Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

Q: What’s the secret to retaining your company’s top talent? What have you found to be most important to your employees?

Retaining your best employees isn’t entirely about competitive wages, but that certainly doesn’t hurt, business owners say. (Scott Eells/BLOOMBERG)

Marcos Cordero, CEO/co-founder of GradSave in Miami, Florida:

“Retaining top talent is essential not only to grow our company, but also to build a company culture that reflects our vision. Since we’re a start-up, and not a large corporation with deep pockets for traditional employee perks, it’s very important that everyone on the GradSave team is committed to our mission – making college savings easy and accessible.

I also fundamentally believe that there’s no better reward than when people feel that their job matters and moves the company forward every day. So, we make sure that everyone knows why they do what they do and how that impacts the team, our customers, stockholders, etc. To achieve this, we aim to create an office environment that facilitates teamwork, innovation and professional development.

We have very brief daily meetings to review daily progress and obstacles, along with and our KM (Key Metrics) weekly meeting, where we review all of our goals and operating metrics for the week. Here we discuss how everyone’s efforts contributed to last week’s performance, as well as brainstorm to fix or improve specific areas for the coming week. This meeting tempo has changed our business entirely.

I’d like to believe this high performance, fast-tempo culture is rewarding for our staff, and of course it’s also easy to wake up and work hard when your mission is to help America save for college.”

Liam Martin, co-founder of Staff.com in Ottawa, Canada:

“It honestly depends on the employee. You have to figure out what that person wants and give it to them -- very rarely is that more money. Some employees have wanted equity and we’ve given it to them, others have wanted their own office and we’ve given it to them, and others just want cash, and we’ve given that to them as well.

We currently have 56 people on staff and it really comes down to a case by case basis so ranking perks could actually be counter intuitive to retaining top talent. Most of the time you have to figure out not what they say they want, but what they don’t know they even want. Most employees as a knee jerk reaction ask for ‘more money’ but very rarely is this what they actually want. They want to wake up in the morning and feel like their making a difference, they ‘want’ to go to work — more money doesn’t do that.”

Jonathon Sawyer, Owner/chef at SeeSaw Restaurant Group in Cleveland, Ohio:

“We truly view our business as an extended family. My mom cooks for them every week. We send cooks and chefs around the country to train with others we know and respect. Our servers are reimbursed for all professional spirits training, and we offer health care to all employees and pay extremely competitively for the Cleveland market.

We also believe in performance-based bonuses for operating managers, and partnering in as profit partners for mid to upper-level employees. Our General Manger & our Executive Chef were both partnered into the company this year. All of this helps keep our focus on business.

I believe the success of our young chefs and beverage staff is extremely important. As a result, this year our Chef/Partner Brian Goodman was named by Restaurant & Hospitality Magazine as One to Watch in 2012, and Pastry Chef Matt Danko was honored as an Eater.com Young Gun.”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs.

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