How To Choose The Right Key Employees In Your Business

The who in your business is often more important than the what.

The right key employees in your business will have a disproportionate impact on your business’ bottom line.

Here at Consolidated Planning, our decades-long journey in helping business owners realize the full value of their life’s work includes their employees. We understand that the value of a business can not be solely determined by its tangible assets but must account for the intangible contributions of key employees. Identifying, retaining, and developing key talent is a critical aspect of strategic management for businesses seeking long-term success and value growth.

In this article, we’ll share the commonalities of key employees, ways to KEEP these identified employees, and how you can better drive business growth with the right strategy when it comes to these individuals.

Commonalities Of Key Employees In Your Business

More often than not, key employees in successful business have a number of commonalities when it comes to both their personality and their drive to perform. When it comes to building as much value as possible for your business, it’s worth the time and energy to understand what commonalities these ideal key employees should have.

Key Employees Are Competitive

A key employee is competitive, but not to the extent that they want others to fail. These employees want to simply do better than the best.

This competitiveness is mostly derived from comments like, “I want everyone to

exceed and succeed at a high level,” or “I just want to exceed and succeed more than them,” or “I came to the company because there were other employees doing more sales than myself and it will help me to elevate my success.” 

These competitors will do whatever is required, within moral boundaries, to win the fight. Like an athlete, they don’t want to win because someone else is bad, they want to win because they are good.

Key Employees Desire Ownership

The ownership desire in a key employee is a stand out attribute. The desire for ownership doesn’t necessarily mean this key employee WANTS true ownership (company stocks or corporate shares) but rather trusted and regarded as someone in your business who has control and drives the productivity of the company. 

Ownership here might look like:

  • Satisfaction in their work
  • Eagerness to excel
  • Fully engaged in team or client meetings
  • Provides feedback and ideas
  • Practices autonomy and self-sufficiency
  • Boasts confidence
  • Awareness that they are the masters of their own success

Through these characteristics, this key employee demonstrates leadership and stability all while increasing profitability, and building long-term business value.

Key Employees Avoid Mediocrity

Your key employee is likely just as well accomplished outside of the workplace as they are within it. They are driven by a combination of personal ambition, career aspirations, the desire to make a meaningful impact, and the recognition of the importance of excellence in both personal and organizational success. These factors motivate them to consistently strive for excellence and avoid mediocrity in their work.

And the same zest that drives their professional lives is the same zest that they apply to the rest of their lives.

Key Employees Know They Are Key

When taking the above commonalities into consideration, key employees know they are key to your business. They have a disproportionate impact on your business – its success and its client relationships and they can see this writing on the wall.

And because key employees know they are key, they (humbly) expect to be acknowledged and recognized.

With that said, how can you KEEP your key employees engaged in your business long-term?

These four commonalities are just the tip of the iceberg. When you pay attention and look for these stand out commonalities, it becomes dramatically clear who is key and who is a rank-and-file employee.

How To Keep Your Key Employees In Your Business Once Identified

Understanding what to look for in a key employee is only half the battle. Now, maybe you know you already have these employees in your business but it’s also possible that you don’t yet have the right key people.

BUT, if you do have your key people in place, ask yourself, “What am I doing to retain my key employees?”

Incentive Plans

Incentive plans are typically designed to motivate employees by linking their performance to tangible rewards. These rewards often come in the form of bonuses, profit-sharing, stock options, or other financial incentives. So yes, you will need to allocate some dollars towards ensuring your key employees remain key.

In this instance, your goal is to encourage your key employee to continue performing at the same high level that is driving the overall success of the company.

Your incentive plan for a key employee should be tied to something the company measures. And that measurement needs to:

  • Resonate with the employee as something they have a direct impact on and know it, and
  • Be attainable to that employee, otherwise it builds no value for them

Based on the key commonalities of these employees, they will know what they have a direct impact on AND find it worth working towards.

Retention Plans

While incentive plans are great, retention plans are strategic initiatives aimed at fostering a long-term commitment between employees and the company. Because your key employees always want to do more and be more, these plans will focus on ensuring you are creating a positive work environment, offering benefits that enhance work-life balance, and providing opportunities for professional development.

As committed as your key employee(s) might be, your key employees ultimately want to be recognized and paid their value. If you fail to do so, you risk losing them to a competitor. And if you’ve learned anything about the commonalities of key employees, it’s that they will land on their feet just fine.

Your retention plan for a key employee should needs to include two aspects:

  • The right vesting period: The vesting timeframe should not be too far into the future that it’s not attainable for the key employee, but it should be far enough out to provide the business owner with a high level of retention. 
  • Significant bonuses over time: Bonuses are essential in retaining your key employees, they need to be substantial bonuses that accumulate over time before being awarded.

Drive Business Growth With Your Key Employees

Taking the time and energy to have the RIGHT key employees in your business will prove to be beneficial time and time again.

But we know it can be hard to know where to start. Whether you have these key people in your business already or are lacking the right key people altogether, you can start building more value in your business by understanding your options to attract and retain top talent.

To learn more about retaining key people to grow your business, talk with an experienced planning professional at Consolidated Planning.

2024-171547 Exp. 3/2026

Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation. The information provided is based on our general understanding of the subject matter discussed and is for informational purposes only.  

This material contains the current opinions of Mike Thompson and Consolidated Planning only. These are not the opinions of Park Avenue Securities, Guardian, or its subsidiaries.


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