When Bobby Fry opened his restaurant in 2010, he followed the traditional wage model, counting tips as part of total staff compensation. Dating back to Prohibition, this practice is one of the primary factors behind the high rate of turnover for the restaurant industry. Many restaurant owners argue that replacing this model would require an increase in food prices and ultimately drive customers away, but Fry bucked tradition and began paying his employees a base salary in 2014.
Though Fry has had to increase some menu prices, the shift has enabled him to carry more complicated, but higher return, items due to his experienced staff sticking around. As a result, his revenues have grown by 40% over the past year. Fry is also offering talent development programs and avenues for advancement—further incentive for his employees to remain for the long haul. As Fry states in his interview with Business Insider:
“Some people ask me how I can take a risk like this. But I believe there’s more risk in failing to give opportunities to the team that got us here.”
Four Ideas For Your Business
As a small business owner, you don’t have the luxury of providing higher pay, or amazing benefits. Yet, your small business status provides a great deal of opportunities larger companies don’t have, including a more personal connection with members of your staff. You don’t need a large budget or a change in benefits to make an impact, just a willingness to shake things up. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
One-on-Ones with Leadership
Face-to-face time with the CEO is a simple way to show employees you value their input, and expresses a desire to get to know them as a person. Use your one-on-one time for informal mentoring, as well as a chance to discuss the employee’s goals within the company.
Craft a Position to their Passions
In larger companies, employees follow a hierarchical career path set to a specific time table. As the roles and responsibilities have already been set, employees are forced to mold their interests and skills to the role, instead of the role taking into account their strengths and passions.
Offer employees the opportunity to redefine their role, or even create a new position, based on their passion or a need they see within the company. Employees who are actively involved in their own growth are more likely to fill gaps in the business and better serve your customers. You’ll also avoid spending budget on contractors or freelancers who aren’t as familiar with your company.
A shadowing program is another opportunity to match employee passions to roles, particularly if your business has a more formalized structure. At Ruby, the majority of our staff begin their tenure as receptionists, but have the opportunity to shadow other departments to determine what areas of the business they are interested in pursuing in the future. Employees are free to choose what is most exciting to them, and are more invested in learning and growing in that position as a result.
Take Time Out For Learning
We understand time is money when you’re running a small business. It’s tough to take all your staff off their duties for even a single hour—which is why it is even more important to make the effort. This could be as simple as offering a “Lunch & Learn” style meeting once a month on a topic employees have expressed interest in, or an employee “Show & Tell” where different departments discuss what they’re working on. Show them you’re willing to make the sacrifice in the name of education and growth, and they will stick around to see what else they can learn.
Don’t settle for “that’s the way it’s always been done.” As Fry found, disrupting the status quo and choosing to focus on your staff’s development can result in happier employees…and a healthy bottom line.