To create a successful work environment, you'll need to make a special effort to understand the goals, dreams, and aspirations of the people working within your business.

It's easy to focus on product development, customer service, or a marketing campaign. But remember: your employees will be the ones to actually develop the product, interface with customers, or implement your marketing campaign. Employees are your most valuable asset.

In order to respond to the interests and dreams of the people involved in the business, treat employees as distinct and separate individuals. Responding to individual needs will make it possible to create conditions in which an employee's dreams will mesh with your vision.

In order to help your employees achieve their personal goals and give them a satisfying work experience, you have to spend time getting to know them. Many entrepreneurs fail to do this because they don't see such time as valuable. Informal communication can help you learn a great deal and likewise can give your employees an opportunity to know you better.

In addition to helping your team members reach their own goals, you can find out what aspects of work motivate them. One entrepreneur attributes much of her company's success in attracting and retaining excellent employees to its informal work environment and relaxed dress code.

Some businesses have prospered by letting employees work flexible hours. Although this policy will not be practical for all businesses, flexibility makes employees feel valued, which often leads to a more dedicated workforce. Other employees will be looking for recognition, achievement, growth, freedom, autonomy, or time with their families. Whatever your organizational needs, remember how motivations vary greatly from person to person and hire accordingly.

As you work to create a successful work environment, be intentional about who you depend on to lead and manage your business as it grows. Together, you will be setting the culture of the business-work ethics, compensation expectations, rewards systems, and measurements-to reach your vision and goals. Be sure the culture you are developing is a healthy one.

© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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