Forcing Employees To Accept Policy In Small Business
Who Runs Your Business: You Or Your Employees?
Who Runs Your Business: You Or Your Employees?

Who runs your business? Is it you or your employees? Which is better? Does it depend on the business?

Perhaps there is merit to both sides

This argument came up in a recent blog post discussion about keeping our business open longer hours, Want Higher Occupancy, Stay Open Longer and how, in doing so, our business increased noticeably on several basis points. The move caused a little riff from our employees as you might expect. However, in this instance I didn’t give them an option. Many of the comments we received from the post surrounded the topic of employee dissatisfaction, or perceived dissatisfaction, about extended hours in a field of work that typically closes up shop by 6 p.m. Staying open until 9 p.m. is perceived as radical.

Drive Them Until They Drop

In a former life I worked for someone else with a policy (or ritual) that you stayed late on Thursday evenings. The company brought in food and folks worked late dining on Chinese food or deli delight at their desks. That always seemed intrusive to me — to mandate folks to stay and work late. Heck, some people played solitaire on their computers, which is really silly, but stayed because the had to. Working hard, and working more than the standard 40 hours has always been part of who I am, but I want to come and go when I want, which is a contradiction to how we are running our own business now.

Is There a Better Way?

A small business is at a disadvantage, because if someone quits, there is likely little to no overlap. Therefore, it is sometimes easier to go with the flow and not upset the employee apple cart. We tested the idea of longer hours earlier in the year, and also saw an uptick in business, even with only staying open later a couple of nights. But whenever we would talk about staying open later more often, there was push back. Whenever we talked about less overlap there was push back. So, not until we simply said these are the new hours, and there will be no overlap did it happen. No one quit, and everyone has adjusted. Apparently we didn’t need overlap either, and business has increased.

The great companies of today, such as the famed Zappos, where customer service is off the chart, must take a different approach to employee wants and needs, or do they? They are able to get employees to do things that other companies only dream of. Having spent more time than I care to admit on airplanes, Southwest is another excellent example of empowered employees that can actually solve your problem.

So Who Makes the Rules?

We come full circle in that great companies have rules, they aren’t run nilly willy by the employees, and in some cases the folks heading up those great companies are hard drivers themselves. Where is the right balance, particularly for small business? I can tell you that our December partnership and investor meetings went much smoother due to better results. But what if half our staff had quit over the issue, which was my fear and the reason we didn’t do it sooner?

How many other critical decisions get nixed because we are afraid of how our employees may react?

How are you handling these things in your business, do you choose employee moral over better business results?

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About the Author

Eric Brown
Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.
  • As a business owner you should make the rules. But if the rules that are made by a business owner require an employee to stay at work till 9pm, that is just bad business. First an employee can see that all the business cares about is making money with disregard for personal time of someone who brings profit to the company 8 hours a day. And second it is unrealistic to expect any productivity form someone who is working like a work horse 12 hours a day. The rules should be common sense. This way employees will see their future with a company they working for, and low turnaround of employees will help you to save on costs of training new hires, and having most hardworking and professional people result with extra profit without extra rules and long hours.

  • Great post, and something that I think all business owners wrestle with, if they value their employees. In my experience, being open and honest with employees always works best. Who makes the rules? It should be a joint effort. A dedicated employee will share in your desire to make your business the best that it can be, and a dedicated employer will want to show their appreciation by sharing their success.

  • BemInBoston


    Nice post — one idea is to incentivize the employees, though. You can figure out a way to “share the profits” with them. Look, no one wants to stay late, but as our profits go up because we are open late (I used to get my haircut downstairs at your property, because on Thursdays Salon 6 stayed open til midnight — very customer friendly! for young professionals, your demographic), we're going to share those with you. Don't make it a bad thing — make it a “I have a chance to make some more money” thing . . . Just a thought!

  • In the short run, you could overlook employee morale for business results and do fine. However, I think for long-term growth and sustainability you have to bring morale into the equation to survive. It's definitely a delicate balancing act anyway you look at it. The only real companies that could halfway get away with overlooking morale are huge companies that can afford a high turnover. Most organizations aren't in that boat though.

  • Nice piece Eric. It is both, along with customers and investors (if that applies). Companies that think otherwise are fooling themselves into believing that management and leadership are the same things.

    Leadership appreciates it needs to set the vision (based on their understanding of select customers needs) and then empower employees to meet that vision. You can tell which companies think of business as more of a management function, because demoralized employees provide weaker customer relations.


    • UrbaneWay

      Well said Rich, Your last paragraph sums up the post.

  • This is very tough to answer since I'm running a business that's purely virtual – where my workers can be thousands of miles away from where I'm at. I believe in treating my workers with the same respect that I would give to my clients and still, they need to see me as a good leader who guides them in their daily tasks, motivating them to be at their best – minus the need to micromanage.

    • UrbaneWay

      Are Your Employees Running the Show?
      Graious, Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you about the respect piece, however I am referring to general business decisions that may not be popular with the employees, and who really runs the show.

  • It is both, isn't it? After all, if you don't have customers, followers, or readers, you don't have a business, and if there isn't a competent leadership in the business to care for those customers, what's the point?

    To your point, though, if we're talking about online businesses using social media, there are no set hours of operation, since you're presence is there 24/7. Even if you're not in the office, if something blows up, somebody's got to fix it – fast. Nothing hurts more than an extended outage, for the sake of reputation. Just ask Twitter and Tumblr.

    • UrbaneWay

      Are Your Employees Running Your Business
      Hi David, There are all sorts of different circumstances, and in this instance it was keeping a bricks and mortar store open longer hours. However, what I really began to think about was how many of my decisions were affected by fear of someone quitting.

  • Thanks Eric, all so true! New times require new management skills! Very recognizable indeed. For any manager counts: be careful since your employees are your most valuable asset. Threat them like you would be treated by them. Never overreact and every once and a while ask yourself if an issue really is one. Restraint as behaviour sometimes pays out quite well! Thanks again! Tom

    • UrbaneWay

      Are Your Employees Running Your Business
      Hi Tom, Thank you for your input. You bring up some great advice in Restraint behavior,


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