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You are here: Business Small Business Making the Most of Talent
The key to attracting and keeping top-tier employees is creating a top-tier working environment. Creating a supportive atmosphere can do more to make a star employee happy than a VIP parking space, or even a fat bonus. And it’s about more than just retaining talent; it takes work to streamline communication within a company so that the most productive ideas can flourish, and teams can work together smoothly to achieve their goals.

Dr. Sherilyne Dougherty knows this better than anyone. She’s the president and founder of Dougherty & Associates, (DAI), a consultancy providing services in the areas of communications, human capital and learning solutions.

Dougherty's successful small business has at its foundation a culture that fosters a sense of ownership among employees by ensuring they feel valued for their talents and contributions. "We value and reward hard work and commitment, while remaining flexible to accommodate individual circumstances and development desires," she said. “I’ve had people tell me, 'You don't even know what you've created. This is a wonderful work environment with good pay, great benefits and interesting contracts. And you treat your people well.' That's the environment I want to create. Treat people like you want to be treated and you have an inspired, productive team.”

Dougherty's management approach is working well for DAI, and the company was named one of Inc. Magazine's 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in 2010 and 2011. “The company's really grown,” she said.” We've tripled in size in the last three years, and have really begun to achieve some name recognition. We've got stability and a very strong infrastructure to support growth. And we are still growing; a 20 to 30 percent revenue growth is my goal each year.”

There are a number of reasons DAI is so stable. Because the company works mainly on government contracts, it hasn’t been as negatively affected by the recession as many other small companies. Dougherty has also been careful to avoid one of the major pitfalls of small business ownership: overextending the company's credit. “We've managed the business over the years to be financially sound while very profitable. We established a strong line of credit but have used it minimally. It’s simple – don’t spend what you don’t have."

Dougherty's advice for small businesses is to take advantage of the benefits of being a small company, instead of trying to compete with larger firms – develop relationships and team with clients while building your qualifications. “It's all about delivering quality work. Because we're small, we can't compete with the large firms. But we can certainly deliver high-quality services and ensure we never let anything slip through the cracks that's not up to our standards of quality,” she said. “So, while you may start with smaller contracts, if you consistently perform and build trust, the small contracts evolve into larger ones.”

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