The counter offer

A growing trend is the concept of a Counter Offer – those being a special offer provided to an employee, which tendered their resignation to the company, in an attempt to avoid loosing them. The reasons appear straight forward – you know you have a good employee who knows the company and ‘system’ and it is a lot of work to interview and train a new employee. However, here are a few good reasons not to offer a “counter offer”

  1. There is likely a reason they are leaving the company, if they believe they are entitled to more pay, then why was it you didn’t provide a raise sooner?
  2. Think on how this affect morale of the fellow employees? (He is just staying for the money.)
  3. 80% of employees which accept a counter still end up leaving after 1 year.
  4. Money is never the solution to problems, so there are underlying issues which may or may not be addressable.
  5. How do you think their choice to leave the company will affect you view of them, both today and during the next performance or annual review?
  6. If you had to lay someone off, how much more likely will it be this person?

So what have you really kept or bought? Perhaps a bit more time, which may be worth it – to find a replacement. But otherwise, there is little value in thinking you can keep them around for a long time.

Corrective Action

It is amazing how many people are interested in self improvement and the vast number of books that you can find at a local bookstore, yet in business it is surprisingly hard to find employees who are interested in improving themselves. Yes, they would all say they are open to improvement, and many may read books, attend seminars or take other steps towards change… Yet, when change comes to their doorsteps, they resist it. Today I was talking to one of our customers about the process of disciplinary action — corrective action. When an employee goes beyond their boundaries, certain action is required in order to bring the situation into it’s proper place.

Another example would be a business meeting I had with a “membership officer” of a local networking group – one of their policies is attendance, very strict. And you can be removed from the group for attendance issues. However, many groups will give a little too much grace in this area. In order to keep this attendance policy, not only should the warning notices actually be sent out, but the members dismissed if they fail to correct their actions.

Everyone should be interested in correcting their actions. There is little need for a reason or excuse, simply take the steps needed and move forward – correct the action – make yourself better. Don’t sit in apathy, and become disgruntled, or have your pride hurt simply because it was discovered that you’re not the shining example of perfection that you thought that everyone perceived you to be. Wake up! You’re not perfect, and we all know that – and we also know that we, ourselves, are not perfect. So, where do we go? Humbly, take whatever steps it takes to move forwards towards a better you — as an employee, employer or friend.

The principle of the matter…

The biggest place you can go wrong in the legal world is to take action based on “the principle”. That reason alone is not sufficient, and will not really move you towards a successful resolution. A business partner of ours recently was “wronged” by an investment firm; there was a series of failures by several employees of the firm resulting in “potential” loss of tens-of-thousands of dollars. He wanted to take action, and he wasn’t particularly interested in a monetary resolution. He wanted to get them, effectively, “in trouble” — because of the “principle” of them matter.

The reality of the issue, if you’ve ever been on the other end of this situation, is what the person wants isn’t defined, nor is there any clear path to resolution. And until you can bring this person to a quantifiable expectation or demand, further action is almost useless. Certainly you want to provide excellent customer service and deescalate the situation. But after that, when it comes down to actually fixing the problem – you need to know what they expect to be done. Otherwise, to take action will only result in your chasing your own tail.

What most customers want is for whatever happened to never happen again. They want to be the whistle-blower and get the problem to end, to sacrificially prevent other people from being harmed. However, experience has shown two things: (1) You cannot prevent it from happening again; you can hold meetings, implement safeguards, but you cannot prevent it; (2) the actions of #1 will not make them feel better, they’ll still be unhappy — so the problem customer really hasn’t been satisfied. Which has taught me that they really aren’t just the sacrificial lamb they think they are. We all would love to be the hero, thought of sacrificing ourselves for other — but more often then not, it’s simply good sounding rhetoric.

So how to we resolve this situation. First we help walk them through discovering what would satisfy them – to react without knowing this will waist time. Help them narrow down to specific actionable items: you can provide a discount, refund money, perform services for free, have employee reviews or even employee disciplinary action. You also need to know what you cannot do: make sure this doesn’t happen again.


I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. ~ Oscar Wilde

Do you know, or do you think you know?

One of my mentors early on in business tough me this very important question: “do you know, or do you think you know”. The answer to that is key in many areas of business. It is something that you need to constantly be asking of yourself. But today, I’ll brush back on my discussions about building a team of advisers. You need to surround yourself with people who know that they know what they’re doing. How often do we get caught in “not knowing what we didn’t know”. We cannot afford that of our advisers who we are paying (or should be paying) good money for. (On an side, you should be paying your advisers at least twice as much as you are charging our clients!)

Now the big quandary is that you are paying them to know what you don’t, so how do you determine that they know more about something that you don’t know about? Double-talk, sounds like it. So how can you really know this. I was watching a program on PBS the other day about wealth management, it just happened to be on. Some of what they guy had to say made a lot of sense, other parts didn’t. But what I took away was how he addressed this very problem – how do you know your adviser knows his stuff.

The answer is simple, ask plenty of open ended questions and judge how he responds. The content is less valuable then how… For example, what is the most recent law change, that they know of, which affects their role. For example, the case of us choosing an HR attorney (back in 2006), what law has recently changed that affects employer/employee relations. They should be able to name something specific, that they can explain in layman’s terms and note that it was recently (say the last 3 months or so). When I spoke with our attorney recently, I brought up that I noticed that the Court of Appeals of California ruled that employers are not required ensure employees take their breaks, but rather that they are only required to ensure that the break is available and cannot prevent or dissuade them from taking their breaks. This was a landfall ruling for employers. When I brought this up, my attorney mention, that yes, it was a big victory for employers, but it really doesn’t mean a whole lot until it is turned into law, which is what it is in the course of doing right now. You need to have people on your team that are more informed about the current issues than you are.

Another couple of questions to as are:

  • How to you keep yourself up-to-date in your trade?
  • What is the last conference/seminar you attended?
  • When was your last certification/credential/etc?
  • When was the last time you worked with a client with a similar situation as mine? (This would be a great one to ask your medical doctor next time!)
  • What was the last time you turned away a client because their need did not match up with your ability?

Those are challenging questions to ask your advisers — or candidates. They are also challenging questions we need to honestly ask ourselves for our own business.

There is a lot of people who “practice” in their area of employment — do you really want to be “practiced” upon? There is no perfect advisor out there for you, but there are a lot of bad choices. A lot of people who “think” they know what they’re doing. We call those interns, or journeyman, or whatever. There is a place for them, and they may be a part of your team in some areas. But you also need your fair share of experienced people on your team, someone to pickup the slack. A good example may be this…Dancing…

In dancing, there is a leader and a follower — they are typically separated out by gender roles, but not always. My wife and I have very little experience dancing and can fumble through a lot of things, more on my end then hers. We trying a free private ballroom dancing session. It was amazing, when either of us danced with the pro, we did fine. But when we danced with each other it seems to go far worse. We did get through it, but they key was when we were with the pro, one of us knew what was going on. When neither of us had a clue, it fell apart. The same goes for your team. If at least one of you is a pro, they can acknowledge the deficiencies of a team member and help bring them up to speed. But when your team is full of amateurs, you can get into trouble quick. Yes you can fumble through it, but the mistakes may be costly.

Make sure you have more pro’s then amateurs on your team. If you are an amateur at business, then you need to hire a few pros. If you’re a pro, then perhaps an amateur or two may be an acceptable liability for you. But in the beginning, don’t skimp on experience!

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