity to learn and develop into larger roles, but they will not all be capable of evolving in line with the needs of your evolving business. Energy and enthusiasm can only get you so far. (Maybe that helps explain what is holding you back from evolving to the next level in your business.)

You do not have to get as big as Uber before the people and processes that got you started are no longer helping you succeed and grow. Check that your organization has evolved as much as the competitive world around you.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Manage like a Hockey Mom

But in a good way

hockey-fansIt is that time of year for hockey playoffs and not just in the NHL. It’s always exciting and entertaining and often provides inspiration and ideas for outside the hockey rink.

At a grandson’s recent Peewee AAA hockey tournament in Montreal, the welcome brochure included the Quebec Hockey Association’s Code of Ethics for Parents (also useful for grandparents). In reading it, I realized it could be adapted as a useful guide for business owners and managers. Here is my version.

The Code of Ethics for Entrepreneurs

As a business owner and responsible manager, I recognize that I have the potential and the opportunity to make an important contribution to the personal development and well-being of the individuals who choose to work with me and accept that as a priority over “winning the game”.

I will therefore ensure my conduct continually demonstrates that:

  • I understand that my employees are here for their benefit and pleasure, not mine.
  • I consider winning as part of the pleasure of playing the game; I will not exaggerate the pain of failure; and I will recognize errors as a necessary part of the learning experience.
  • I will respect the efforts and the decisions of the supporters and supervisors and of the outside authorities responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations. I will do my best to understand and accept the rules and regulations applicable to my business.
  • I will recognize good performance on the part of our individual employees, as well as that of our competitors.
  • I accept each individual’s limitations and will not project my own ambitions or unreasonable expectations upon anyone. My expectations will be appropriate to the qualifications and experience of each individual.
  • I will demonstrate and expect from all employees a reflection of the important values of respect, discipline, effort and loyalty.
  • I will not encourage or tolerate any level of personal harassment, conflict or aggressive behavior.
  • I will encourage and support the personal development of the skills and capabilities for every individual.

Good advice from responsible hockey moms. (I do notice that a lot gets ignored during the playoffs when winning is everything, but that’s another issue for a future article. Meanwhile, the hockey analysts are all over it.)

Be better. Do better. As a responsible, enlightened entrepreneur.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph's, "Don't Do It the Hard Way". 

Mistake #5: Neglecting key relationships

Employees First

9781496932259_COVER.inddStan was leading the group today and started with, “OK, let’s start the discussion with a question. Which relationship is the most important key to success for any business?”

“Customers, of course.” And it wasn’t just Larry with the obvious answer this time.

“OK, then which relationship can be the biggest obstacle to your success.”

“The bank”


“The government with all their regulations and reporting requirements”

“Suppliers, who don’t deliver as promised.”

Now we had some differences of opinion. So I interjected, “Can we all agree though, that we cannot keep our customers happy and coming back for more, if our employees don’t treat them well? And the best way to ensure that happens is to treat our employees the way we would like them to treat our customers. Isn’t it always obvious to the customer when the flight attendant, service technician or waitress is not happy with her job?”

“The best lesson I ever got was in Las Vegas (and it’s a story that should not stay in Vegas). We were at the annual computer conference and exhibition there (COMDEX) and my partners and I were having a long breakfast meeting in the Treasure Island Casino dining room. Long after breakfast we were still getting smiling and prompt service from the waiter with never-ending cups of coffee. We were there for so long that the shift changed, but we still had friendly, attentive service from the waitress who now was bringing the refills. Finally, after we had remarked on the service among ourselves, I said to her, ‘We have been coming to this conference in Vegas for many years and have met in many different dining rooms, but this is absolutely the best service we’ve ever had. How do you do it?’”

“She said, ‘The owner, Steve Wynn, treats us so well, we treat everybody well in return.’ Boom. She got it and the message stuck for me.”

“Great story, Uncle Ralph, and I agree,” said Brian, “but what if that well treated employee just doesn’t get it.”

