Maintaining staff motivation within a growing company

Pascal Culverhouse discusses how to motivate your staff as business grows.

When starting a new business, you always have to begin at point zero: something new, something different, something unknown. Even if you have friends and family around you, or years of experience within an industry, taking your first steps with your own business is a scary and exhilarating experience.

With a large portion of the UK’s small businesses being family-run, it’s no wonder that one of the commonly listed benefits of working within a smaller company is that the job feels more personal. 

Starting small

Motivating employees who work in a close-knit environment should feel natural. They have invested in your business, so you feel a natural urge to give something back. At this early stage, learning skills and watching the business grow is a fantastic motivational tool.

You can also develop close personal bonds. These help staff to feel emotionally as well as physically connected to the business, leading to them benefiting more from its successes.

The higher the quality of time spent being understood by your employer, the more motivated an employee will be.

Having read Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’, you become increasingly aware that traditional ‘bonus schemes’ don’t necessarily work. When the number of staff you employ is lower, you don’t necessarily need the carrot on the end of the stick. Setting an example of your commitment to the brand can work just as well.

Being seen as a colleague rather than an employer, it’s possible to encourage everyone to push themselves that little bit more. You could go as far as to say that staff became motivated as a byproduct of the example you set as their boss, their emotional connection to the company and the success of the business.

As the business grows

It’s easy for staff to get caught up in the fast-paced nature of a start-up company. As the business grows, those connections with your staff become diluted. As you need to employ more or hire bigger offices, that personal approach can get lost. It’s at this stage that motivation needs to be prioritised. Leaving your staff to feel undervalued or without respect can hamper a company’s growth at crucial moments.

It’s often when we need the most from our staff that we find out which of them are demotivated. Too many companies don’t have a correct understanding of their employee’s feelings towards work. Once the pressure is on, an unmotivated team member might be more likely to crack or bring up problems that could have been addressed much earlier.

It’s your responsibility to prevent this from happening. The measure of strong leadership is not by how many more hours you work, or sales you make. Of course, we want to set a good example in these areas, but it’s more about how you motivate. Part of that responsibility is to regularly check in with your team.

The bigger the company gets, the more essential this becomes. The higher the quality of time spent being understood by your employer, the more motivated an employee will be.

Lessons learnt

One thing that can be difficult is to give staff more autonomy. As your company grows, there can often be an urge to maintain the same level of micromanaging as before. Once staff are given the freedom to make more of their own decisions, they will feel more motivated and invested in the company. Empowering people is an essential way to motivate them.

While being aware of the adverse effects of motivating staff with financial incentives, developing a hybrid approach should always be considered. Maintaining motivation requires a combination of strategies, as every member of your team is different. Every staff member knows the goals of the company, so they understand what is expected of them.

Give staff increased autonomy within every aspect of the business (not just in the boardroom). Combine that with a personal managing approach and your staff should feel completely committed to their work. Then and only then should financial incentives be introduced.

My company has now expanded to sell products in two different countries. While it’s impossible to be in both at once, the role of business owner stays the same. Step back from the obvious responsibilities of running a business. Be certain that each one of your employees knows their value and is motivated to transfer that to the growth of your business.


About the author

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


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