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How entrepreneurs can motivate employees


Babatunde Fajimi

Once employees have been hired, the entrepreneurs need to cultivate and maintain their level of energy, commitment and creativity. This keeps them inspired and productive so that small businesses become profitable in a sustainable way.


Entrepreneurs and employees have different expectations when talents are engaged. They want to make money but their sources of motivation differ. Entrepreneurs have invested dreams and funds. They expend their lives to build their start-ups and a viable future. They want to make enough money to compensate for their investment.

Employees, on the other hand, are seeking a platform for talents expression. They have been trained and are eager to practise. They want financial rewards in exchange for their skills. They want to earn salaries at the end of the month.

The role of the entrepreneurs is to inspire, train, supervise and manage employees, and convert their contributions to tangible productivity and profitability in small businesses.

Turning on employees

The labour law stipulates that it is the duty of the employers to create jobs for their employees. This baseline requirement cannot make small businesses compete in the market.

Small businesses should create jobs but work hard at generating results from their employees. Entrepreneurs cannot achieve this by paying equitable salaries alone; there are rules of motivation that turn employees on and make them high performing in the organisation.

Rules of motivation 

Make strategy sessions inclusive. Entrepreneurs create businesses but need the cooperation of their employees to sharpen and implement their strategy. It is a shared strategy that becomes flexible, adaptable and responsive in the market. Hard work alone is not enough. Entrepreneurs need to make their employees key stakeholders before they can see the business as theirs and make it their passion.

Give a sense of purpose. Businesses fall apart without a sense of purpose. Entrepreneurs should meet their employees regularly and remind them about the reasons they are hired. Annual operating plans should be broken into sizeable and achievable targets of monthly, weekly and daily activities that all are committed to making real on an hourly basis.

Communicate regularly. Today’s employees are young, urbane and progressive. They are emotionally intelligent. They are self-confident. They want to communicate. Entrepreneurs should talk regularly with their employees. Employees are now to be seen and heard. They enjoy two-way communication with minimal bureaucracy. Entrepreneurs should communicate for results. Employees should be given all the information they need to work. They want guidance but their initiatives should not be taken away from them.

Drive personal effectiveness. Entrepreneurs have responsibility for growing their enterprises. They cannot abdicate this role to any of their employees. In this regard, their level of passion, commitment and dedication to work will positively impact on others. Entrepreneurs’ sense of time management and personal effectiveness should be geared towards getting results and inspiring their employees.

Track tangible performance. When small businesses grow, work may become routine and boring if not checked. Employees tend to show up for work, mark attendance and go home to repeat same cycle next day. Entrepreneurs should track performance by building structure around their business informality. They will require standardised performance appraisal mechanism and annual cycle that are predictable. Employees should be made to understand the performance appraisal cycle, become a part of it and look forward to the exercise always. They want the report to show their performance. Prior to establishing performance appraisal system, entrepreneurs should set targets at the beginning of the year or appraisal cycle.

Celebrate small wins. Generally, people prefer praise than criticism. Employees love recognition; they love praise. They want to be celebrated each time they make meaningful contributions. Small businesses that grow acknowledge their employees’ contributions always. They celebrate them each time they produce results. Employees who are denied recognition become resentful and rebellious.

Let employees fail. Most people abhor failure; they do not like to fail. They treat it as an orphan and distant themselves from it. Interestingly, failure is a part of life; it is a part of growing an enterprise. Every successful entrepreneur has a story of failure; it serves as a stepping stone for their turnaround. If entrepreneurs can tolerate failure, they should make allowance for their employees to learn. Learning from mistakes is not an excuse for shoddiness, indiscipline or mediocrity. Entrepreneurs should use failure as a feedback to grow their employees’ competences.

Show them the future. Entrepreneurs are the vision carriers of their businesses. Others support to execute their mission. Those who abdicate their primary responsibility to their employees will truncate their dreams. Entrepreneurs know where their organisations will be in the future. They chart the path, rally their employees around their vision and mobilise them towards this predetermined future. Any employee engagement short of this is bad for business. Reverse leadership can derail the vision and mission of the organisation.

Aim for results

Smart employees are led by visionary entrepreneurs. Working in small businesses becomes exciting and engaging when employees have inspirational entrepreneurs. Most of what happen in organisations will be routine until entrepreneurs create environment that breeds creativity, productivity and profitability.