The backbone of nearly every institution known to man is composed of great employees. Men and women who understand their job and then, go forward and do it to the best of their abilities day in and day out. This has been true for even longer than the idea of business or commerce as we know it today has been in existence - every great leader, obviously, needs followers.
If you are a business owner who has employees - or have ever managed employees in another role, right now, you're thinking about the truly good ones that you've worked with.
Here's the thing, though - as an owner, there are two types of employees we tend to think of as "great" and only one is the right one.
The most common - and dangerous - "great" employee is usually one of the first ones you hire. They have a variety of skills pertinent to your business, they might even have some management experience, and they are clear that they don't want to be an owner.
To the harried entrepreneur who is constantly running, this might seem a windfall - they understand your plight, they are quick to offer to help in multiple roles, and they act as enablers to let you go see your daughter's recital or to finally take a long weekend off with your family.
What happens in this case is that now that the owner has found a key employee, they keep stretching that employee into multiple roles while the owner kids himself into thinking that his time spent away from the business is working "on" the business. They hired an employee and found that he or she has an overall grasp of the business and then, without training, they give them more and more responsibility, until the poor soul has effectively replaced the owner - but without the owner's passion.
The key here is the lack of passion and training. Inevitably, this employee becomes virtually irreplaceable since they know where everything is and they do everything from orders to schedules to emails to sales. Chances are, they don't do it very well, either. The result is almost certainly one of two things: that employee burns out and quits or the owner realizes that the heretofore "great" employee is really a human being and the business is struggling.
What is really happening is leadership by abdication and when the owner comes out of the ether, they won't have a company, a reputation, and most likely, any money left in the bank to attempt to save it.
The result? Everyone is fired and the company either closes down or shrinks into a Company of One.
No, dear reader, that is not what a great employee does.
The truly great employee - and the one you need in your company - is the man or woman you hire and zealously train within an established system to fill a specific primary role. If your company deals with digital marketing, then your great employee should be so well versed in the art and science of a critical part of digital marketing that you, as the owner, do not need to handle that aspect of your business; you are free to attend to other components of your business - say, building client acquisition, or lead generation systems and looking for the next great employee to fill that particular spot. This employee is trained to the standards you set and, because those are measurable standards, they know exactly what to do and how to do it.
They aren't there to handle sales, or accounting, or answering phones - they are there to do a specific job - perhaps, in our example - creating the marketing campaigns that the sales team has sold.
One of the critical errors on the path to building a Great, Growing Company is this one - making the mistake of thinking that an employee shares the passion that you do. They very well might, and that is truly important for the company's overall success, but as an entrepreneur, never be blind to the idea that they simply want to be trained in the standards and then, having achieved those standards, go home to their family.