The Employee Management Files: Jokesters and Late Comers

Every workplace will have its own unique environment to an extent but, when you get right down to it, most are fundamentally the same. Sure, every industry has different day-to-day tasks and problems they have to deal with, but if you put a bunch of clashing personalities together you’ll get similar employee conflicts and typical drama.

You may be the manager or owner of your company, but that doesn’t mean that you’re free from dealing with these employee issues. In fact, you may have to deal with them even more often now that you’re in a position of power. Every business owner from Alexander F. Bouri to the owner of the pizza shop down the street has had to deal with employee conflict in some form. You can handle the problems properly when they arise by anticipating what may happen. Here are the most common troublesome employees you’ll encounter, and how to deal with them.

The inappropriate “jokester”

You have a pretty clear policy about potentially offensive jokes in the office, but this employee always manages to push the envelope. They look confused when you approach them about an issue another employee is having with their behavior and claim to just be joking around. The employee’s friends may enjoy their quips, but they aren’t for the workplace. Don’t let this person skate by after a warning; after all, if they say the wrong thing and offend someone, you could find yourself in legal trouble – especially if nothing is done to correct the problem. Let them know that their behavior isn’t appropriate for the workplace, and that they’ll either be written up or terminated the next time it happens.

The late comer

Sometimes it’s five minutes; at other times, it can be hours. This employee always seems to be running late, but that’s really their only issue. They may be excellent workers, but if they can’t show up to places on time, they’re just going to cause problems in the future. Lateness can become a chronic problem, and if you keep letting it slide they won’t feel the need to get to work on time. Ask them if something has occurred that has been making them late, and if there’s a way that you could reasonably accommodate them. If not, let them know their constant lateness is a problem and that it needs to be changed unless they want to get a new job.

This Is the Only Qualification You Need to Look for in a New Employee

There are a million things to consider when hiring a new employee, from their experience level to how long they stayed at their last two jobs. But to Alexander F. Bouri, there is only one qualification that truly matters—and it may not be what you think. To Bouri, personality is the most important hiring characteristic. Why? Here are five good reasons:

1.  It’s easy to spot – Personality is something you can gauge easily in a first interview. If they seem consistent in subsequent interviews, it’s a lock. You know your company culture better than anyone—both what’s currently working and what you’d like to see—and hiring people who fit that mold is the surest way to make the culture even stronger. Think of whether a candidate is someone you would be happy to see every day, and you’ll know instantly if they are a fit.

2.  It improves every project – Having people you trust and like is more than just a recipe for a happy office; it makes the hardest, most challenging projects easier to bear. At the same time, it makes the easy, fun projects even better. When everyone gets along and treats each other well—which is pretty much the definition of what good personalities do—teamwork isn’t something you’ll have to promote. It will come together naturally.

3.  It’s one of the hardest things to teach – If someone has less experience, or hasn’t used your software before, or has done the sales side of the job but not the administrative side, these are all skill sets you can teach. Whether it’s some OTJ, a four-week training course or mentoring over the first six months, skill sets can be picked up with time. Personality is much harder to change, and it tends to change from major life events, not from training seminars. Take the people who already have the right personality and you can teach them the rest.

4.  It can be found in any demographic – It doesn’t matter what kind of job you’re offering, what kind of education is necessary, or where your business is located. There are people from all backgrounds, in every part of the world, who have good personalities. Focusing on this trait will help you build a broader, more diverse team that works together well.

5.  It can save you money – At the end of the day, bottom line matters. A hire who is “great” because they have ten more years of experience than anyone else is going to come with a price tag. But there is no pay grade associated with personality. A person with moderate experience and great personality can be incredibly valuable, but they’re paid like anyone else with moderate experience. You get more for the same price.

How does personality figure into your hiring?

3 Business Lessons You Can’t Learn at School

Alexander F. Bouri has great respect for higher education, but like many business leaders he also understands there are some things you can’t learn at school. Here are three crucial business lessons Bouri learned only through vital, real world experience.

