SME like a start-up

How going back to basics can help your mid-sized business break new ground, says Mike Preston, business development director for the online group life insurance comparison site

Growing a business is a bit like parenthood – there’s a good chance that business owners would recognise their business as their ‘baby’. As you grow your start-up into an established company, it’s easy to let your initial vision and aspirations fall by the wayside as your business priorities change and the number of people under your employment grows.

The agility of a start-up can be easily lost and sometimes the team ethos goes along with it. How many of us can truly say, hand on heart, that the start-up we created back then is still the same entity today?

Is the professional environment in which your employees currently operate, as carefully cultivated as the one you initially established as a highly spirited start-up? Or, have the restraints that inevitably come with growth led to lethargy in the way you support, communicate with and ultimately motivate your employees?

Research has suggested that a whopping 86 per cent of SMEs are suffering from productivity woes and more than three quarters (77 per cent) of SME employers feel they still have to work harder than larger companies in their industry to attract the best candidates.

If you recognise any of the above, maybe it’s time to look back at how those early days with the flexibility, team ethos and overall perks and benefits of being in a smaller, more agile start-up, could benefit your business today.

Could getting back to basics help you reconnect with your employees, and push your business to break new ground commercially in the process?

Tending to your roots to help your business thrive

In the beginning, a business is often little more than an idea. When that idea requires an address, premises and additional people to exist, it becomes a start-up. The space between the two, however, can never be underestimated. Right at the start, commercial success could be entirely dependent on the buy-in of others – of investors, consumers and often above all, a like-minded workforce who believes in your idea as much as you do.

At this point, the priority a company places on providing for its employees in return for their support in driving the business forward may be paramount to its overall viability. Employees of a start-up usually go over and above to help that company, are heavily invested and excited to see the business thrive and survive. That’s why the willingness of an organisation to offer a range of flexible working conditions – which often suit the workforce involved but also the business itself in its early stages – is vital to the ‘give and take’ that a budding start-up business requires.

When companies grow, letting go of some of these ‘ideals’ is for many, inevitable. There will always come a time in the growth of a business where the owner of that ‘ideal’ is forced to concentrate on other matters and not solely on their employees if the business is to grow beyond its existing boundaries. In the process, the workforce is also often forced to establish operational independence too as priorities change and the number of staff grows.

But when the dust has settled, and the working processes put in place during that growth period are working well, there may be room to reflect upon your beginnings and get back to the workforce with which many of those successes still, and often always will lie.

Employee benefits for bottom line breakthroughs

Employees with an affinity towards a company’s overall ethics are inevitably more engaged within the workplace and less likely to seek another job elsewhere. Successfully attracting, but moreover retaining the talent you need can mean the difference between further growth and staying put in an ever-competitive marketplace. It is common, however, as a wider functioning SME, to lose sight of the individual and the effect this can have on overall engagement and loyalty and this is when it can be most appropriate to look back at those early days for inspiration.

Being honest with yourself as an SME about the benefits you currently provide your staff also means getting back to a place where you are able to put yourself in the employee’s shoes, just as you did in the early days. Looking at your own needs when it comes to feeling ‘looked after’ in life is all important if you are to successfully retain the right kind of personnel on a long-term basis.

At ProtectMyPeople, we believe in recognising employees in a variety of ways for the efforts they put into making the business a success. From the simplest of ‘well done’ messages to a wider range of employee benefits, ensuring a workforce knows that its hard work is always appreciated; all are key to both attracting and keeping hold of the people and their skills needed to help your business progress. Here aresome ideas to help you decide.

Starting with the whole to help the individual

Reviewing company-wide benefits currently in place and measuring them against those offered by your competitors is always going to be constructive as a general business practice. Pension schemes, health insurance policies and additional benefits like Group Life Insurance are all worthwhile starting points when it comes to considering the individual employee’s needs.

Group Life Insurance – also known as Death in Service insurance cover – in particular, is a straight-forward, cost-effective and tax-efficient way of providing security and support for your staff, that can help to drive improved productivity and company loyalty in the process.

Sometimes life brings unexpected emotional and financial turmoil with it, especially when someone passes away, so ensuring your people are protected with some financial payment should the worst happens can often make the difference.

Taken out by you as the employer, Group Life Insurance also gives your staff peace of mind that their loved ones will have some financial protection should the unthinkable happen. As a benefit put in place to provide a lump sum to the family of an employee in such circumstances, it also shows your staff that you care not just about them as an individual, but about those closest to them too.

The UK’s first dedicated Group Life Insurance comparison website, ProtectMyPeople searches and compares market-leading insurers that provide group life insurance for your business. Many smaller companies may decide not to look at group life cover as they believe it to be too expensive or only suitable for larger firms. But the reality is that this is available and can be an affordable, flexible addition to salary packages and a great way to look after staff – regardless of company size.

Addressing human need for the benefit of all

When thinking of employee benefits, it’s usually best to think of the needs of your workforce as individuals, with different needs and requirements. Gym membership as an optional extra for the fitness fanatics amongst your staff is likely to be viewed favourably by existing and prospective employees. Games rooms and other common break out areas, which allow employees to get together during the working day, could be best suited to those who are desk-bound and need screen breaks, further helping them get their job done. Flexible working, where staff can work where, when and how best suits them as long as the requirements of the business are achieved can also contribute to optimised performance results and top-class service delivery.

Helping and allowing those with family commitments to work from home, or outside of regular office hours, where possible also helps boost productivity and sends the message that you value their contribution to the business and that you trust them. People with pets who may need walking during the day may also be encouraged to bring them to work for example, or a space created in their working pattern where they can attend to their animal’s needs.

Overall, adopting the ethos of a modern start-up, by creating a positive company culture and promoting a sense of belonging among your employees, is a robust and well-recognised business strategy which helps acquire and develop the skills a company needs to move past today and into tomorrow. Providing them with protection helps to show them you care.

When it comes to Death in Service, ProtectMyPeople has got your team covered.