How Do I Avoid Favoring My Best Employee? (Podcast) | Ep. #068

Elizabeth Larkin, Michael Kelly, and Eric Dollinger

In episode 68, hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks discuss why more restaurants don’t accept mobile payments, Steve Jobs, and they answer this question about favoritism in small businesses:

“I have an employee who’s absolutely amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without this person. How do I show my appreciation without it looking like unfair favoritism?”


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Gene: Welcome everybody to Small Biz Ahead. My name is Gene Marks and I am here with Elizabeth Larkin. Elizabeth is looking very energetic today-

Elizabeth: Relaxed.

Gene: Seems like you’re relaxed and good. You came back from a trip to, where?

Elizabeth: I went to Europe for two and a half weeks. I was in Germany, Greece, Switzerland, and France.

Gene: Crazy!

Elizabeth: It was amazing.

Gene: So, what did you learn?

Elizabeth: I learned that the Europeans are way ahead of us on accepting mobile payments. And this is something we talked about in our last episode, but every restaurant we went to, the waitstaff-

Gene: They come up with the little device to the table, yeah.

Elizabeth: It’s the best thing ever. So, if you’re out with a big group with… Have you ever been to Germany?

Gene: Years and years ago, but I was just in England recently. So whenever we go to London, it’s the same thing.

Elizabeth: So, the Germans love to go out in big groups to eat. They’ll go… There’ll be a table of 16 people and they’ll all have different drinks and food and everything. The waitstaff there will just go around, they’ll tap everyone on the shoulder and say, “Okay, here’s your bill.” Individually. There’s no “Let’s do a big bill for the table.” And the reason that’s so easy to do is because they just all accept mobile payments right there.

Gene: It’s amazing. And not only that, but my experience in England with the same kind of thing. We went to three or four restaurants when we were there, my wife and I, and the waitstaff would come around with their phone. Now, I think it was the restaurant owned the phone, but they were phones, they were iPhones or Android device. They would take your order on the phone. And if you were with a big group, they could take individual orders right on their phone and then just generate individual payments like you were in Germany as well. Why are we not…

Elizabeth: I don’t know.

Gene: I don’t know. I mean, I go to San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, and I go, we go out to dinner and the waiter’s coming over with paper and pencil, whatever. I don’t understand why the U.S. is-

Elizabeth: It can’t be that expensive.

Gene: It is so odd. And you know what’s really odd about that as well is that the restaurants used to come over with these sort of point of sale devices, and they were wireless as well. So then you would swipe to make the payment. It’s like they got rid of that and all moved to… The newest technology that comes out, it’s like the restaurant industry in Europe-

Elizabeth: They’re so far ahead.

Gene: They just go to it, they just do it. Whereas here in the States it’s still the same. And I think it is that. And it’s a good question to ask. If you’re running a restaurant, why aren’t you doing that? Is it because the point of sale technology is not available for us? Because I think it is. Is it just because it’s not necessary? Is it just too expensive for you? And why change over, nobody’s demanding it? I’m just curious why restaurants here aren’t doing it.

Elizabeth: There’s this restaurant in Connecticut that, I don’t want to say the name because I don’t want to put them on blast on our podcast, but they only take cash. It’s kind of a-

Gene: Don’t even get me started, don’t even, I don’t even want to know. Never gonna go there. But go ahead.

Elizabeth: It’s BYOB, they only take… It’s kinda like, it’s like an event. You go there and it’s a big thing.

Gene: By the way, they have an ATM machine in the restaurant in case you don’t have any cash, but it’ll charge you three bucks if you need to take money out.

Elizabeth: Oh, like an $8 fee. So, you get there, you stand in line to get a table. You get a table, then you get out from your table, go stand in line to order your food. Then you get back to your table, then you wait about an hour and a half for your food. So at this point if you-

Gene: Oh my goodness.

Elizabeth: It’s crazy.