1.  How to fail – No business person will ever forget the first time that they fail. The first collapsed deal, the first downsize, the first next-big-thing that totally falls flat—or even the first time they have to shutter a company. This kind of experience can be shattering, but it also teaches vital lessons about how to guide an idea or a company through the low points, how to get back up and push on and, most importantly, how great a responsibility you have to your staff to fight for them and for the company’s future. Of course, it is possible to fail in school, but getting a bad grade on a paper doesn’t carry the same monumental, existential punch as watching a product or business fail.

2.  How to trust your instincts – This is a lesson that some business people take decades to figure out, only to wish they had learned it sooner. In this age of science and data, it can be hard to swallow the idea of trusting your “instincts”—after all, what are instincts, anyway? But the truth is that your instincts are the sum total of all your business, social, and work experience, nudging you in the right direction (or away from the wrong one) at every turn. You may not know why you don’t trust a particular funder, or a certain supplier, but if your gut is telling you to walk there’s a good chance you picked up on some small but very real cue that they don’t have your best intentions at heart. School can teach you a lot of useful information and, in many ways it prepares you well for the business world. But once you’re out there facing real competition, your instincts will be invaluable.

3.  How to inspire your staff – Business management classes work best for the big picture stuff: how to choose a mission statement, how to cover your liability, how to structure a company. Creating a culture and earning your staff’s respect takes something more, however. It means being the kind of leader who has an idea and working at least as hard in pursuit of that idea as you ask any of them to do—in ways they can see and appreciate. In other words, being the kind of leader who inspires. And the way you learn that is by rolling up your sleeves and treating your staff members as your teachers.

What lessons did you learn from real world experience?

How to Hire the Right Staff Every Time

There’s nothing worse than hiring what you think is a great new staff member only to find out that they don’t work hard or can’t cooperate with team members. Successful cement industry businessman Alexander F. Bouri has seen this happen too many times, but also noticed that it happened a lot less when he changed his hiring practices. Here are his three steps for hiring the right person every time.

No arbitrary criteria

These days, it’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to end up with a stack of 40, 50 or 100 resumés or more. At that point, it’s not practical to carefully consider each one, and you have to narrow down the stack somehow. Unfortunately, this is where many business owners become arbitrary. Alexander F. Bouri hears businesspeople say that they throw out any résumés with a typo, for example. Unless you’re hiring a proofreader, this doesn’t speak to their qualifications for the job and you’re likely throwing out qualified candidates while keeping some duds. Instead, consider narrowing down the pool using criteria that reflects on personality and attitude, like keeping only those that show active volunteer work on their resumes, or only those with a certain amount of education. Alternately, consider a round of speed interviews where you ask each candidate three questions over the phone, and get a chance to choose candidates based on how they present themselves.

Hire based on attitude

Most hiring managers place far too much emphasis on numeric criteria, like number of years of experience. Alexander F. Bouri calls these “checkbox” criteria because all you have to do is check the boxes and you’re hired. Experience matters, but there are plenty of candidates out there who have spent years in their field under-performing and aren’t really a good hire. Instead he hires based on attitude. When Bouri sits down with a candidate, he is looking for a very specific personality type that is actively engaged in the conversation, positive in their outlook, comfortable in making suggestions, and full of creativity. This is the sort of person who will flourish in almost any position and can always help your team tackle a difficult problem. Plus, it’s easy to train an inexperienced employee, but it’s almost impossible to reform someone’s attitude. Put personality first!

Have a specific set of character traits you look for

The best way to hire people with the right attitude is to carefully outline what that attitude is. Have a set of values and characteristics that you look for. They don’t have to be the same as Bouri’s but you need to be able to list them in your head in order to assess whether people have them or not. Keep it to four or five, but consider them priorities in hiring.

Do you take a different approach to hiring? What is your approach?

