I’ve been thinking alot over the years about how entrepreneurs start businesses. I believe initially we start with an idea …it might be something we want to do, something we think others need, something that is an expression of ourselves in the world. I am a huge believer that this is more of what the World needs…(World meaning humanity or even on a natural level, Earth).
However when you start a business, whatever it may be, suddenly, you are bringing that into the realm of others, engaging those around you and creating, in essence, community.
In my first blog, I touched on the consequence of opening your business to a community, and how it is a commitment you make to bring a space to life so others can engage. Here I want to talk about other ways your business alters the community in which you live.
The most profound change between what you were before you started your restaurant and what you are now: you are an employer. Hear the weight of what that means. You are now responsible in ways that may have never occurred to you. These new relationships your business has created are far-reaching and profound. People work for you to help bring your vision to the world. And you, in turn, make it possible for them to feed and shelter themselves and their families. A major part of an employee’s day (if they re full-time) will be spent in your care…you must provide a safe and secure environment for them to work. You must make sure they have proper rest periods, that they can take a day off if they are sick and not risk losing their jobs, that they feel they can perform their jobs without feeling threatened.
With the intention of protecting employees from business owners with less enlightened perspectives, the government has passed laws to support employees. Minimum wage. The establishment of OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Association). Division of Labor Standards Enforcement…a whole host of alphabet soup designed to keep employers in line. Sometimes you may find…I should say one time at least in the life of your business, you will have an occasion to curse one of these agencies, when something you didn’t think was going to be a problem, sneaks up to bite you. Maybe you fire someone and don’t get them their final paycheck in time…they take you to the labor board. Or someone claims they injured themselves in your kitchen and you know they twisted their ankle skateboarding…..But ultimately these agencies are designed to help the employee. I am hoping that you, happy reader, are not the type to take advantage knowingly of your employees. However, you may be doing something that violates some of these laws without knowing it. Its a really good idea (Red Truck-speak for DO THIS!) to get to know as much labor law as you can as it relates to your business. Enroll in free courses offered by your Employment Development Department. Get brochures. Find your favorite site that keeps you up-to-date about local changes in laws in your area. Here’s one link to the EDD site for California. Here’s another link to the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations.
So the upshot: As a new employer you now have a responsibility that extends from your employee to the government of your community. A relationship has been set up to make sure you do the right thing (but you were going to anyway) the way that they need you to do the right thing. It would behoove you to understand their expectations.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, how about the deeper, more meaningful message that Red Truck wants you to come away with: Everything you do in this new role of employer can have some sort of effect on employees which adds a new layer of consequence to your business. I think that’s pretty heavy.
You may want to change the language a little too. Employees can be partners in your venture, there to help you get your product out with your message. Wouldn’t you want them to walk away a better person for having worked with you? What does that mean? Having greater knowledge, greater skills, more confidence and self-esteem. You may not be able to pay them as much as you’d like, but if you can give them this? That would be a remarkable relationship to have. I would work harder for an employer who gives me that, wouldn’t you?