Gene: And it’s crowded, really popular restaurant?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah, very popular. And then, you wait to get your check. And then the guy, like the server’s like, “Oh I gotta go upstairs and just gotta go get the check from the person you ordered from upstairs.” It’s a disaster and it would just be so much easier… They wouldn’t even need to have as much staff if they just used these mobile-

Gene: They seem like they’re doing… Listen, you’re talking to the wrong gear. I’m telling you right now, not twelve minutes from where you and I are sitting right now is a fantastic Outback Steakhouse. You go in, they sit you right away, you get in and hour of there for under $27, you pull up the credit card, it’s great.

Elizabeth: They don’t use mobile payments there, either.

Gene: They do not. They do not. That’s true.

Elizabeth: But they should.

Gene: They should. I mean, even the biggest restaurant chains in this country, it’s still this same system that it’s been going on for the past 10 or 15… I don’t understand.

Elizabeth: What I want in my life is to be able to go to a restaurant, have them just charge me right there. Go shopping and not have to stand in line, just have someone come up to me, like at the Apple store, with their little card reader.

Gene: And then swipe the-

Elizabeth: Check me out.

Gene: Well the big trend is now… And this is happening in some restaurants. First of all, fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and McDonald’s, they’re putting in self-service kiosks.

Elizabeth: Really?

Gene: Oh, Wendy’s is installing 4,000 of them over the next year.

Elizabeth: Oh, wow.

Gene: You just go in, you order it there, and then you just swipe your card, and then your food comes out wherever it comes out.

Elizabeth: Really never going to have to talk to anyone again.

Gene: Yeah. Well they say they’re doing them for customer service. You know, “Because that’s what our customers want.” I’m sure there’s nothing to do with cutting down on their staff and their overhead, I’m sure. That’s what… Self-service is big. And then there’s a firm called Ziosk that is booming doing self-service kiosk at other sit-down restaurants, like Pizzeria Uno’s, for example. Where you just go to your table, the self-service display is there on your table. Nobody comes and takes your order. You put your order in and then you swipe your credit card right there on the table. And then you play games on the thing until somebody just brings out your food. So that’s starting to come. It is starting to come. It’s just still seems like we’re so far behind.

Elizabeth: But for small businesses, I mean any restaurant really, could just use the mobile payment option.

Gene: I couldn’t agree with you more and you can’t, I mean, today’s point of sale applications that a restaurant puts in, they give you that capability to do, but it’s a little bit extra to pay, and I bet you that’s why restaurants aren’t going it here because it’s just not… Customers aren’t demanding it. I’m demanding it! So are you, you’re demanding it.

Elizabeth: I’m demanding it. Definitely.

Gene: Come on.

Elizabeth: Alright, we’ll be right back with our question. This is about what to do if you have a favorite employee.

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QUESTION: How Do I Avoid Favoring My Best Employee?

Elizabeth: Okay, this question is from Rosa in Illinois, and she is a corporate wellness consultant. That sounds like a good job.

Gene: That sounds like the job that, oh I forget the name. You know in the show “Billions”? You know, like Damien Lewis, he runs this company and he’s got like the consultant, the life coach woman who’s Paul Giamatti’s wife?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gene: You know what I’m talking about? Isn’t that like corporate wellness? Is that the same thing or? No?

Elizabeth: That’s more like a life coach.

Gene: Oh, alright.

Elizabeth: I don’t know. I think these are people that go around to corporations and-

Gene: More like health care and wellness programs and such like that, okay.

Elizabeth: So they’re consultants.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: So, Rosa writes:

“I have an employee who’s absolutely amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without this person. How do I show my appreciation without it looking like unfair favoritism?”

Well, you just pay that person more.

Gene: Yeah. First of all I think you should refer that person to me. I’d like to meet this person and maybe I can pay that person more or something-

Elizabeth: Whenever Gene hears someone else has great employee, he’s like, “Can I get them?”

Gene: I want them. I want them. I want them. What’s the problem? I don’t understand. What’s the issue?

Elizabeth: I’m sure that she probably has a bunch of people at the same “level”.

Gene: Yeah?

Elizabeth: And one of them she just really likes and does a much better job. And she doesn’t want the others to start talking about her like, “Oh, she likes, you know, Nancy better than the rest of us.”

