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Rewarding Your Team with Recognition Makes Business Sense

By Bert Carder

How the power of recognition builds great teams.


I learned about the power of recognition through necessity. I needed to attract smart and capable people to join our team but couldn’t pay them what they were worth in cash. I needed to find other ways to compensate them above and beyond, and learned about recognition.
I was 2.5 years into building a training and consulting business with my partner. The business was growing because of our successful sales and marketing efforts, which meant we needed additional employees to handle the new demand. However, our cashflow was not enough to pay all our expenses and service our start-up debt, let alone support an additional salary for a new hire.
One day we met a young woman at a training workshop in Michigan who would be a perfect fit for our team, but the problem of cashflow remained. We had to figure out a way to hire her. We quickly made our intentions clear and began the negotiating conversations with her. We told her how awesome she was and that she would be an amazing asset to the company, but that we didn’t have much money to pay her in these early days of launching the business. As you can imagine, she quickly went from smiling to frowning, but we continued conversations over the next few weeks.
Each time we told her how special she was and that we wanted her to be a part of our company, but we didn’t have the money to pay her a full salary just yet. We promised to train her on everything we did, to be transparent and honest with our finances each month, and to treat her as a partner. 
After 2 months of conversations, she agreed to come onboard and we figured out a plan to pay her a minimum salary with promises to increase it as soon as we could. I believe she took the leap because she trusted us and felt appreciated, acknowledged, recognized as a person. She wasn’t being treated like a number. Instead, she felt valued and saw the potential this opportunity could provide. Showing our employees that we value them often doesn’t cost us any money; it simply takes recognition.  
During that experience I learned a great deal about the power of recognition and I never forgot it. I used it daily for the next 10 years to hire and retain 30 employees for our company. 
One of the ways we used it was at our weekly company meetings, which started off with acknowledgement. We would go around the room and everyone would acknowledge another person for something they had done the previous week. It was required; we didn’t move on until everyone had participated.
This certainly wasn’t easy at first. People needed to learn how to express what they appreciated in one another. For some it took months. They had never verbalized their appreciation and recognition for their colleagues in public, but boy, was it powerful. Starting our meeting with acknowledgement relaxed and helped connect everyone, so that when we got into the nuts and bolts of what needed to be done, they were able to work together more easily. 
Another time, we used recognition was in our employee reviews, which started with telling the person what they had done well and why you were proud of them; not what they had done wrong or needed to improve. We discovered that by taking the time to do this, our employees listened to and accepted our suggestions for improvements more easily.
As the company grew, we constantly looked for ways to appreciate and recognize each other, instead of pointing out each other’s faults. The culture, as well as our finances, thrived. We eventually grew into the #1 training and consulting business in the Professional Salon Industry and were approached by a Fortune 500 company to acquire us and help us grow even further.
By the way, the first lady we hired, ended up being our VP of Education and became a world class trainer. When we sold the company in 2006 we gave her a check for $100k to say thanks for trusting us and making a difference in our success.  


Bert has an entrepreneurial background, having founded 5 companies over his career, one of which was a training and consulting company which he sold in 2006 to a Fortune 500 company before moving to Asia. His latest venture is a company called Local News Network based in Durango Colorado, which is disrupting the local news business. 

He has delivered hundreds of workshops over the last 20 years on marketing, recruiting and sales training, as well as 1-on-1 business consulting and mentorship to CEO’s and Founders. He currently volunteers with the SBDC, providing consulting to SW Colorado business owners. His training is practical and coaching is real, drawing from his real-life experiences, successes and failures. 
To reach Bert you can email or visit his website @

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