SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on Newstalk Drive every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins Newstalk Drive to answer all your employment-related questions.

Kicking off this week, Bobby looked to Virgin founder Richard Branson for a spot of inspiration on striking a balance – and achieving success in business and in life.

Branson’s top ten tips may seem like common sense to some – but for Bobby, it is that very simplicity that paves the way to success:

  1. Follow your dreams
  2. Do some good
  3. Believe in your ideas
  4. Have fun
  5. Don't give up
  6. Keep setting yourself new challenges
  7. Learn to delegate
  8. Look after your people
  9. Get out there and do things
  10. When people say bad things about you, just prove them wrong

“I am a huge believer in common sense,” says Bobby. “I believe in academia but I also believe in the practical stuff; I believe in street smarts; I believe in the human touch.”

“If you are the greatest academic in the world or if you are the biggest guru or whatever - if you can't get on with people you are wasting your time.”

In many ways it is all about communication - something that is right at the heart of this week's first listener dilemma.

Hired by a “pretty large” company in 2011, our listener has recently learned that his role is to be split into three – with differing levels of responsibility and difficulty.

He is expected to take the most complex of the three posts - however all are likely to remain at the same pay scale.

My question is this - am I within my rights to insist that unless there are improved pay and conditions with the new role, I won't take it?

Bobby’s hunch is that management have “already made up their minds here.”

The devil is in the detail and the whole situation appears to have been badly communicated - but the harsh reality is that a point-blank refusal may pitch our listener into a fight he can’t win.

“Obviously this chap would want to check his conditions of employment but it sounds like they have already checked them out and they are doing this,” he says.

“Let's look at reality here. What will happen is this guy says, ‘no I am not doing this’ and next thing you will see is his position being made redundant.”

“What I would like to say to this chap is that rather than saying, 'I am not doing it' which puts him in a particular place […] why doesn't he approach it in a different way.

“To see in a consensual way can he negotiate a better rate of pay for himself - because he might be surprised.”

Bobby, I currently operate a small but successful café in cork. We do a decent trade and my recent experiments on social media have been met with a good response. We are on Twitter and Facebook and even Instagram. I want to capitalise on this but don’t have the time to spare. I am the manager and the rest of the staff are quite young. Am I right to trust them with running the social media accounts during the day.

Bobby, like Branson, is well aware of the importance of delegation and he is “absolutely okay” with handing control of the online accounts to the more social-savvy generation where possible – provided your staff can be trusted.

“The first thing you do is that you set the rules,” he says.

“You say, ‘this is how we are going to operate social media in this café. I don't want any personal stuff on there. I don't want anybody making jokes about customers’ – whatever it may be.”

Secondly you don't allow too many people to access - but I would absolutely let younger people loose in this space because they are so much better at this stuff than me.”

What would Bobby do with an employee who takes 20 to 30-minute toilet breaks? I would suggest locking the jacks on him.

An awkward conversation no doubt; but for Bobby this is another one that can be chalked down to communication.

“First of all, I would confront him and tell him he is taking too long,” says Bobby.

“Secondly I would ask him if he needs to see the company doctor and I would be hightailing him off for an appointment.

"Thirdly I would be monitoring the situation and if he didn't improve I would be going down the discipline route with him.”

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s Newstalk Drive here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to agonyuncle@newstalk.com