A CEO story: How a Human Resources Strategy helped grow my business

CEO Pascal Culverhouse shares how he has managed to grow his business through making his staff feel valued at all stages of growth

As a business expands, staffing responsibilities will undoubtedly change — from small and humble beginnings where your staff feel like a family, to navigating a workforce which requires considerably more time and effort (in theory). When my company Electric Tobacconist LTD was formed in 2013, my workforce was just a handful of people. Now, I manage upwards of 30, in both the UK and the US.

Honestly, at first, I found the human resources aspect of running a business fairly straightforward. Sales were good and we all got caught up in the fast-paced nature of a startup. This was my first experience of running a company without my family being involved, so we soon become a close-knit little workforce.


Understanding Your Staff

Motivating staff during the first 18 months simply happened of its own volition. Learning skills and watching the business grow was a great way to keep staff engaged and inspire them. The development of close personal bonds allows staff members to feel both emotionally and physically connected to your business. This means they are more invested in its progression.

When staff numbers are lower, you don’t necessarily need to offer incentives. Setting an example of my commitment to the brand really worked for me. Being seen as a colleague rather than an employer means you are able to get just that little bit extra out of your team.


Increasing Autonomy

I knew from the start that using financial incentives was something I didn’t want to pursue as the primary form of motivation. Having felt a strong understanding with Daniel Pink’s book Drive, the use of traditional bonus schemes just wasn’t an option for me.

Unfortunately, though, cracks started to show when the business began to grow. Originally, I could be part of every decision and meeting, I was in the office every day, working hard, side by side with my colleagues. But as more members were added to the team, it became difficult to continue with my personal approach to human resources. I could no longer be part of every aspect of the businesses. I needed to step back.

Increasing staff autonomy was a difficult decision for me. Not because of a lack of trust or confidence in my team, but because I had just simply got used to being involved in everything. I didn’t want to miss out. However, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did giving more autonomy give everyone even greater motivation and a feeling of being invested in the company, but it also allowed me to embrace the personal approach to staff motivation again!


The Carrot and the Stick

Leaving your staff to feel undervalued or without respect can hamper a company’s growth at crucial moments. So maintaining great levels of motivation was a priority for me. Using financial incentives overlooks the emotions involved in a workplace. “I pay you plenty, so do what is asked of you” is a long outdated idea.

Human resources in 2017 must be increasingly conscious of their staff’s mental and physical well-being. Staff retention has been instrumental to the success of Electric Tobacconist LTD and there’s little reason not to strive to keep the staff you have as happy as possible.

While being aware of the negative effects of financial incentives, operating a hybrid approach has proven successful in my experience. Using a combination of strategies, as every member of your team is different, helped keep staff motivated and happy. Each staff member knows the ultimate aim of the company, so they are aware of the standard that is expected of them. They are also given increased autonomy within every aspect of the business (not just in the boardroom). At this stage, financial motivation can be introduced, but never as the primary form of motivation.

Electric Tobacconist LTD has now expanded to sell e-cigarettes on two continents. While it’s impossible to be in both places at once, my responsibilities remain the same. Minimise the obvious day-to-day tasks of running a business, but be certain that each of your employees know their value and feel respected and supported. Ensure this and you will ensure long-term benefits for your business.

Pascal Culverhouse is the founder and CEO of Electric Tobacconist LTD: an international e-cigarette eCommerce business that prioritises job satisfaction.

Author: Editor

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