Al’s column: The importance of employee retention

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November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lisbeth Calandrino


A friend of mine was recently fired for having a side business that was in competition with his employer’s. He had developed a reviews-based platform for businesses, but he never took any of his employer’s customers. It was developed simply to have an extra source of income. Does this sound familiar?

Early on, he spoke to his boss to explain the type of business he had built and suggested the boss’s company should do the same. His employer wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but the truth is he didn’t understand it. Had he taken his advice, he would have been light years ahead of the competition. As an entrepreneur, my friend couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experiment with the technology. When he was asked to close his business he did, but was still fired afterward (without ever signing a non-compete clause).

About six hours after losing his job, he was called to come in for an interview by a competitor who had been following his progress, heard about his talent and ultimately hired him four days later to rebuild exactly what he was fired for. As soon as word got out, he started getting calls from his major customers asking if they could follow him.

What kind of employee would do this? I think it’s one who is talented, bored with his job and knows how to make money. My friend handled all major accounts and customers, and his fellow employees loved him. Plus, he made the company millions. He had all the traits businesses look for in an employee, but they didn’t know what to do with him.

What do you do when one of your employees is capable of outshining you and your company? Here’s my advice:

  • If you hire someone who is clearly heads above the rest of your employees, talk with him or her about how you can work together. Businesses don’t often talk with their employees about their hopes, dreams and capabilities, but it’s a good conversation to have when people are hired and progress.
  • Look for unusual talents in your employees, such as those who are willing to take risks and are able to build good relationships with your clientele.
  • Delegate. Do you have employees with entrepreneurial skills? Have they owned a business before? Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. Take this skill and put it to good use; give them something to manage or build.
  • Once you’ve ascertained your employee’s hopes and dreams, try to harness some of that energy. As a big fan of the TV show “Undercover Boss,” I’ve learned that employers who help their employees inevitably win by keeping talent and gaining loyalty. Many times they give their employees money for school and then promote them within the business.
  • Don’t underestimate your employees. Just because you own the business doesn’t mean the people you’ve hired are less talented or less intelligent. Not long ago, I ran into a former employee of mine who had become a lawyer.

Bottom line: You never know how you can help someone and what it will bring back to you. Talent is hard to find. Make sure you find a way to harness it when you do find it.


Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. Register for Surfaces at to hear her presentation, “The Coaching Edge: Building a Successful Team” (WE04) on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2018 at 8 a.m.

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