3 Tips on Being an Efficient Leader

What makes someone an excellent business manager and leader? Talent, money, and intelligence are always helpful, but if you want to have a profitable business, you’ll need to be able to successfully lead all of your employees. Leadership skills may come natural to some people, and be more difficult for others. Every successful business owner from Steve Jobs to Alexander F. Bouri took years to refine their business practices and properly manage their employees. It will take every business owner some time to understand how to be both a good business owner and an excellent manager. Nobody can become a fearless and effective leader overnight, but there are a few things you should know right off the bat if you want to be someone who people want to follow.

Learn how to take criticism

“I’m the boss and what I say goes!” It sounds like a typical line from a movie or motivational book, but this line of thinking won’t help you be a good leader. Leaders need to be able to listen to their employees, and need other people’s input. In order to properly lead people, you need to know what they want and what they’re thinking.   If you don’t have new ideas and new goals, you’ll eventually run out of business strategies. Always be open to listening to people, and never hesitate to get someone else’s opinion.

Greed isn’t good

We’ve all seen the movie “Wall Street,” and we all know some people who think that money is the end all and be all of business. Profit is very important for your business, but if your endless drive for an extra dollar can make you into a terrible leader. The easiest way to ruin a young business is to get greedy, and start to lose forget about people who helped you out. Cruel businessmen who go back on their word and swindle people out of money may look tough on screen or in books, but they’d be awful failures in the real world. Don’t think that you have to become cold or calloused to become a leader, remembering to be kind and fair can make people want to follow you.

Take responsibility

Sometimes your plans will go far better than you had originally hoped, and other times things may not work at as well as you had originally hoped. Either way, a good leader takes responsibility for their work and for the people they manage, regardless of their mistakes and problems. Embrace all of the successes you have, but don’t forget to acknowledge any failures or when things don’t go as well as you had hoped.

Stop Employee Problems Immediately in Three Easy Steps

If you’re in charge of a business, there are a few unpleasant and unavoidable things that are bound to happen. One of the most stressful things the average business owner will have to deal with is problems with their employees. In a perfect world, everybody you hire will be able to show up and do their jobs efficiently, but employee problems are just another part of owning a business. Successful business owners like Alexander F. Bouri didn’t get to where they are today by continuing to employ people that cut corners, frequently called out of work, and were rude. Dealing with tough employees can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. When you’re dealing with reigning in your first unpleasant employee, make sure you remember to keep these things in mind.

Address the problem as soon as it comes up

When an employee makes a mistake, it’s pretty tempting to let it slide. After all, you don’t want to be a mean boss, and sometimes problems can fix themselves. Nobody really likes to confront people, and that includes managers dealing with their employees. The longer you wait to confront the problem, the worse their behavior will be. Their bad behavior will also affect your other employees. When they notice that someone isn’t doing their job, and they also aren’t seeing any consequences for it, they may start to resent that employee and resent your inaction.

Don’t be vague when you address problems

If you want to effectively change an employee’s behavior, you should not be vague about what they’ve been doing wrong. A difficult employee will quickly dismiss any vague statements you make about their behavior, so make sure that you give them actual examples of their bad behavior. For example, instead of saying that they seem to be coming in late a lot, give the actual dates and times they’ve come in late to work. Addressing exactly what behavior you don’t like will let them know what they’re doing wrong, and should make it simple for them to make an improvement.

Don’t make change an option, make it a requirement

So many bosses call out their employee’s bad behavior over and over again, and wonder why they haven’t seen changes. Just nagging someone to change won’t help, your employees need to know that you expect to see serious changes fast. A simple verbal warning or talking things out won’t make them change, but taking concrete steps to fix their problems will. See if any kinds of training would be helpful, or if a schedule or shift change could help them perform their job better.

How to Become Part of the Team: Tips for New Hires

Starting a job at a new company has challenges. As a business leader, Alex F. Bouri has seen hundreds of new staff members join the team. Some took to their roles quickly and made an immediate positive impression, while others never quite seemed to fit in. So how do you become one of the success stories? Here are Alex’s tips for becoming part of the team.

