As time goes on, however, you start taking on more and more risk. You’re the one renting the truck every weekend. It is your name on the warehouse lease. You’ll have to pay the rent whether or not customers keep coming in the door. You’ve put up the capital for the big inventory purchase that’s going to carry you through next season.
And then you bring on employees. You need them because you’re growing and can’t keep up on your own. They bring you the much-needed time and muscle to actually execute on all of these promises you’ve made in your growing business. There is a relief knowing that someone else is there to help carry the (physical and mental) load with you.
But it isn’t the whole load, right?
They still get paid no matter what. You’ve got to give them a paycheck even if the bank balance is dangerously low. And they get to go home at the end of the day. No matter what.
While they’re hanging out with their friends, taking time off to go on a road trip, or having a LIFE, you’re still up at night thinking about the business. ALL. THE. TIME. If something happens or they make a mistake, you’re the one left holding the bag.
As we continue to grow, we may even want to put some of this burden on the shoulders of our employees. We’ll add a pay-docking system to charge team members who break items in the collection. Overtime becomes normal and we turn up the pressure to accomplish more than is possible in a normal workday. Employees feel obligated to take things home at night.
We expect them to just grit their teeth and get the job done— we had to just work harder and figure it out, right? Why shouldn’t they? They are getting paid, after all.
Beware, dear event rental business owner, the creep of beginning to resent your employees. It can happen subtly and slowly but it does happen to many of us entrepreneurs.
In our loneliness at the top, we start to have this sense that our employees should feel more responsibility. They should care about the business as much as we do. They should feel the same distress that we do when things are tight or tough or stressful. That’s why we hired them, isn’t it? To relieve some of this pressure?
But you must remember that those feelings you’re having are likely really about your relationship with your business (remember how important self-awareness is?). Those feelings are just leaking out toward your employees.
Think about it this way; if your business was running like a well-oiled machine with huge profit margins, you likely wouldn’t be feeling the tension you are now. Even if you had one underperforming employee, you’d be able to weather the turmoil. You’d retrain or terminate that employee and then be right back on track. However, no employee (even the best ones) can create profit for you if they’re working in a broken model.
So what do we do? How do we overcome this tendency to want to punish our employees when things get tense in our rental business? When we feel pressure, should we turn up the heat on them too?
I say, “No!” Let your employees be employees and you be the boss. Don’t make them take on risk just because you’re feeling the impact of the burden you’re shouldering.
Focus on Profit
Practically, that means that you should first and foremost be concerned with making a profit in your event rental business. I applaud all of you rental entrepreneurs who are making the world a more beautiful place with the events and environments you create. I truly do. But if you can’t do that while making some money, you won’t be able to do it for very long.
And you’ve also got to have a pricing model in place (from the beginning) that allows you to pay a team to execute it. Even if you’re a one-woman-shop right now, your pricing (and delivery fees) should be set as if you have a crew pulling, packing, driving, delivering, unloading, reloading, cleaning, and putting it all back on the shelves. You shouldn’t wait until you have those expenses to charge those fees. Set yourself up to be able to pay for a crew when you have them by getting the right pricing in place early.
Create Systems and Standards
Additionally, you need to let your employees be employees. It shouldn’t cost them money to work for you. You should be the one taking the risk, not them. So how do you account for their mistakes, damages, and errors?
You create a trusted process that prevents as much as possible and train them on it. You also have to have enough margin built into your pricing model that you can absorb those expenses. If an employee repeatedly makes more mistakes than you’ve accounted for or doesn’t respond to a Performance Improvement Plan, you let them go.
Let Them Be Off When They Are Off
When your employees are off work, let them be off. Hourly employees should certainly be completely free of responsibilities outside of work hours. But even managers should have clear on-call times (that they are compensated for). No one should be expected to be thinking about work all the time. Even you should take breaks. But even if you don’t, your employees should be allowed to have full, rich lives outside of work.
Spend Like A Boss
Remember that the frugality that got you here does not always make sense for employees. In your personal life you may be the best bargain hunter in the world. You may be able to make a dollar stretch farther than anyone you know. But expecting the same from your employees can actually cost you money. Because you’re paying for their time, purchasing a tool to make their job easier or faster will save you money in the long-run. In the same vein, having someone search for hours for the best deal may end up costing you more money than just having them purchase the first acceptable option they find.
It can certainly feel strange to allow your employees “luxuries” of tools or resources that you’ve always denied yourself. But remember that you’ve already taken the risk. You’ve built this incredible business. The best way to nurture it and continue to help it flourish is for you to concentrate on your main goal; profitability, and let your employees do their best work.
As a point of clarification, when I say that you should let your employees be employees and not be worried about the business in the same way that you are, please don’t mistakenly hear me as saying that they shouldn’t do good work or work hard. You should have high and clear standards for your team that are commensurate with the compensation you are offering them. They should be expected to meet your standards and perform well in their jobs. However, employees will never be you. They will never want the business to succeed in the same way that you do. They will never care about it as much as you do. They will never agonize over it like you do.
The remedy for this is not to punish them or increase their risk. The remedy is to increase your profit margin and let them be great employees.