8 Small Business Owners on Motivating Teams

Through the ups and downs of being in a startup environment, how do small business owners continue motiving employees? From offering extra pay to opportunities to grow in your career, here’s how eight small business owners are motivating teams.

1. Open Communication

“Open communication and a healthy work/life balance are important factors. They help us motivate hybrid teams and contributing to an overall positive company culture.

We utilize communication tools like Slack and Skype for our teams. This allows us to share the type of water cooler conversations that are often missed in remote work settings. We’ve found that this helps unite everyone and provide a sense of camaraderie.

We’re firm believers in providing opportunities for our teams to gather outside of working hours for fun and relaxation. Among various activities, we love playing laser tag, going to baseball games, and having outdoor picnics.” — Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO, Chargebacks911

2. Don’t Pigeonhole Talent

“We take special care not to pigeonhole our talent to further aid in their growth and development. We certainly have key assigned responsibilities and specific roles to correspond to the most qualified employees. However, we actively encourage contributions wherever an employee’s interests lie. This flexibility reassures them that they can explore other opportunities to learn and gain valuable career experience without having to necessarily seek it out elsewhere. Offering and encouraging this initiative to those who’re interested is a great way for our leadership to evaluate employees with a great work ethic and refined goals.

I’ve found that employees who don’t have to worry about being pigeonholed are more active and motivated. This makes it easier to retain talent and identify talent. This is talent ready to take the next steps to advance their careers.” — Alex Wang. I’m the co-founder and CEO, Ember Fund  

3. Occasionally, Friday Attendance is Optional

“As a small business owner, I like to think of out of the box ways to keep my team motivated. My tried and tested approach is to be accommodating and allow for a work-life balance.

When life revolves around work, it can be draining for anyone. And, when people are drained, they’re usually unmotivated to work. Creating an environment where work enhances one’s life rather than the other way around, in my opinion, is the best thing anyone can do to inspire the team.

Because it’s not always possible to pay my team more, I occasionally make Friday attendance optional.

The next best thing is to show that I care about them outside of work. If the employees have children, surprising them with tickets to family-friendly events or asking them if their spouse or children have any upcoming commitments that require time off are wonderful ways to show them that I genuinely care. This approach ensures that work doesn’t become an environment that they dread coming to because it can be rewarding in a lot of ways. A one-time solution aids in the short term, but a consistent, accommodating culture are more crucial in the long run.” — Echo Wang, founder and lead trainer at Yoga Kawa

4. Celebrate Big and Small Moments!

“When you manage a small business, there are a lot of ups and downs in which you and your team experience that can really affect the overall environment of the workplace. And as humans, we also tend to focus on the negative news or negative things happening around the office, which can really dampen the mood.

This is why it helps to celebrate employee moments as much as possible to try and shift the mood and keep your team motivated. This means celebrating birthdays, engagements, and promotions, as well as smaller moments like switching to a better office supply store or finding a new way to improve customer satisfaction. These milestones are important to celebrate to recognize your team and ensure them that no small moment goes unnoticed.

As the CEO of a hybrid workforce, we don’t always see each other face-to-face, but it’s still important to celebrate something everyday, even if it’s over a conference call. This starts everyone’s day on the right foot, and helps to focus on good things which can train your brain to be more positive overall, which helps to keep everyone motivated throughout the day.” — Jim Sullivan, CEO and founder of JCSI

5. Trust My Team

“Motivating my team and keeping them accountable could never be achieved without trust. Trust between leadership and teams is crucial to the functionality and camaraderie of the workplace. My team knows I am available to answer questions and guide them through new procedures and policies.

I am a firm believer in that people make mistakes, it is natural and a part of our humanity. I do not seek out to punish people when mistakes are made. Instead, I coach them on how to fix their mistakes. Then we work together to prevent them in the future.” — Troy Portillo, Director of Operations of Studypool

6. Put Purpose First

“When you put purpose first as a business, it gives employees something to aspire to outside of making money. It’s easy for an employee to feel like a cog in the wheel instead of a valuable company asset. Operating with a sense of purpose encourages people to go the extra mile because they understand that they’re working for something bigger than themselves — not just the bottom line.

But for this to be an effective motivator, it’s essential to reinforce that core purpose at every level. You’ll find that as more people seek work at companies effecting positive change in society and the environment, building your purpose into your brand story attracts top talent motivated to work for the greater good.” — Maria Shriver, co-founder and CEO, MOSH

7. Build Employees Up

“As far as motivation goes, our company has a sort of informal employee recognition program. I am a big believer in the importance of a positive work environment and culture. This program is a way for me, and other members of my team, to individually praise and thank employees for their great work.

Building each other up and appreciating one’s efforts and hard work is one of the best ways to motivate. The informal nature of our program allows us to recognize employees as frequently as we like. It allows us to offer different prizes and incentives, which was an intentional decision.” — Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy

8. Offer Bonus Incentives

“We keep our teams motivated by offering bonus incentives for all tiers on top of already competitive salaries. We know our employees don’t value the typical brush-off incentives employers like to offer. They want to be able to set money aside or use an unexpected bonus to buy something nice for themselves or someone they love.

Money is a great motivator. While not every small business owner can afford this incentive structure, the ones that can should really consider it.” — Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love

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