  • Observe and understand the office culture – Every company is different and has its own internal culture. This can include everything from how much joking and laughing there is at meetings to whether staff can take a long lunch or not. It can also reflect factors that are more difficult to notice and track, like how employees are evaluated or how much information management gives to staff. An office culture isn’t usually “good” or “bad,” so much as it fits some people better than it does others. But the first step to trying to fit in is to understand the office culture. Pay attention to how other people do things and try to do them the same way. Keep quiet at your first few meetings while you listen and get a feel for the rhythm of how people work there.
  • Seek out the training and guidance you need – It can be hard for managers or supervisors to know how much training, information or help you need or what resources to provide you with. In other cases, supervisors are simply so overworked that they may not think of reaching out to you. That doesn’t mean you need to fumble around blindly. If you need a resource or help understanding something, come forward and be proactive in asking for help. If a supervisor is overworked, ask a fellow employee.
  • Set up one-on-ones with more experienced employees – During your first month on the job, it should be your goal to have at least one coffee or lunch session one-on-one with everyone in your department. During your second month, expand this to include people outside of your department with whom you cross paths. Don’t just focus on leaders: they’re already busy and it can create the impression of being a suck up. Instead, try to get to know each of your colleagues and learn from their experience with the company, their roles, and their recent projects.
  • Lead with results – No matter what your role, experience level or title, nothing speaks louder than results. Make it your goal to achieve at least one outstanding success in your first three months on the job. This could involve greatly exceeding a metric, finishing a major project ahead of schedule, landing a new client or proposing an effective solution to a major problem. Spend extra time in the office if you need to—it will speak volumes about your value as an employee.

What else do you do to fit in at a new job?

 

4 Things Entrepreneurs Should Focus on in 2015

It’s a new year and that means new business challenges. Some things are constants in the business world, but as Alexander F. Bouri knows, entrepreneurs also need to adapt with the times in order to stay relevant and successful. Here are Alexander’s top four tips for what every entrepreneur should focus on this year:

1.  Mobile, mobile, mobile – Something pivotal happened in 2014—mobile overtook traditional computers as the primary platform by which consumers access the Internet. If that turnaround moment happened in 2014, then you can already guess what needs to happen in 2015: a new commitment to mobile marketing. Mobile marketing starts long before designing an ad or an app. It begins with making your core website highly mobile-friendly. That doesn’t just mean the site can be viewed elegantly on a mobile device, it means it has full functionality on that device as well. No features from the traditional website should be missing from the mobile version. And your social media, search ad, and online display ad strategies should all consider the mobile browser as the default platform that your potential customers are using.

2.  Producing information, not just products – Here’s a dirty little secret that many businesses don’t want to admit: you’re no longer just working in your core industry, you’re also working in the digital publishing industry. No matter what your product, niche or customer base, you are expected to produce helpful, worthy information about that niche in addition to actually offering products and services within in. The companies who figure this out will be the schooners of the new digital sea, while the rest will be stuck on rafts. Start producing high-quality blog content along with videos, infographics, podcasts, and anything else you can create to answer your audience’s questions and solve their problems.

3.  Offering more for free – This goes hand in hand with the previous item because all of that information you’re producing can be part of what you give away. Our economy today is founded on the idea that the Internet has made costs negligible and that every business can provide at least a basic service for free. So create your free eBook, your free guide, or your free DIY kit; offer a free consultation or a free first session; give out free gifts and free extras.

4.  Adjusting and evaluating goals – Long-term planning is a business essential, but it can also be misleading – especially in an age of instant metrics and performance analysis. Your five-year plan should be viewed as a guide at best. Look at the real results on a regular basis and adjust not just strategy, but even goals as needed to keep your business plan realistic.

What else should entrepreneurs focus on in 2015?