Gene: I mean, I’m trying to think with my… So listen, so I have three kids. My favorite one by far is Josh. So, what I do is when all the family’s around, I try not to let the other kids know, but then when I’m with Josh, I let him know that he is my favorite and I give him-

Elizabeth: Is that actually one of yours kids’ names?

Gene: Yes. And I give him special consideration sometimes. So it’s very easy to do.

Elizabeth: And you do his laundry for him.

Gene: No, I don’t do his laundry, but I just let him know he is my favorite and he’s probably going to be my highest earner of all my kids. So, that’s where I’m placing my chips-

Elizabeth: Is he the engineer or the accountant?

Gene: He’s the engineer. So that’s where I’m putting my chips, down there. I think it would work the same thing in your business as well. Obviously, you cannot give any indication to the rest of your employees that this person necessarily your favorite because… You brought up the good point. I actually wouldn’t care if somebody was accusing me of showing favoritism. I would care more for the employee that they would be getting abused from the other employees like, “Oh, you’re the boss’s pet.”

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think that can very quickly cause an issue in the workplace.

Gene: Think about where you work now. Say you’re in your group, and your boss, he has a fave, you’d feel, if you weren’t the fave you’d feel like a little… And if you were the favorite, these are a little awkward, isn’t it?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: So you just can’t do it, out of respect for the employee, you can’t really show that. But that doesn’t mean that when you have alone time or your on the job together or nobody else is around, I would by all means be making sure that employee knows how much you appreciate them.

Elizabeth: And couldn’t you pay them more?

Gene: Depends on what your pay policies are internally at your company. Again, how would you feel if somebody your level, if you found out they were getting paid more than you and you guys were doing similar jobs? So you get into scary areas when you start-

Elizabeth: Wouldn’t feel great.

Gene: Yeah, it wouldn’t feel great. So you can do it, you can pay people more, you can bonus people out, if you’re really comfortable about their other colleagues aren’t going to be finding out about it. So it’s not sure. But I, honestly, to me I think people, particularly when you work in a small business, the biggest advantage to working in a small business over a large company, The Hartford is awesome with great benefits, but you really do feel like you’re making a difference at a small business and you really have a connection with the boss and you feel like you’re contributing something along… And just to hear that from the boss is for a lot of people, that’s good compensation. They feel… When I tell one of my people how valuable they are or how much they meant or thank you for whatever, you can just tell that they walk away saying, “Hey man, this is great. I’m really helping here.”

Elizabeth: Giving a thank you is great. I personally don’t like to be praised, I just like to be acknowledged. I get the work you put into that. You know, we’ve talked about this before, you really need to figure out what motivates each person that works for you, individually and then that’s how you continue to motivate them. So, you just need to figure out what this person responds to and continually do that. Maybe it is just getting a thanks.

Gene: Yeah, I agree. And if you’re an employee listening to this, you should be giving the feedback back to your boss. If your boss is telling you how valuable you are or whatever, and you don’t feel like you’re being paid enough, or you’ve got some grievance or whatever, you want to let your boss, please let me know, if I’m your boss. Because jeez if I’m sitting here telling you that you’re really, I really value you and you’re favorable, and then you’re annoyed about something, you don’t feel like you’re-

Elizabeth: And you leave.

Gene: And then you leave. I’d be like really bummed out. I’m just telling you right now how valuable you are. I don’t want you to leave, so if there’s something I can do to fix that, I will do that. So, again, getting back to the original question, you can’t show the favoritism outright, but when you do have time, alone, you should be letting that person know about that. Because I think it’s really valuable.

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.


Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: Well, it’s two words and it’s actually a person today, Elizabeth, and that person I want to talk about is Steve Jobs from Apple. Did you know that when Steve Jobs was introducing the iPhone, doing the first iPhone demonstration, he misled the public and the press?

Elizabeth: What?

