It's become one of the business world's most well-worn clichés: People are your greatest asset.

Clichés often become clichés because they're so true, and this one is no exception. How can you build a great business without great employees?

Yet many entrepreneurs allow their best employees to become flight risks.

That's obviously bad. You don't want your smartest, hardest-working employees to join a competitor or start a rival business, potentially taking your customers with them.

Here are seven ways to hold onto your talent:

1. Pay Well

The most obvious and simple way to keep an employee is compensation.

Provided your margin allows for it, you can outmatch larger employers who come sniffing around to steal your employees. But make sure you're comfortable with the pay levels that you're moving into.

2. Offer Better Benefits

When employees have families, have health issues or get married, they will usually require a better class of benefits.

Larger companies offer these, so to keep your staff from running off, take a close look at your benefits package and think about how you can make it more attractive.

3. Share Profits

You might not be able to pay higher salaries in lean times, especially when it comes to cyclical business.

However, providing a profit sharing plan can allow you to give more overall compensation without being obliged to pay more in tough times. This can be a problem if there are more lean times than not. It can also be a challenge when you're trying to offer a position, as you need to make sure you don't set an expectation you can't meet.

But profit sharing can be an attractive and equitable perk for employees.

4. Provide Training

Receiving training that sets them up for bigger and better projects, jobs, and pay in the future is a very attractive to employees and thus a good motivation to stay put.

According to the type of business you run, training has an added benefit of increasing knowledge about the products and services you provide. Keep in mind that the more highly qualified your teams become, the more compensation they will come to expect.

5. Increase Responsibility

Who wouldn't be happy taking on larger and larger projects and gaining more career prestige? Employees who feel they are growing in a company tend to stay.

6. Praise, Praise, Praise

Many employees are happy just hearing what a great job they are doing.

Don't be stingy with those accolades when deserved. They go a long way; especially when combined with the other items on this list.

7. Make Everyone Feel Like An Owner

Providing employees with a stake in the company can be one of the most effective ways to retain talent. This might mean a stock option program or a share of ownership.

Don't overly dilute the company early on or you will have to renegotiate as you grow. But when you find someone special enough to want to keep around for a very long time, work with a financial or business consultant to structure a plan that makes him or feel like an owner.

Smart entrepreneurs put their best foot forward to try and retain the best talent, rather than risk seeing them leave walk out the door.

Published on: Feb 3, 2017