As a registered investment advisor and fiduciary, when it comes to making an investment recommendation the clients’ interests always come first. What about the other aspects of your business? Most companies follow the common maxim that boldly states “the client comes first”. While we love our clients, as a business owner, I don’t believe you should put the client first. Of course, clients are important—business wouldn’t be possible without them. But the best way to serve clients is to make sure you have the best staff in place. I strongly believe your employees should come first in every way possible.

How do you put your employees first?

There are many moving parts to employee happiness, and happiness itself is unique to each person. Let’s not kid ourselves by saying compensation doesn’t matter—it’s probably the most important driver of employee happiness. However, the tide may be changing. These days, employees care more about the total compensation package offered by their employers, which includes robust benefits and a proper work/life balance. Another important aspect, which can at times be overlooked, is respect and trust. Implementing a horizontal organizational structure and putting the power back in the hands of your staff can display a commitment to treating your employees as adults. As the President of Potomac, part of my job is to gather HR best practices and openly discuss the options with all our employees. Our vacation policy had mixed reviews among staff members and, while generous, it lacked in certain areas. For example, a “use it or lose it” policy was included that specified a set amount of vacation days that had to be taken by the end of the year. This led to some interesting outcomes, such as more time off requested in December so any unused vacation days don’t go to waste. Concerns also surfaced around dealing with children and an inflexible vacation policy (i.e. employees saving vacation days in case they have a sick child). A new and improved policy needed to be crafted based on the feedback that was provided. Many different variations of a policy were crafted that could serve the needs of every employee. Then it hit me–why do I care about any of this? If adults were hired to work at Potomac, then they should be treated as such. It was decided that the best way to implement a PTO policy was to get rid of it all together. Employees are free to come and go as they please, take as much time off as needed, manage their work and personal responsibilities as an adult. The service provided to our clients should be top-notch, and as an adult each employee needs to find the best work/life balance to make this happen. Like anything there are pros and cons, but there were plenty of positive reasons to move in this direction.

Reason 1: Life is unscheduled

Work is a large part of everyone’s life, but it is still just a part and not the whole. At least that’s the way it should be. Family, friends, hobbies and activities all play a major part of our day-to-day lives. Employees have demands outside of work that sometimes can’t be scheduled in advance. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy, so it’s important to allow employees the ability to balance their personal lives with their work responsibilities.

Reason 2: Relationships are built on trust

If you don’t trust an employee, then they shouldn’t work for you. It’s that simple. To give your clients, the best possible service or deliver the best possible product, it’s imperative that, as a business owner, you implicitly trust your staff. What better way to convey trust than to make the employee their own HR manager? As an owner, you are telling every employee that you trust them to find the best work/life balance for their individual life.

Reason 3: Time off is personal

Not every vacation consists of beaches and a stiff drink. Time off from work is a very personal decision and should be treated as such. Sometimes a mental vacation from work is necessary to recharge the mind and creative juices. This can be a simple three-hour break during the day to take your kid to the park or a staycation with friends. Under an unlimited plan, employees don’t need to come up with reasons or excuse to take time off. In most cases, I don’t even want to know. My common response to their requests is, “Do what you need to do”.

Reason 4: Promotes company values

There are different ways companies demonstrate and champion their values. One of the most telling is in the way their benefits program is designed.

Companies who care only about making money and bolstering their bottom line tend to offer the bare minimum when it comes to benefits. Profitability for these firms often comes by squeezing employee wages, skimping on insurance and retirement benefits and curtailing paid time off, all while working their staff into the ground. Not only does employee satisfaction suffer under these conditions, so does productivity and client satisfaction.

Instead of focusing on money and profitability as the solitary goal, businesses that truly believe in and are built around the value of client service understand the link between employee wellbeing and productivity. You can tell which firms care about their clients by looking at how their employees are compensated, what benefits are provided, and what the firm does to promote a positive work/life balance.

Reason 5: Quality time counts more than quantity time

All our employees are full-time salaried employees who don’t work on commission. We structure our compensation packages around the work that is accomplished and how happy our clients are. There are no time clocks in our office–the sole focus of each employee’s day is on the quality of the work, not the quantity of the hours spent working. Our daily work hours may vary depending on each employees’ personal demands and our client needs.

That’s not to say our employees don’t work full days or are hardly ever in the office. I can tell you that’s not the case. By entrusting our employees with responsibilities for client happiness and satisfaction, they are more dedicated to the work they do every day and find fulfillment in time well spent with our clients. The quality of hours our employees spend with clients is more valuable to us than the quantity of hours they spend in the office.

The keys to making it work

The key to making this policy work is in how well a team functions together. Vacation requests are still submitted and approved to ensure adequate coverage is in place. As a small company, each employee is essentially their own HR manager, but they must work together to make sure there is no disruption to our ultimate goal–to provide the best customer service in the business.

The policies we’ve adopted aren’t for all companies and a lot depends on the unique demands of your business. But that’s really the point—you should examine and design your policies around the specific needs of your employees and your business, meaning your clients. And if you’re business is focused on client satisfaction, as ours is, then promoting employee satisfaction and fulfillment should be at the heart of your company policies.

If you have any questions please us the link below to contact us or visit our website at www.potomacfund.com to view our team or learn more about us.

Disclosure: This information is prepared for general information only and should not be considered as individual investment advice nor as a solicitation to buy or offer to sell any securities. This material does not constitute any representation as to the suitability or appropriateness of any investment advisory program or security. Please visit our FULL DISCLOSURE page.