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Listen along while you drive or work:

Not too long ago I received a voicemail from someone trying to get in touch with Erin Miller, one of my associates. The person leaving the message expressed an interest in talking with her and only said that she wanted to discuss recruiting. It seemed odd, especially given the excitement in her voice (prospects rarely sound that excited) but forwarded the message anyway. Later that day, I noticed that she had also filled out a form on our website asking Erin to call her.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this person was recruiting Erin. (And, for the record, not so well either. Leaving a message on the CEO’s voice mail? Seriously? I do digress.) And the more I thought about that, the more I was pleased.

Every person on our small but mighty team has been recruited several times. My associate in South Carolina was courted heavily and it would have been a great position for her. I was concerned that I would not be able to compete. But when we discussed the opportunity, the ability to manage her own business, work-life balance and the long-term financial potential that we offer outweighed a more structured environment. And, I was thrilled when she called me to say she had declined the offer.

Everyone on our team is a high contributor, so losing a team member would be difficult, but I would understand. Everyone on our team has been encouraged (and actually expected) to write content, strengthen their skills and expertise, push outside of their comfort zone, participate in creative and critical thinking, go the extra mile for clients, think beyond the next step and to strive for excellence. They are expected to be learners, adventurers and curious about pushing the next button. And, of course, enjoy the work that we do along the way.

They are encouraged to build their brand, their professional brand. Who they are on LinkedIn is who they are in person. You would recognize them anywhere and you’d be glad you did. They are transparent people who are interesting to know because they share with a generous spirit. They are highly marketable with a strong work ethic. They are desirable colleagues.

This is not so much a sappy declaration so that my colleagues will read this and feel good about themselves (I hope they do, though), but more of a statement of how a small business can build a team that is rock solid in the face of recruiter emails, phone calls and online submissions. I can’t stop this from happening, and actually the best thing is that we have created a level of excellence and culture that may not be replicated other places.

As an employer I have gained so much, and as an employer I have offered opportunities for people to pursue their passion, build their subject matter expertise, and develop an online brand and network that will last throughout their careers. We’ve created something that is mutually beneficial. Do I want to keep them hidden? No way. I want them to shine. Collectively, we are stronger for it, we can handle more business and we can serve clients more successfully together.

As a small business we don’t have unlimited resources, and our brand is not known to everyone. We’ve invested in a new website, office space, networking and technology. I want every member of our team to leverage that investment by putting forth his or her best self.

What do you offer your employees to keep them engaged and turn them into your best evangelists? Consider the upside to highlighting your employees. What might happen?

  • They may be more motivated and productive.
  • They may be more inspired and appreciated.
  • They may then really take ownership of their work and their relationships with fellow colleagues, leadership and clients.
  • They may push just a bit more. Maybe an extra sales phone call, help a distressed client, suggest a way to save time or money.
  • They may become a high contributor.

And, if they are happy, the calls from other companies may not sound so appealing after all.

This article first appeared in the October 2015 issue of I95 Business.

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