Operation employee loyalty: 12 ways small business owners can ensure their best employees never want to leave.

Author:Freyvogel, Ty

Every entrepreneur knows the hectic lifestyle that comes along with starting and running a company. (Heck, most of us live for the craziness!) But have you ever considered how this work schedule affects your employees? You can bet the fate of your business on the fact that they don't enjoy the long hours or the days (and nights) they must unexpectedly come into the office to handle the latest emergency.

If too many such days come and go without any acknowledgement from you, you can bet they'll be handing out their resumes all over town. And since your employees make or break your business, you must keep your best ones around.

Employees of small businesses are often asked to go way beyond the call of duty. And they usually do it without receiving huge paychecks. But not being able to pay hefty salaries doesn't mean you can't take advantage of a million other ways to create happy, loyal employees.

Small business owners may feel that they are at a disadvantage compared to CEOs of large corporations precisely because of the lack of deep pockets. Nothing is further from the truth. Because they work so closely with their employees, rather than being separated by layers of bureaucracy, it is easy for them to get to know their employees well.

Think about it. You know your employees' points of pain and you know what makes them happy. If you use this information to meet the special needs of your employees and even surprise them with a few extra perks, you will be able to build strong relationships with them--and they, in turn, will be willing to go the extra mile for you.

Here are 12 ways to keep your overworked and (perhaps) underpaid employees loyal to you and your company.

Provide them with much-deserved time off.

Time off doesn't have to translate to the business being understaffed for the day. There are all kinds of ways to give your staff a little break without slowing the business down. Give them Friday afternoons off in the summer. Or give them either the day before or the day after their vacation off to relieve the stress that always accompanies taking off work.

Another option is to set up a compressed work week for your staff so that they get time off at the end of the week. You'll help them ward off burnout, and after a little break, they'll be ready to get to work and do a great job for you.

Give them bonuses at critical times.

Presumably, you work closely with your employees and know a lot about their lives outside of the work. Act on...

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