The U.S. unemployment rate is lower than it has been since 1969. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional and business services have added 535,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Together, those statistics mean that it is more important than ever for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to engage and retain their most valuable employees. It’s not just about the salary, either, because there may be other companies dangling a bigger paycheck to entice your best to jump ship. To compete against larger companies and against Distributor Value-Added Resellers (DVARs) without adding a huge line item to your budget, Value-Added Resellers (VARs) should integrate, involve and mentor employees.
There are a few quick and easy ways to do these things. Vendors often invite VARs to events, dinners or learning events, such as strategic summits or yearly meetings. When that happens, ask if you can bring along a salesperson. That person will get the benefit of the learning and networking at the event – which will be a benefit to you – and will appreciate the opportunity. Be sure to cycle through your employees – don’t just reward the top performers. Knowing they will have a chance to attend something where they will learn valuable information and get face time with executives and vendors will go a long way toward making everyone on your team stick with you.
If you are staying active in your community, as suggested in a recent post, bring along a team member to associated meetings or events. Keep incorporating them into any opportunity you have. Is there a local small business development day or week? Choose an employee you think will benefit from the sessions or the keynote. Better yet, sign on as a vendor and have your top salespeople at your booth meeting other small business leaders in your area. If you are a member of a chamber or a local economic development council, bring employees to those events. The more your employees understand about your area, the local economy and – frankly – business in general, the better they will do for you and your business.
Whether you take employees with you or you send them on behalf of your company, take it seriously. This is where mentoring comes into the equation. Make sure you ask them to brief you after the event on what they learned, who they talked to and what they discussed. Help them develop a strategic plan for follow up with those people and make it a part of their goals to maintain those relationships, whether they lead to a sale or not. Take every opportunity to coach and mentor along the way. This not only benefits your employee, but it also benefits you and your business.
Business leaders know that recruiting, hiring and ramping up employees takes time and money. Save yourself much of that – especially in this job market – by keeping your employees happy and engaged. As noted, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but even a minimal investment will pay in the long run in happy, engaged and reliable employees who won’t leave your business and potentially take valuable contacts with them.
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