How do we find good people to hire?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Dear Norm,
We want to add experienced businesspeople to the staff of our small company. We’ve tried local SCORE chapters, word-of-mouth, and some Internet searches—with no luck. What should we do now?

Dear Donald,
I can’t offer you a quick, reliable solution, but you shouldn’t be discouraged. It always takes time to find good people. Here’s a tip: the people you want are probably not looking for work. They may be retired. They may be between projects. They may just be bored with what they’re doing. If they’re looking at all, they’re networking with their friends. You should do the same. Talk to your customers, your suppliers, your bankers, other businesspeople you know. Eventually someone will turn up.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Employees, Hiring

How should I determine raises for salaried salespeople?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I know that you pay salespeople by salary, rather than commission. My question is, how do you decide on raises? I suspect you must use subjective criteria. If you based raises only on objective sales results, it seems as though you’d undermine the team concept you’re striving for.

Dear Robert,
You’re right. Part of it is subjective. I look at overall company results and at individual performance, but most important to me is the way they work as members of a team. I want to see people helping each other, not competing. I’ll give you an example. One of our salespeople, Patti, had to go out of town and asked another salesperson, David, to attend a meeting with a big account she’d been trying to land for months. When David showed up, there were six people waiting who said they were making the final decision that day. He closed the account, and I give him full credit for that, but I also give three stars to Patti for being able to say, “Okay, I trust the people I work with to cover for me.”
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Employees, Salary

How do I stop my salespeople from taking my customers?

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Dear Norm:
I’ve heard you say that—if you run your business right—departing employees shouldn’t be able to take your customers with them. So what am I doing wrong? I give our project managers and salespeople a lot of freedom to serve customers. After a year or two, the employees walk off with the account. Each time, I get the same feeling as when I receive a letter from the IRS.

Dear Charles,
Start by looking at your hiring practices. It sounds as though you could do a better job of spotting salespeople who want to be around for the long term. You also need to be proactive. You’re asking for trouble if you and your operations people don’t have regular contact with customers. That’s the only way to make sure a customer belongs to the company, not to the salesperson. I’m careful not to step on the toes of our salespeople, and they’re happy I’m so visible. My presence gives them a competitive advantage. They’d have only one reason to object: if they didn’t really have the company’s interests at heart.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Customers, Employees, Ethics

Should I fire when I’m not sure I can find replacements?

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Dear Norm,
After my mother died, I took over her business. I hired a girl, who brought along a friend, and I reluctantly hired her, too. I’ve been living a nightmare ever since. These women drive me crazy. They abuse my kindness, abuse my phones, misfile, can’t type, mess up my computers, complain constantly, spend all their time talking to one another, and never complete assignments. Yet I’m scared to say anything for fear I won’t be able to replace them. The people I’ve interviewed want benefits, and my business is too small to provide them. What should I do?

Dear Renee,
Fire them both as soon as possible, and do it on your own terms. What kind of life do you have with those people around? You deserve better, and you’ll feel better as soon as you make the decision to let them go. Believe me, you can replace them, even if you can’t afford benefits. Maybe you can offer something else—a flexible work schedule, for example. Find new people, train them over the weekend, and have them start on Monday. When your two current employees come to work, tell them they’re no longer needed. You may have to put in extra hours for a few weeks, but your life will be easier in the long run, and you’ll be happier.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Employees, Hiring

An employee’s position has outgrown them. What do I do?

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Dear Norm,
About two and a half years ago, I hired someone to be the operations manager of my company. He was the perfect fit for my business at the time. Now, however, the company has outgrown his ability to handle the job. He is still an asset to the team but not in his current position. I would like to keep him on the bus and move him to a different seat. It’s a tough situation. He is thirty-three years old and has a family. But I feel I must do something. Any suggestions?

Dear Eric,
We all wind up in your situation sooner or later, and I agree—it’s tough. You feel guilty because it’s your fault for putting him there in the first place. I used to try doing what you’re suggesting, but things seldom worked out well. The issue was compensation. If I cut a guy’s salary, he would be resentful. If I didn’t cut his salary, I would become resentful. You need to think clearly and unemotionally about this situation. If you have another job on the same pay level that the guy is suited for, by all means, move him over. But don’t do it if his new responsibilities won’t justify paying him what he’s been getting up to now. It’s better to let him go. If your conscience bothers you, give him a big severance package.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Employees, Growth

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