People problems come with the territory

When small business owners are surveyed about the issues they face their two biggest concerns are usually ‘cash flow’ and ‘getting good people’. People problems are an integral part of small business ownership. This is why all small business owners must be willing to learn how to effectively lead and manage people. If your business dream does not require a high performing team of people to make it happen, then it is not a very big dream.

You start out with a skill and a business idea. You make some plans and find some resources to get started. If you start to help people your business will grow to the point where you need to add people. Every person you add multiplies the potential for people problems.  You have to trust other people with aspects of running your business. The challenge is made greater because in the early stages you as business owner are still hands on working in the business. And, managing people is probably something you have never been trained to do.

The first ‘people problem’ to fix is you

One of the most common people problems I hear from small business owners is that they cannot get ownership from their people. They resent the fact their people get to leave at 5:00pm while the business owner is still doing emails at 9:00pm. Yet when I start to dig a little into the team dynamics the team are often frustrated and would like to do more. The business owner has not empowered them. They feel like they are just doing tasks. They do not feel included or trusted. The business owner has unknowingly become the bottleneck to productivity. Usually because they struggle with control issues.

It is also important for a business owner to know their strengths and weaknesses. If they struggle with implementing details and administration they need to make sure they hire someone to cover that area early on. It is always best to hire to cover your weaknesses. Then you need to make sure you bring on people with potential to grow to be as good or better than you in the areas of your strengths. Otherwise people problems will multiply around you.

7 keys that will help you avoid people problems

  1. Be passionate about your business vision –  If you are passionate and committed to your business then it will be easier for your team members to feel good about working for your company. Work hard at being able to articulate your vision in an inspiring way that is easy to remember. Work on yourself so you are able to turn up to work each day with a consistent positive attitude that sets a great tone for your team.
  2. Build your team according to a strategic plan – You would not build your house with driftwood and yet I see business owners hiring people who happen to come by their business. A friend of a friend. A nephew who needs work. Such people may fill a temporary gap but will rarely develop into great team members. They will usually add to your people problems. To build a high performing team it needs to be purpose built. Know who you are looking for and keep your eyes open all the time. One of my clients found the perfect person for a customer service role when he was having a coffee at his favourite cafe. The waitress was looking for a change and happened to mention it to him and he invited her for an interview. He already knew she had the attitude, work ethic and people skills he needed.
  3. Develop strong core values as a basis for your business culture – Hire based more on values and culture than on skill. It is more important that you get people who are the right fit for your business. To do this requires the business owner to do some work to develop meaningful core values and a workable culture statement. The core values will always be those the business owner embodies. A highly talented person with different values will eventually cause big problems for you and with other team members in your business.
  4. Make sure you have an effective induction process – Team members are most keen to listen and learn when they first join your team. Most small businesses are very poor at inducting new employees. Quick introductions to other employees and to be shown the lunch room and toilets is NOT an induction. This process should be deliberate, well thought out and helpful. There should be a combination of written material (especially a clear position description) and hands on training. The induction process really is a 1- 3 month journey with regular check-ins until the employee has their first review.
  5. Work on your people skills – In order to get the best out of people on your team you need to be able to connect and build a positive working relationship with them. Show each team member you care and are interested in their life and they will not just work to earn their wage. They will also put a bit of their heart into their work. Help them to understand how their role is making a difference and contributes to the overall company goals and they will buy-in even more. Give them opportunities to grow and do things they have never done before and their work will be valued as a personal development opportunity. People problems will be minimised in such an environment especially if there is good communication.
  6. Learn to be an empowering leader – Work hard to stretch and grow your team members. Studies show employees are far more engaged when they have autonomy, purpose, flexibility, training, support, and interesting work. People problems develop when people are dis-empowered, micro-managed, feel unsupported and lack training to do their role.
  7. Be emotionally prepared for people to leave you – The people who start out with you rarely stay with you on your whole small business journey. Small business success is a personal growth journey for the owner and for the team. If a team member is not willing to keep growing then there comes a time when they become less productive. They may not cope with the increased responsibility or complexity of their role. They can start to become a blockage. With a lot of good will it may be possible for them to step sideways to allow a newer person to have seniority over them. Often they will become unsettled and decide to leave. Others on your team may decide to start their own business or want a change to work in another location or company. Things change in people’s lives and aspirations. So as the owner do not be shocked when people decide to move on. It is a good idea to have a backup plan for each key team member for how you would function without them.


Understanding how to connect with and influence people is a MUST HAVE skill for anyone who wants to be successful in business. People leave their jobs for many reasons but the most common one has to do with relationship conflict with a boss or another employee. Learning the keys outlined above will enable you to create an environment within your business where people problems are minimised and opportunities to be successful are maximised.

For small business mentoring help contact John at or 0405 539025 for a free conversation about your situation.


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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