This month we’ve talked about investing in your employees. From dealing with employee failure to how you reward them, how your best people may be hindering innovation in your company and mentoring the people you have working for you or getting them mentored by their peers.

If that seems like a lot of work, you’re totally right — it is. I’m sure you’re asking yourself how on earth you find the time to implement these things when you’ve already got so much to do.

I hear that sentiment most often when it comes to mentoring employees. It goes something like:

Shouldn’t they just know how to do their job? I can’t take XX off the job for a few hours a week; things just won’t get done.

The shipper

Years ago at one of my jobs we had a shipping department that had been run by one person for about a decade. Everyone was convinced that person would never leave. Something about the job just screamed that it was a perfect fit and this employee was really good at keeping the place organized.

Then one day that employee gave two weeks’ notice and moved on to other things. Suddenly, we were in big trouble. Sure, every other employee could handle putting something in a box, taping it shut and adding a label, but no one else really knew the company’s shipping system — only that one person who had been doing it for a decade.

Compare this to another job I had where the company shipped canoe parts all over. One of the best people they’d ever had in the shipping department had a baby. That event was expected, but on pretty short notice she had complications which meant she needed a few unexpected weeks off work, right when things were at their busiest.

The company had no time to train someone or to hire, but it really wasn’t a problem. See, during slow periods, management had taken the time to train my wife and one other employee to do the job. And, the general manager had handled the shipping about a decade previous.

So, among these three people, all orders were shipped on time — while these three people still kept up with their regular work — and we barely missed a beat.

The salesperson

Now let’s look at a hypothetical situation where you have five sales people. Let’s say their sales go something like this:

  • Person 1: $1,000,000
  • Person 2: $500,000
  • Person 3: $500,000
  • Person 4: $500,000
  • Person 5: $500,000

Clearly Person 1 is the best sales person by a huge margin. What if that person was taken off the job for 10% of the time to mentor the other salespeople? Let’s assume it would be a straight drop of 10% of sales. In that case, Person 1 would then be selling $900,000.

What if that top performing sales person could help each of the other sales people increase their sales by 5%? That would mean a $100,000 increase in sales, which would mean a break even on sales the first year. But, as sales went up for the other four, overall sales would return to the cumulative volume of $3,000,000, which is what they were before Person 1 stepped back into a mentoring role. The breakdown would look like this:

  • Person 1: $900,000
  • Person 2: $525,000
  • Person 3: $525,000
  • Person 4: $525,000
  • Person 5: $525,000

Okay, now let’s stick with the mentoring in Year Two, and again people get just 5% better. That would mean an overall increase of $105,000 in the year for a total sales of $3,105,000.

If you stuck with this plan for a third year you’d end up with total sales of $3,215,250 and in Year Four you’d reach $3,331,010.

Really, 5% is a low number and 10% is certainly within reach for the first year or two, so instead of simply breaking even in Year One, it’s certainly realistic that you could hit the Year Two sales (an increase) in the first year. Note this increase just keeps getting bigger every year despite about the same amount of investment.

Most companies would invest their time working with the top sales person, when they’d really get more benefit by developing the lower performing people, helping them be better. They are the ones with the most room to improve.

Mentoring isn’t a cost

The real issue with most business owners is that they have a broken mindset when it comes to employee mentoring. They view it as an expense not an investment.

Many view mentoring as something that drains resources rather than building the company up and opening up new possibilities.

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They often say they’ve tried it, but what they really mean is they had two meetings with someone and nothing changed, and they realized that it was going to be hard so they gave up.

They want effortless reward not hard work, but hard work is what the top businesses in your industry are doing. If you want to be one of the top performers then start doing that hard work. Start mentoring your employees. Start investing in them.

Get more knowledge

If you want to really dig in with your employees and do the hard work I’ve got a few reading recommendations for you:

  1. Building & Managing Virtual Teams (
  2. Creating a Done Done Culture (
  3. Entreleadership (
  4. Work Rules! (

All of these are great reads and will help set you on the right path for that top performing business you want. Just remember after reading them it’s up to you to do the hard work.

photo credit: clement127 cc