Fending for yourself is overrated

For a busy small business owner, it’s easy to find yourself constantly head down working ‘in’ the business, not ‘on’ the business. Sound familiar?

Rachel Harris

Oct 10, 2018

Many small business owners feel like there’s never enough time to do everything you need to do and on some days you're running around like a headless chicken...

We get it, running your own business can be darn tough, and sometimes lonely. Like most if not all small business owners, I yearned to be my own boss, so off I went and invested in a café.

I had a natural bent for creating food, a passion for great customer service, an excellent accounting team supporting me from RightWay, and because of my HR career to that point, I knew all about the dos and don’ts of employing and managing people. Easy right?

Establishing the business and my brand was a buzz; stamping my mark all over it and letting my creative juices flow. With my HR hat on, I put in place an employee handbook and other policies so my employees knew what I expected of them. House rules, policies, call them what you like, help you set employee expectations, minimise misunderstandings, define boundaries, provide consistency, and generally helping to manage and eliminate risk to a business. Ensuring my staff had appropriate position descriptions and all the legislative-compliant employment documentation was fundamental to me. I’d seen first-hand the financial cost of employers not meeting their legal and moral obligations to their employees (not even taking into account the significant disruption and disengagement that can occur), and I didn’t want that happening to me – my precious cashflow was earmarked for far more exciting things!

I signed up to the cloud payroll solution, SmartPayroll which was a boon. Despite having a small number of employees, I recognised my strength wasn’t in payroll, and SmartPayroll took care of all my legislative obligations such as IRD, Kiwisaver, and annual leave calculations and accruals. Numbers… meh. That wasn’t me. I was about making killer cinnamon scrolls.

Despite best endeavours however, the wheels started to loosen on the business. I had a key employee who was quickly becoming troublesome - she was costing me dearly, was creating conflict within the team, and she was side-lining and undermining me in my own business. I was also relying heavily on her for her technical skills, but I did not have a plan in place should she leave (or be exited). While I factored in the financial investment I had made in my business, I never stopped to consider the emotional investment, and the impact managing my own people would have on me personally.  

After some fruitless navel gazing, I reminded myself of my own personal values, my capability as an HR practitioner, and my business aspirations. I had put in place the policies and documentation necessary to underpin the business, so I had a clear process to follow when resolving the challenges my employee was presenting me with. Was it easy? Heck no. But it certainly made things easier. 

Managing people is never uneventful, but there are always things you can do to help smooth out the lumps and bumps along the way. Don’t underestimate the value of having key policies and procedures in place that are relevant to your business, for example code of conduct, hours of work, information security, social media, use of company equipment, holidays and leave, and health and safety. These documents support the employment agreements you have with your employees and mean you and your team know what will be done, and how, if there’s an issue.  

If this is new territory for you, or it’s been on your ‘to-do’ list since your business’s inception, rest assured it’s never too late to introduce ‘house rules’ for your business, or refresh what you already have in light of ongoing legislative changes. Business owners generally have ground where they feel entirely comfortable and at home, but often that area of comfort does not extend to the sometimes fickle nature of people management. That’s where RightWay can partner with you to provide that independent advice and to coach you through those more curly situations – believe me, they’re out there!

To find out more about how RightWay can support your business and its HR needs, get in touch with Rachel for a no obligation chat. Email

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