Shop Talk

Create a productive, loyal dream team

It’s no secret. Happy employees oftentimes result in productive, loyal employees. I’ve found some things matter more than others when it comes to creating a dream team. These factors can be broken into three categories: the employee, the environment and the leader.

When it comes to the employee, you have to realize each person is different. Figure out what a person values. For example, our staffers appreciate flexible working hours. Others like to know how well they’re performing. So we offer flexible hours and give feedback in specific terms – whether it’s good or bad.

We place employees in roles that suit their personality. Generalists rove between subject matters while specialists have their own niches to concentrate on.

In some cases, pay is important. We pay by the job, incentivizing productivity which leads to increased hourly rates when a job is finished in less time than allotted. Employee downtime is not compensated. In practice, we manage to standards and put in processes that ensure quality workmanship and reduced overhead. Everyone wins.

We’ve also created an environment that says everyone is important, responsible, and part of the team. We’re big proponents of personal ownership and teamwork. If we spot bullying, it’s reprimanded immediately. If someone does an activity incorrectly, specific feedback is given. We learn from our mistakes; otherwise, there are known consequences. We win or lose together.

The last piece of the puzzle is the owner/manager. My daddy taught me a simple philosophy: How much would be accomplished if everyone worked like me? I take that lesson into work every day.

Aside from your work ethic, you have three main streams of work: leading, managing and doing.

As a leader, be consistent. Compassion is a wonderful trait. Staffers need to know what to expect and that they can trust you. Think about the big problems, and find a solution where everyone wins. That’s what good leaders do.

Management isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s about putting strategies into action for the greater good. Create a structure that allows your company and staff to thrive. For example, our content marketing process mimics major print publications’ workflow. We put people and process together in a way that uses staff members to their best ability. Managing to a standard creates equality and allows you to spot low-quality work.

Lead by example. I can, and will, do any job within our company. It’s my job to do it first. I show my staff that their work is important, and I’m paying attention. I also learn just how much effort is needed to accomplish a task. That helps us know how much to pay people. More importantly, it helps us to understand when rewards should be given and when to correct underperforming behavior.

Happy workers alone don’t guarantee sizable profits. However, I can promise you our happy team is the reason we’re successful.

Jeremy Sisk is owner of Durham small-business marketing firm Xperience4Higher. Reach him at