Why Scrooge Messed Up - Not What You Think!

growing your business Dec 07, 2023

Even though Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol nearly 200 years ago at this point, it’s pretty hard to not end up hearing about it every year around this time.

In fact, this year our family went to see the play performed at the Old Globe Theatre here in San Diego. It was mostly the original story with some modern references thrown in to keep the adults tuned in.

The main point in the play is that Scrooge is a miser and selfish and he needs to change his ways to redeem his life and not spend eternity as a ghost wandering around in chains. Or something like that, honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention.

The part that stood out to me as a good topic for the newsletter though was only sort of related to that story itself. In the story, Scrooge, the business owner, has an “underpaid, overworked” clerk whom he treats very poorly named Bob Cratchit.  

If I was writing the story, that part would be my lesson to take away from the tale.

Most businesses start with just the owner and then as they grow the owners need to bring in help. Some businesses need employees from day one, however, simply because there is no way one person can do it alone. Very few businesses can really grow to any size and reach their full potential without ever getting bigger than one person, although there are a few out there that do.

Assuming though that you either already have employees or expect you will soon then the lesson here is one you can learn from. And this is simply this - it’s to your significant benefit as a business owner to treat your employees well if you want to have a bigger, more successful business.

This seems obvious to me but then there are countless stories of owners who treat employees poorly, as interchangeable parts, as people who need to be managed with all sticks and no carrots, and so on.

The Reddit boards are filled with horror stories of owners and managers asking employees to do things no one would ever expect people to do and treating them as if they were lucky to be getting the abuse!

Setting aside for a second how this is just a terrible way to treat anyone regardless of employment considerations, this is stupid because this only hurts the business.

Do you think employees treated poorly still provide great customer service? Nope. Do they proactively try to solve problems and save the business owner from inefficiency and waste? No. Are they contributing ideas on how to increase sales or add value to the customers? No chance. Are they thinking about ways to actively sabotage the business and cause havoc? I wouldn’t be surprised!

If these are the same people you are counting on to help you grow, expand, and profit then why would you think they would be more likely to do that if you also make their lives miserable and treat them like dirt?

How to Not Be A Scrooge Employer

There is no excuse for doing this though I’ve heard them all. And this is where Scrooge went wrong - if he was really that greedy and interested in accumulating wealth, he should have been treating his employee like gold because that’s truly the only way the business can grow and expand and get to a wealth-building size.

It also has (almost) nothing to do with money. You may be thinking you just don’t have room for raises right now but there are lots of non-monetary ways to make sure employees are treated right.

And you should make sure in general your business is charging enough and the numbers work so you aren’t sacrificing the ability to pay good wages for something else or just hurting the business overall by not managing the costs and margins properly. A well-run business should not be in the position of not being able to pay competitive wages.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have reasonable expectations of your employees or expect a level of respect or that you have to be best friends with each of them. But you should have clear job descriptions and written expectations, offer a safe and friendly work environment, and treat everyone with respect.

Problems should be addressed in private with a clear outline of what’s not working and how to improve it. A lot of this starts with hiring the right fit in the first place. Managers should be clear on how to manage and be given training and guidelines if not - no one should tolerate a tyrant!

In other words, running a workplace where the people who join the team are valued, respected, and working hard toward a common goal is not hard to do and is so much better for so many reasons that anyone not running their business that way is, frankly, an idiot.

Including of course our friend Scrooge, who could have avoided the whole ghost trip AND made a lot more money if he had just followed this advice from the start.

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