People sometimes miss a key part of the strategic plan to revenue growth; developing employees to take on broader responsibilities. Marketing and sales are essential for sure, but unless you are ready to scale up they won’t achieve the result you want. In fact, I have seen it happen more than once that someone landed a new sale or customer only to lose it immediately because they couldn’t deliver the quality of service expected.

I recently met a business owner who had to remove her signs from her vehicle because she attracted too much work and couldn’t handle the load. This might be an extreme example, but it happens in other ways also. When a business owner is reliant upon himself or herself to manage it all; the day-to-day operations, the customer interactions, the oversight of all administration; they have spread themselves so thin that scaled-up growth cannot happen. Most likely, they are burning themselves out as well.

Picture the Outcome You Want

The first step is to think it through. How would I like my company to grow? What would it look like? What work would I like to have other people do? Picture an increase of 20% from where you are now. How many people would you need? What would they be doing? You don’t have to have all the details down, just the big picture.

Now picture another increase of 20%. They say visualization is the first step to making it happen.

Develop a Plan

Next, start thinking about how you might incorporate your current staff. What strengths and preferences do they naturally show? Which ones would like the opportunity for a leadership position? What would your organization chart look like? What would your role be? This is an important step; to consider how you will work yourself out of the day-to-day delivery of service or product. If you aren’t sure, develop several possible scenarios. This is a common business practice. You will discover things are you write it out and think about all the possibilities. Some possibilities will clearly not help you reach your goals. Others might. If you are stuck on this step, use a respected confidant to help you brainstorm.

Learn About Your Employees

You will want to know what your employees would consider a great opportunity. Most likely they don’t really have a vision for their future (but if they do you want to know what that is for sure). Have a one-on-one conversation with every employee. Set it up in a group meeting so everybody knows that they are all having a meeting for the same reason. This reduces tension.

Here is what you can say for the set up:

“I want to learn a little more about each one of you; things like what type of work you enjoy and what type of work you’d enjoy doing more of. I’m going to set up a short meeting with each of you to talk about this. You don’t have to prepare anything so don’t worry about it. Any questions?”

Note: If they want to see the questions ahead of the meeting, go ahead and give them out but here is why I prefer not to do that. When people think about it too much, they tend to answer with what they think is a “good” answer; the one the boss wants to hear. In my opinion it’s better to have the meeting without preparation and then if someone seems they can’t really answer, ask them if they want time to think about it and give them another meeting time. It’s common for people to want some time to think about it.

These are the questions I encourage every manager to ask their employees.

  1. What attracted you to this job in the first place, beyond a paycheck I mean. There were other jobs out there with paychecks. Why did you pick this one?
  2. What is it about this job that you enjoy or look forward to?
  3. What is it about this job that you’d really prefer not to do?
  4. If you could have any job you want, anywhere, what would you do?
  5. How would you feel about training other people? (this is often the first step to supervising others).

Every manager should know these things about every one of their staff. And don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions; you might be wrong.

Engage Your Employees in a Personalized Development Plan

Once you have determined the areas for potential growth for each employee; develop a customized plan to grow his or her skills in another area of your business. The important thing is to not simply add extra work but rather teach them new skills or give them new responsibilities. Together with the employee, write plan for learning activities that will develop new skills. This might include cross-training, new assignments, projects, or self-development such as reading.


Expect they will not be perfect in the beginning so give them plenty of encouraging feedback along the way. Show them what they did that hit the target, and let them know there are some tweaks they can do to improve. People don’t hate feedback if you are on their side. They hate criticism.

Bottom Line

Most business owners can’t grow their business without adding staff. It’s very important to develop your current staff to encourage them to stay and grow with you. In addition to landing those new customers, pay attention to serving them by developing your employees with new skills and increased responsibility. In the long run, your business is more sustainable and you will have more freedom.


About Judi Pine-Sellers

Judi Pine-Sellers is a small business consultant specializing in employee productivity. She has designed dozens of management and employee programs used world-wide. Judi is an expert in all phases of managing employee performance; selection; orientation; training; correcting performance problems; career development; and succession planning. She holds a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design as well as advanced certificates from Thunderbird School for International Management and the University of Michigan, Executive Education Business School.

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Developing Employees: The Key to Revenue Growth

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