The title “Boss” does not earn our employees’ respect. The respect we show to them will.
I learned a life-long lesson when I was just 22 years of age. From many discussions I have had with owners and managers, I know it conveys a message worth repeating here.  It was 1964 and my business career was soaring like a rocket. After launching my Winnipeg direct sales office in January of that year, in April I promoted one of my top salesmen to become a sub-distributor in Brandon, a small city in Manitoba about 100 miles west of Winnipeg. Hugh did a terrific job with the Brandon office – so well that he set his sights on taking on a much bigger challenge: relocating to Vancouver and opening a branch there. 

In October ’64 he sold his sub-distributorship to his top salesman and moved to British Columbia. Unfortunately, being a good salesman does not necessarily mean that one will also be a good manager or business person. Sales in the Brandon office remained strong, so you can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from the new owner telling me he had blown through his money and could not meet that week’s payroll. Of course, I realized that if he simply closed his doors that his unpaid sales people would scatter to the winds and that office would have to be closed!

I told the dude to call a meeting for the next morning (pay day), leave the office key with a trusted employee, and give my office manager the amounts owed to each salesperson. As you might imagine, my arrival was met with skeptical relief. Here was the white knight riding in to save the day. 

I do not remember the words I spoke during the meeting as I handed out their checks – except for one line: “Now, I don’t care whether or not you like me, as long as you understand that I am now your boss. As such, one thing I do demand is respect.” The response that remark invoked from one of the salesmen became an important lesson I have never forgotten throughout my career.

The young many said, “I appreciate you making our checks good. BUT, I think respect is something you have to earn, not demand.” I must admit I was momentarily speechless. Good thing I was because if I had said what was going through my mind in those few seconds I would have surely destroyed the goodwill I was establishing with these folks. It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably no more than 20 seconds when I responded thoughtfully, “You know what, you are 100% right on that point. I hope by my actions here today and in the future that I will earn your respect.”


I have listened to owners complain about their employee problems over and over again. In many, if not most cases, if they would listen to their own words they would realize that THEY are creating the problem and the employees are merely reacting to the owner’s words and actions.

“I don’t have time to listen to your problems.” 
Well, we better make time because if those problems – personal or work related, impact that person’s performance, it could result in bigger problems for US.

“Mrs. Jones might be a difficult client, but I can’t afford to lose her business.” 
Really? What that kind of remark implies is,
“It’s not about you my employee; it’s all about me.” 
Instead of losing one or more good workers, maybe we should be firing Mrs. Jones.

“Why should you ask for time off? I am the owner and I rarely take time off.” 
So what? Again, this is not about US, it’s about the employee. Working more hours and days than folks who work for us comes with the territory of owning a business.

“You want more money? I am not making enough myself.” 
Believe it or not, I have heard this far too often. Again, it’s not about US. This is NOT anywhere close to being a professional response that will incur respect; just the opposite.

I could go on and on with examples, but I think I have made my point. In order to even expect respect, we have to display it to our employees first. And maybe you should think about taking a 20 or 30 second time-out before saying something that could come back to bite us in the butt.


With 18 years in the cleaning industry and 45 years of experience building his own businesses, Gary Goranson was one of the first business consultants to serve the residential cleaning industry with real experience and solid credentials. Visit him at