As I get older and (hopefully!) wiser, I find myself using the phrase “just keep it simple” more and more often. I’m fine with chaotic situations, it’s just that I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to.

One of the best ways to “keep things simple” in business is to maintain low employee turnover. Having to constantly train new people is a drain on emotional, intellectual, and financial resources. So when a client recently asked me “What is the single best way to be a great manager and thus keep turnover down?”, I wanted to keep my answer simple, concise, and easy to understand.

“Make sure every member of your team is in full alignment with the plan and vision for your company.”

Here’s why I think this piece of advice works really well:

  • You will have to talk to everyone in the group regularly, because people’s thinking and attitudes change as things progress, and you will have to check back to make sure you are still on the same page, or at least you will want to know how far apart your pages are.
  • You will be honest because virtually everybody has a built-in sense of when people are trying to fool us.  Try it, and you will lose.
  • You will be looking out for every member of your group because you already know or you will discover that people will buy into your vision if you buy into theirs.  In other words, if you know my goals and are trying to help me achieve them….I’ll give you my best work.  If everyone in the group has the same feeling about you, they will also feel that way about the entire group.
  • You will establish an atmosphere where everyone brings their ideas, gets lots of credit, where no one gets criticized in public and where shouters or screamers are fired before it gets out of hand. Because you can’t build a team without these things.
  • You will decide that developing people is more challenging and fun than anything else.  If you get a reputation for this, the best of the best will want to work with you.
  • You will be a friend to all, but you will come to realize that you can’t socialize with everyone in the group, and therefore it’s not a good idea to socialize with anyone. You just can’t be a beer-drinking buddy and a good boss at the same time. This advice worked well for me when I owned Avian Adventures. I ended up hiring a friend to help with sales and operations. During the four years she worked for me, our friendship morphed into a “friendly employer/employee” relationship. After I sold my company, our friendship resumed and she is even coming to Colorado to visit me this weekend.
  • You will not surprise your team by leaving them, one or all, out of the loop on something important because you realize that you will want their opinion, buy-in, and advice. Otherwise it’s just you and not a team. On another level it simply hurts to find out you have been left out. Do that to a person and you have lost their ideas and their loyalty….and possibly even them.

In short, the fastest way to the top is to take people with you.

Carol Frank of Boulder, CO, is the founder of four companies in the pet industry. As a Managing Director at SDR Ventures Investment Bank, Carol leads the team in executing pet industry transactions including M&A, capital formation and strategic advisory services.  She is also the owner of BirdsEye Consulting, the consummate source for pet sector consulting expertise in market research; licensing, executive recruiting, and sales channel strategy. She can be reached at carol@carolfrank.com