Your green-industry company is only as valuable as the people you employ. The question I have for you is, “How valuable are you allowing them to be?” You are probably familiar with what the answer is when one small business owner asked another, “How many employees do you have working for you? The other small business owner replied, ‘About half.’”

All kidding aside, let’s take this thought process one step further and let me ask you this question: “How much is each one of your employees worth to your company?” For the sake of this article, let’s use a yardstick of just one year. Hypothetically, let’s assume the amount of money one customer spends with your company over a 12-month-period is $10,000. Now assume that each of your employees comes into contact with five new customers per week. When we multiply that number of new customers over 50 weeks, this comes to 250 customers per year, per employee. The potential retention power over the short term of one year has a financial impact of $2,500,000 of gross revenues per employee.

So what can you do to make sure that the employees you have on your team live up to your expectations? Plenty!

First, you must begin, if you are not already, looking at each employee as a profit center. This means that, with the right amount of psychological and financial investment in each one of your team members, they can begin to develop their full potential and contribute to the company’s bottom line.

By psychological investment, I am referring to how you and your management treat them. It has been said that employees don’t leave a job, they leave a boss or manager. In other words, if they don’t get the support and praise they deserve, their psychological bank account is empty. Once it becomes empty, they usually begin to look elsewhere for employment.

One way to make a psychological investment in your employees is to ask for their help. As I’ve said before, the business owner or management team does not have to have all the answers. Oftentimes, your team members can come up with brilliant solutions to the problems your company is facing.

When it comes to getting suggestions for solving the most important problems facing your company, don’t expect your employees to be mind readers. Make it clear that the company continually needs fresh ideas about how to address some of the high-priority problems it’s facing. Share with them some of the particular areas where your company is experiencing difficulty, and actively use an employee suggestion system.

Give past examples of ideas that employees have contributed, that have led to solving particular problems. Encourage your team to use their creative talents to come up with solutions that have stymied management.

Bring in a consultant to lead a session on how to be a creative thinker.

Many times, an outsider can set up the right kind of environment, conducive to breaking past paradigms of closed-minded thinking in your company.

When everyone starts thinking more creatively, breakthroughs become possible.

One assignment I typically give, when conducting my in-house training and consulting sessions, is to throw down the challenge to the participants to come up with a $10,000 idea. This means, come up with an idea that can prevent the company from losing $10,000 or to earn an additional $10,000.

Sometimes, ideas are generated by combining departments in a brainstorming session, with the main focus of solving a problem or filling a need. The ideas that are generated can be quite surprising and innovative.

As one business owner told me, when the management team does not communicate the need for employee input in solving problems, it can, unintentionally, come across as a certain kind of smugness, signaling that team members are not intelligent enough to offer solutions to your company’s challenges.

Why not ask your team for help in making your company more successful and profitable? What have you got to lose? What do you have to gain?

Financial investment refers to the amount of money you invest in their education and training.

In today’s economy, you can’t afford to retain employees who have the wrong attitude, or are lacking the necessary people or technical skill sets.

These people are non-productive and literally steal money away from your bottom line.

Some business owners are reticent to invest in training for their employees, offering excuses like, they cannot afford to invest in them, or if they did, they would be afraid the employees would leave to go work for some other company. To answer these concerns, I remember how one business owner told me that he couldn’t afford not to train unskilled employees, keep them, and then have to pay their regular salaries and benefits. As he explained it to me, “I have to look at each one of our employees as a potential profit center. If they don’t produce, I don’t make money.”

We need to hire the best people we can find, and prepare them through the right kind of focused training and development programs.

For the employees you do retain, you can’t afford not to provide the right kind of training that produces the right skill sets for them. When you invest in developing your employee capital, you are increasing the percentage of the number of successful one-on-one encounters with your customers, whether it is in person, on the Internet, or over the telephone.

Despite the abundance of technological options that your customers have to interface with your business, for most of your customers, face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact is still the most important.

So, how valuable are you allowing your employees to be? Why not take a few of these suggestions and try them out? My guess is that if you do it right, you will be amazed at the power you unleash.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is an employee performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or or