Practically Speaking is a weekly column that addresses your most pressing business dilemmas. The advice is the opinion of long-time business owner Gene Marks. Send your questions to PracticallySpeaking@fortune.com.
A valuable employee just received her raise less than six months ago at her annual review. Last week she came by my office and said she has an offer from another company who would pay her about 10% more than she was making with us. I would hate to lose her. Do I match the offer?
While no one is irreplaceable, losing a valuable employee is a big hit to any business, particularly a smaller one. It will cost to find and train a new person. And the absence of a significant portion of your workforce brought about by this employee’s departure would hurt output and customer service. Just remember, this isn’t personal. It’s business. By looking for another job while still working for you, your employee is demonstrating that she’s going to do whatever’s best for her and her family and there’s nothing wrong with that. So there’s also nothing wrong with you doing the same.
She has another job offer, which means she’s been looking. And if she’s been looking it’s probably because, for whatever genuine reason, she’s probably on her way out the door eventually. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that and you shouldn’t feel that she is being disloyal or hurtful. She is just doing what she needs to do. So what do you do?
I’d match the offer and get her to stay. It’s a short-term plan. That way, you’ve given yourself more control over the situation and bought some time. You now know she’s looking and it’s a good bet she’ll ultimately leave your company. Armed with that information, you should prepare for this inevitability. Be sure to be thinking about contingencies so that you’re not left in the lurch.
My company has been around for a couple of decades and so have a lot of my computers. Okay, maybe not that long but I admit that my network and computers are old. I haven’t upgraded them in years. I don’t buy support plans and just pay to fix things when they break. This has worked for me for a long time. But every technology person I meet warns me of all the bad things that can happen to me because I’m using old technology. Should I believe them?
You’re not going to like my answer. No prudent, cost-conscious business owner would. But the answer is yes, you should believe them.
First of all, let me congratulate you on not giving in to the technology industry’s ever-increasing demands on its customers to upgrade. You know they do this because it means more revenues for them, of course. I know this because my company is a technology business and an upgrade means more revenues from fees and software sales for me. But I have quite a few clients who refuse to buy into this and instead stick with their old systems as long as possible. They have better places to invest and if their software and networks are working then why bother to fix a problem that isn’t there? Don’t upgrade just because the tech industry tells you to. Upgrade because it makes business sense.
And in many cases, particularly if your technology is more than a few years old, it does make sense. The latest versions of operating systems like Windows and iOS will protect you against the most recent viruses and malware that could cripple your company. Updated software and hardware will work faster and integrate with more databases which will provide productivity benefits to your people. And if you’re looking to expand and hire more people, you’re going to put yourself at a disadvantage when those Millennials get a look at your grandfather’s systems that are still running your company and migrate to other employers with more cool stuff.
In the end, upgrading your technology is a decision like any other investment. There must be a great enough return on investment that justifies the spend. You will need to show how the cost savings, the productivity enhancements, the avoidance of disruptions or even the intangible benefits of attracting people will make you more money. You will need to put this into quantifiable terms to help you decide if the returns are good enough. If it’s been a few years since you last upgraded then I’m going to bet that they will be.