This blog post could almost seem cliche.  How many times and how many ways can we say it.  But here we go again.  What is your most important asset?  If you are a business owner with employees, then I just answered it for you.  Your employees are your most important asset.  So this year, invest in your most important asset by giving them the training, coaching, development, and opportunities they need to excel both in their current role, and in their roles to come.

How Much to Invest?

Recently I heard a leader at a major university state that their budget for professional development for their senior leaders was $0.00.  That’s right.  Zero.  Nada.  The leaders of an institution of higher learning was not investing a single penny in the growth and development of their leaders.

So, how much should you invest?  I cannot answer that specifically.  But I would first start by encouraging you to raise the bar from last year.  Try raising it by a percentage.  Try raising it 10% and see what that looks like.  Another consideration is to look at industry averages.  I was in corporate IT leadership for many years, and there were some good benchmarks for what other companies were spending on training on a per-employee basis.

Better yet, look at programs that would bring specific benefits to your team.  Perhaps you need to develop leadership skills amongst your management team. When looking at these types of programs, consider the overall benefit to the entire organization, not just the individuals.  For example, if you invested in training your management team on how to be more effective coaches (such as our Navigational Conversations program), you should see exponential benefits throughout your teams, not just with your managers.

Perhaps some of your team could benefit from continuing education or need to pursue an advanced degree.  Consider tuition reimbursement for college courses or advanced training.  Look at the cost of these programs and add them to your budget.  You may find that you need more than a 10% increase to make these types of investments happen.

What Ways to Invest?

Look beyond just training programs for your employees.  Consider how you can make them a more effective team.  These certainly can come in the form of training programs and workshops.  For example, our Communications Breakthrough program is an outstanding team building workshop that can help build a much more effective team.  Often speakers will come to team events and give you discounted pricing (or sometimes free) if they are allowed to promote their services.

Consider other ways of building teamwork.  This will vary by the demographics of your team.  Younger workers want to feel a sense of community with their team.  Older workers tend to want to know that everyone is pulling their weight.  Evaluate your team dynamics and deliver programs and incentives that help build into them what they are looking for.  If you are like most employers, you have a team with a wide variety of employee dynamics, and you will need to be creative in developing solutions that fit your team.

Ideas to build camaraderie include easy ideas like hosting a friendly happy-hour after work to more complex solutions like developing an internal mentoring program that allows more experienced employees to provide mentorship and advice to junior employees.  The latter is a lot of work, but can actually satisfy the needs of the younger employees (sense of purpose & connection) and the senior employees (demonstrate the importance of hard work and initiative) at the same time.

What if I don’t Have Employees?

So if you don’t have employees, what is your most important asset?  I would suggest it is two things – your business network and partners, and your customers.

Investing in your business network and partners can be easy.  Focus on ways to pour into those relationships.  This could be as easy as a well-timed coffee or lunch.  Take time to listen to them.  Be specific about what you need as well.  Use the time to get to know them both personally and professionally.  Business relationships are critical for the small business owner.  Look at ways where you and your business partners can work together to provide a benefit to your customer bases.  For example, I partner with a number of groups to provide training and coaching to their clientele.  This is a win-win-win scenario.  I win because I get new clients and exposure, my business partner wins because they giving value to their clients, and the clients win because they get the benefit of the service.  It’s a great strategy for partnership and growth.

Investing in your customers is also critical for small business success.  Make sure you know their business.  Depending upon the service you are providing,  you should probably get to know them on both a personal and professional level as well.  Friendships lead to deeper commitments and more opportunities.  And, like your business partners, customers can be a great source of referrals.  Investing in one client may lead you to two, three or dozens of new customers.  So don’t be afraid to invest in them.

Make This Year Your Best Year Ever

Yes, it is somewhat cliche, but investing in your team will lead to great benefits.  I provide training, coaching and advisory services to businesses of all types and sizes.  I have never heard of a client yet that regretted investing in their employees.  Schedule an appointment with me if you would like to learn more about the services I can bring to you.