Gene: I mean, maybe it’s too strong a word to use, but I’ll use it. He effectively was lying to the public and the press about the iPhone. There was very interesting story that came out about this a few years ago and then I wrote about it again, I revisited it. At the time when he was doing the demo in front of a whole Apple community and all the media, the tech media, that was following, whatever.

Elizabeth: Doing it livestream.

Gene: Live. It was a big, it was a big just… The first introduction of the iPhone. It didn’t work. It had memory issues, it had hardware issues, it had internet issues, it was crashing all of the time. He did not have working version of the iPhone and he decided to do the demo anyway, even though this product wouldn’t work. He was of the faith that it would work, and of course his faith was correct, but at the time the thing wasn’t working.

So when he got up in front of everybody, first of all because of it had so many bad memory issues, he had like three or four iPhones up on stage hidden. So whenever he was seen he was using it for one thing, he would put one iPhone down and pick up another one because then it would be with fresh memory. So it wouldn’t be crashing out on him, right? He put in extra internet routers around, so that it would strengthen the internet signals that was going on that the iPhone could receive. But then they faked the internet signal that the iPhone was receiving anyway on the display, even though it wasn’t picking up the internet as strong as it should be and that was a big problem with it. And that was an issue. And because there was so many pitfalls in the way it behaved it was bad, he had this script that he had to follow step by step by step. If he went off it, the iPhone would have crashed anyway. He practiced it for days before the demonstrations so that he would get everything exactly right because he knew that if he went off script it would be a big problem and a huge embarrassment.

Elizabeth: So why did he do it?

Gene: That’s a good question. You think to yourself… And the real thing that I thought was interesting was that he misled his customers, his community, the media, and I think to myself, “Sometimes I do that, too.” Sometimes when I’m talking about a project, talking about our capabilities, talking about what we can do, like Steve Jobs, not that I would compare myself to Steve Jobs, but like Steve Jobs, sometimes I’d be over-promising, I’d be like, “Oh yeah, we can definitely do that.” Or “we can” you know. In the back of my head saying, “I hope we can do that, pretty sure we can, but I don’t know 100%.” You know? I do that… That’s what people do when they’re promoting, when they’re selling, and honestly, it is a little bit of deception. Like, I deceive my customers and my prospective customers, you know that’s what they want to hear, and you don’t want to promise or say something that you know is absolutely not true, but if you’re pretty sure as a business owner, as a sales person, as a service person, that you’re pretty sure that you can get this job done, you’re gonna like sort of take the step out and say, “Sure, we’ll be able to do that.”

By the way, that’s why I was talking to a friend of mine who, they were having their bathroom redone the other day, and the contractor gave them an estimate to do like the tile work, and then like a month later the contractor came back and said, “Ugh, we’re way over budget, we need like an extra $2500.” Because at the time, I know what that contactor was thinking. They were thinking like, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can get it done for the estimate that I’m giving.” And then they were wrong, right? And then this is what happens when your bets don’t play out.

So, the story of Steve Jobs I thought was resonating because we all do it as business owners, even Steve Jobs, genius the man, he took a leap of faith, he misled the public because he knew, he had a very good hunch this is where he was going to do. And you can judge for yourself. If it’s good enough for Steve Jobs to do, is that good enough for you?

Elizabeth: How long was it between that presentation and then it was actually, he was in market with it?

Gene: It was, you know what, I don’t know the exact dates, but it was like six months to a year. He demoed it and then it took a while for the first-

Elizabeth: I remember that. I mean I-

Gene: Sure. It’s a very famous demo of the iPhone. Very famous.

Elizabeth: I don’t think I watched it, but I remember seeing pictures of it and-

Gene: Well, you can see it on YouTube still.

Elizabeth: Hearing about that.

Oh really? Okay, well we’ll link to that in the show notes.

Gene: Yeah. Hopefully you can find it. I’m sure you can. See me here? I’m deceiving you. “Pretty sure you can find it on YouTube.” I do think more often than I think about.

But it was a… I thought it was a very meaningful story about Steve Jobs that resonated again for anybody running a business.

Elizabeth: We’ll talk to you in a couple days. Thanks, Gene.

Gene: Thank you, Elizabeth.

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