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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Provide Detailed Job Descriptions

Part of the receptionist's official job is to put a smile on the face of people coming through the front door.  We can tell you that she made us smile.

Key Question:


Any task that has to be done over and over again can be taught to a person who is willing to learn. The problem with most owners is that they don't see the patterns. They think that everything they do all day is creative and requires constant decision making. Take a piece of paper and put the name of a task you do at the top of the page. Now write out all the steps you go through to achieve the task. When Marty was doing everything himself, as most of us do at the beginning, he hadn't realized that much of what he was doing could be taught.

He was amazed that he could remove tasks from his desk and put them on the desk of an employee. However, he had to put job descriptions in writing! The receptionist has many specific tasks and the top one is to greet every person who walks through the door of Boardroom in such a way that they feel better having come through that door.

If you are willing to take your business out of your head and put it on paper, you will see growth.

Tom Gegax, who built a business from zero to $200 million in sales, believes that employees will only be productive when they are, fully aware of his expectations of them,
motivated, educated and provided with constant feedback

Q: How does a business decide how to nurture and guide employees within the business?

A: Here, too, what we've learned from Tom is applicable to any business. The challenge is in determining how to move through the four steps within your organization. Let's look at each one separately.

Setting Expectations Provide each employee with a written job description and a copy of your company's organizational chart as part of his or her first day's orientation. In addition to increasing the employee's productivity, setting expectations very clearly and in writing provides the employee with a level of comfort and knowledge of his or her role in the business.

Motivate Employees
Every employee in the organization should meet with the person to whom he or she reports at least annually. This meeting should include a historical evaluation of performance since the last meeting as well as goal and objective setting for the next period. The employee should be made aware of how his or her individual goals are part of the overall goals of the business. Finally, the anticipated award, e.g., promotion or bonus, for successfully achieving those goals should be clearly stated. Both the evaluation and prospective goal setting should be in writing and signed by both the employee and supervisor. Subsequent years' evaluations should include a review of goals set the previous year.

Educate Employees Every position in a company requires a certain minimum skill set. That skill set should be included in the written job description. Improving the skill set with additional training for the current position or for a position in the company that the employee is working toward should be discussed in the annual evaluation and goal setting session. Every employee in the organization should benefit from training each year.

Provide Feedback Annual evaluations and goal setting, formalized and documented, are an outstanding way for even a small business to effectively manage its human resources. However, once a year is just too infrequently to provide employees with the constructive feedback they need. Positive feedback should be provided publicly, with recognition given to the employee throughout the company. Negative feedback should be provided privately behind closed doors and documented if it is considered to be grounds for dismissal if not corrected.

NOTE: Our editor, Marcia Kern, has been a teacher since 1974. She offers these teaching tips:

  1. Most people are visual learners; therefore, have instructions and procedures written down so they can refer to them often. Someone still needs to demonstrate and explain each new task.
  2. Teach the tasks a few at a time. Try not to overload the new employee. Give plenty of opportunity to practice each task or skill before moving on.
  3. Explain why procedures are what they are. Try to include the greater context in the teaching time so the employee will see the "big picture."
  4. If possible, eliminate distractions during training.
  5. Be prepared to repeat your instructions. People take more or less time depending upon the skill and experience of the individual. Remember, the average person takes 8 repetitions to acquire a new skill.
  6. Remember, some people are faster with some tasks and slower with others. Keep the teaching tone "light" and informal. People learn better with less stress.
  7. Instead of asking "do you have any questions?" or "do you understand?" ask "What questions do you have?" Encourage questions, especially when the "learning curve" is high.
  8. When pointing out errors, try to focus on one area at a time. If you tell the employee everything he/she is doing wrong at once, he may become anxious and not be able to listen as well.
  9. Praise often.
  10. Check in with the new employee often at first to make sure he/she is performing satisfactorily.
  11. Make sure the new employee has someone (or more) to whom he/she can ask for re- teaching or further explanations.
  12. Inform the employee on what basis he/she will be evaluated.
  13. Keep your patience and your sense of humor.

Think about it

What do you do now that could be taught to others? The list could include sales, marketing, product development, customer service, systems development and virtually everything you do! How would you implement the four steps in your company?

Clip from: Boardroom, Inc.

Stamford, Connecticut:  In this episode of the show we go inside one of the most productive businesses in the world (using the ratio, gross income to total number of employees). Where the Fortune 500 companies average under $300K per employee; in this small business, it is over $1M per employee.

How can any business be so productive? You'll learn right here.

Marty Edelston, founder of Boardroom, Inc. started this company in 1971. Today they are the publisher of the world's largest subscription-based newsletter, BottomLine Personal; this business with just 78 employees will do over $80 million in sales. This is about five times the productivity rate of the Fortune 500 companies.

He believes these results come from a powerful process he calls, I-Power. Marty believes every person has an endless supply of ideas, especially ideas to improve their workplace. Every week every employee is asked to answer two questions: What can I do to improve my work area? And, what could others do that would cause my work area to improve? Simple, brilliant, easy to do, so what are we waiting for?

Marty was 47 with three children at home when he quit his job as a salesman in the publishing business. He had worked for some of the country's biggest companies and felt there was a need for a publication that ". . . helps people live their lives in this increasingly hostile world."

All the key ideas and videos of this episode...
Go to the homepage of this episode...

Boardroom Inc.

Marty Edelston, Founder & CEO

281 Tresser Blvd
Stamford, CT 06901

Visit our web site:

Office: 2039735900

Business Classification:
Information Services

Year Founded: 1971

Provide Detailed Job Descriptions

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Boardroom Inc produces information. With 1.2 million subscribers of Bottom Line, including me for the last 10 years, Boardroom sets the standard. And they also do Bottom Line Business, Bottom Line Tomorrow, Health Confidential and Moneysworth. For nearly 25 years, Marty Edelston has been building a business which today would be the envy of any entrepreneur. His company generates $110 million in sales, with only 80 employees. This is a productivity rate five times the average Fortune 500 company. If you listen and watch carefully, you will learn his secrets.

CRYSTAL (Employee): Good morning, Marty.

MARTY: One of Crystal's big jobs here is to greet everybody warmly. That's in her job description that she has to be a very enthusiastic greeter, that how she starts everybody's day and ends everybody's day is very important.

CRYSTAL: Every few days I get together with myself in the mirror and try to figure out what kind of nice greetings to make everybody feel good about being here.

MARTY: And we had to work on that at the beginning.

CRYSTAL: He gave me a few books and inspired me.

MARTY: One doesn't think of the importance of the receptionist, that you're just here to check people in and out. But not at our place. Your tone sets the place for the whole . . . sets the tone for everybody.

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