There are a million things to consider when starting your first, second, or even third 
business.
New variables always present themselves. Each generation of employees and consumers want and expect different things. 

But if you look at the most successful companies, they have done it one of two ways. They have either created something so amazing that it can't fail, or they have grown to power by empowering their people

The latter sounds much easier to duplicate. 

But how do you invest in people when you are also trying to bootstrap a company? That's a fair question. You start with the things you can offer first. 

Create a supportive culture.

It doesn't cost money to take an interest in the wellbeing of your employees. And while many times we think doing 16-hour days in the beginning is how to out-work the competition, that's not sustainable. 

The real cost of running your company is training, turnover, inefficiency, and uncertainty. If you can remove those by creating a positive environment, you will save money and opportunity cost. 

Obviously, you still need your employees to be productive. You' can't be everyone's best friend, but you can let them work the way they work best, have work-life balance, and give them the flexibility to live a healthy workday. When you have a team that's accountable and delivers on-time, being flexible creates momentum and allows them to see growth in the company. 

Learn from best practices.

Johnson & Johnson releases an annual Health for Humanity report in June. In it they detail how they empower employees and create a supportive culture with the challenge of being a large organization. 

"We're very proud of the progress we have made, and obviously we can't make that progress without our 134,000 dedicated employees all over the world advancing health for humanity," said Peter Fasolo, chief human resources officer at Johnson & Johnson, in an interview with Cheddar. "We want our employees to be physically healthy, financially healthy, have healthy families, and healthy careers. You'll never get more time in life but you will get more energy if it's directed toward purposeful endeavors."

Half of the company's workforce is trained in something it calls energy for performance, a proprietary training method built on creating efficiency from work/life balance. It also uses the Healthy & Me app as a digital tool, so employees have access to their numbers and they can see if they have engaged in health-risk assessments. 

Part of the app's purpose is so the company can make sure its employees are moving. J&J has walking meetings and insists on no more than 90 minutes without moving. Some 75 billion steps have been logged globally over three separate contests. 

They are also one of the first companies with a global policy for parental leave, and one of the first companies to give eight weeks of paid parental leave. 

"We want our employees to have a good life," said Fasolo. "And we can't lead innovation unless our employees can truly bring their whole selves to work."

Be a place employees don't want to leave.

This doesn't mean you should stock the break room with free stuff and lock the doors. Avoiding turnover and inefficiencies rely on employee motivation. Now, if you watch the Showtime show Billions, you'll see no two motivations are the same. But taking the time to listen, assess, and individually create the best work environment for each employee is something you can do when you're small. 

In fact, it's your competitive advantage. As a startup, your three best assets are access, adaptability, and hope. Hope is obvious. Everyone wants to work for a potential game-changing company. That creates initial excitement. 

You can give your employees greater access to decision making and you can value their input. That shows they are invested and are not just clocking in and out of an office. 

And finally, you can adapt to them. In a big organization that's almost impossible. You have to create large programs. But as a startup you can tailor the environment to each employee. 

Do these things, keep learning from the best practices of large companies, and you'll grow faster and with fewer headaches. 

Published on: Aug 16, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.