“That happens. I remember a service technician telling me that his sharing in the monthly sales bonus made no difference to him; he still treated all the customers like idiots. Apparently we had made a hiring decision that was a mistake; so we asked him to leave and take his attitude elsewhere.”

“Recognizing and removing the misfits is a difficult but necessary part of people management. If employees do not buy into the corporate culture they will never be effective members of the team and need to be removed. Doing it well is important though, because all of your employees are watching and judging you as a manager.”

“When I was doing a survey to develop my list of the ‘The Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make’, one entrepreneur suggested it should include “Hiring too Fast and Firing too Slow.” He had a good point and it reminded me of the time I made both mistakes with the same employee! (More lessons learned.) And I know you want to hear that story, right?”

“Sure,” said Larry, “I find it reassuring to know you made so many mistakes and still survived!”

“Well, let’s just remember the old cliché, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Or as Bill Gates used to say at Microsoft, 'In this business you have to recognize your mistakes quickly, before they get big enough to kill you.’ Most of the time I did fail fast and move on, ....

“But back to Bernie (not his real name, of course), and my mistake of hiring him too fast and firing him too slow. He was a sales rep with a bit of a mixed track record and some contradictory references – ‘great guy, good results, but hard to manage’. Of course, I thought I was a better manager than his previous bosses and I needed a sales rep, so signed him up. He did well for a few months, bringing some new customers with him and getting some big orders for us. But he was hard to keep track of and I started to notice his work habits were letting us down. Late for meetings or not showing up at all; refusing to make the extra effort if it interfered with his ‘personal’ time.”

“So after about a year, one more refusal to go out of his way for a customer caused me to sit him down and ‘counsel him out’. (That was the clumsy euphemism we used to use at Coopers and Lybrand to advise someone that their career plan would be better served somewhere else. Instead of delivering the very clear message, ‘You’re fired!’) Then I compounded my errors by trying to be kind and giving him some good referrals to other companies that might be hiring. That wasn’t doing him or his next employer any favours.

Immediately after he had left us, I started to learn from employees and customers that he was an even bigger problem than I thought; not only were his working relationships contentious with everyone, but he also had another business on the side that he was working at with his wife when he was supposed to be working for us. ‘What took you so long to let him go?’ was the common theme. ”

“So in terms of hiring, firing and managing performance, I learned to include other managers in the process and to be much more observant of who are the team players and who are not. Who get it and who do not. To recognize good or bad performance and to encourage feedback my guiding principle remains: “Praise in public; Punish in private,” even if it is never quite that simple.”

“Dealing with poor performance is only one of the challenges in managing employee relationships.”

“Recognizing and rewarding high performance employees is also a very important priority, even if they need less supervision and micro-management. They need to be engaged and developed to meet their own goals. You need them to act as if they are owners too – always working to promote the company and improve its performance, not just their own career plan. Mismanaging or neglecting high performers puts at risk the most important resource required to build value in your business.”

Avoid Mistake #5: Neglecting Key Relationships

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.


I was in a good discussion today on the special challenges of managing young employees from the twenty-something generation.

There is often a large gap in job expectations between the 30 to 40-year old managers and their younger staff. Loyalty, extra hours, and commitment to the company are concepts familiar to the managers but foreign to new employees. Their key issues are flexibility, social time, open communication and personal attention. Work habits may include continuous connection to their cell phone and online text messaging. These young employees present management with new challenges to attract, recruit and retain them.

Meeting their needs is difficult in an environment that has to remain equitable for all employees and still be a productive and customer-centered work place. Progressive companies have found creative ways to achieve their goals and to meet the expectations of desirable young employees.

They have implemented flexible work schedules within reasonable limits, make senior managers accessible, and recognize personal needs that have priority over job responsibilities. Adapting old personnel practices to the expectations of the newest employees requires careful assessment and implementation. It is worth learning from the successful employers so that your company can also become recognized as a great place to work. It is key to attracting and retaining the best qualified employees.