 

Why Entrepreneurs Should Understand Social Media

Business has changed a lot since Alexander F Bouri first took the helm of Seament. The advent of the Internet, the smartphone, and social media has changed how we do business. But one thing hasn’t changed: a smart and successful entrepreneur needs to understand all the moving parts that make their business run, as well as recent and upcoming trends within their industry. If you find yourself a little out of touch with social media, this is your wake up call. Here are three reasons every entrepreneur needs to understand social media:sm

  1. Because there is no such thing as a business that doesn’t need it. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what scale you’re looking at, or whether your next business is tech related or not: you need social media. Social media accounts are particularly crucial in a retail or customer facing business, where they serve not only as important points of contact but also allow you to find, grow, and speak to your fan base. But even in a B2B business, social media remains critical: it gives a sense of credibility to your company and will often be the first thing prospective clients look at when researching you. Plus, whether you use social media as a point of client contact or not, your social media presence contributes to your SEO which means active social media equals more prospective clients.
  2. Because it’s so easy to do wrong. Despite how important it is, social media is one thing that many business leaders still don’t understand well and that has led to many mistaken theories on how to go about it. More than 10 years after Facebook became popular, businesses still make rudimentary mistakes like posting only to try to sell things, or deleting complaints and critical comments when they come up. These “antisocial” behaviors make sense from a traditional marketing/advertising perspective but not from the perspective of having a friendly chat with past and future customers. These flubs can do long-term damage to your company and its online presence. It’s important to know enough about social media not only to avoid these flubs personally, but also to vet the advice you get from staff or consultants who claim they know what they’re talking about.
  3. Because you’re ultimately responsible for every message that goes out. It doesn’t matter whether you plan to post to social media accounts personally, or whether you’re delegating 100% of tasks to an employee: the buck stops with you. If you’re clueless about social media, you’re not only likely to misuse it if you personally are the company’s voice online, you’re also likely to set poor priorities or push bad strategies on staff who handle it for you. In order to intelligently oversee a company with a social media presence, you should know as much about social media as you know about marketing.

5 Tips for Improving Office Productivity

How efficient is your office? Alexander Bouri knows that any company, no matter how successful, can fall into slumps of low productivity. Here are five top tips from Alexander Bouri of Seament for how to get back on track and improve office-wide productivity:alexander bouri

  1. Natural sunlight – One of the easiest ways to boost office productivity also happens to promote happiness and wellness overall: by maximizing natural light. Humans respond to sunlight on a physiological level. We become less fatigued, stay more focused, have better moods and energy levels, and can stave off seasonal affect disorder when we have lots of sunlight in our workplace. Consider what you can do to maximize the natural light in your company office, and encourage employees to take short breaks for walks outside.
  2. Positive environment – Sunlight isn’t the only aspect of an office environment that affects productivity and happiness. A positive, relaxing environment helps employees stay focused, deal with stress effectively, and succeed at their jobs. You can achieve this sort of environment by adding live plants, decorating with relaxing colors, keeping the temperature comfortable, and putting out lavender-scented potpourri in shared areas to discourage stress.
  3. Email expectations –Most employees are constantly receiving, reading, and replying to emails throughout the day. This can easily become an endless cycle where they don’t have time to do anything else. We often advise executives to set certain times of day for replying to emails, but employees don’t always feel like they have the same leeway. Tell your staff that you encourage them to set two or three fixed times during the day to reply to emails, and that they are not expected to check emails outside those times. Not only will productivity increase, they’ll breathe a collective sigh of relief.
  4. Less meetings, more action items – How do you make sure everyone understands a project, and gauge their progress on it? In all too many companies, the answer is meetings. Meetings are time-consuming and pull staff away from their actual work. While the occasional project meeting is inevitable and welcome, make sure that it ends with a detailed list of action steps that chart the path to completing the project. By breaking a project into small steps, staff will have an easier time completing it and can tell you instantly what item they’re on—no “check in” needed.
  5. A simple cleanup – Choose a Friday or a Monday and make it Office Cleaning Day. Ask all staff to help with an office-wide decluttering and offer treats in the afternoon when it’s done. This is fun, and a clean, clutter-free environment makes it easier for everyone to work better and only takes and extra 20 minutes out of the day.

What other tips do you have for boosting productivity?