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?
Donald

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

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?
Renee

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

Can I afford to hire an employee?

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I have a small business that tutors people in writing. I’ve been running it out of my home as a sole proprietor, using independent contractors. One woman who has been editing for me wants to come on as a full-time employee doing marketing and sales. I need someone to do that. Still, taking her on full-time would be a big financial commitment. She might also generate more business than I could handle. So am I crazy to consider hiring her?
Sharon

Dear Sharon,
It’s never crazy to hire an employee, provided you have the need and understand the financial consequences. That involves determining the additional sales you’ll have to generate in order to cover the new expenses. To do that, add up those expenses over a period of time and divide by your average gross margin. Suppose, for example, that in the first year it will cost you $39,000 to bring on this employee and make other changes, and your gross margin is 30%. You would then need to increase your annual sales by $130,000 at the same gross margin to cover the new expenses and maintain your current profitability. To reduce the risk, try an experiment. Have her work part-time in sales and continue doing her editing until you both have a better sense of the new arrangement.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Employees, Hiring

How do I hire the right salesperson?

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My partner, Jon, and I have a two-year-old technology start-up. Our problem is that neither one of us is a salesperson. Jon is an engineer, and I’m a systems analyst. I’d rather have dental surgery without Novocain than go out and sell. So we need a salesperson, but I’m worried about hiring someone who will give away the store. We offer a one-year, complete-satisfaction-or-your-money-back guarantee. If we wind up buying too much back, we’ll go out of business. With our reputation at stake, we can’t afford to go the gold-chains-red-sports-car route. How can we make sure we get the right type of salesperson?
Eric

Dear Eric,
You need to begin by recognizing that you are, in fact, the best salesperson for your product. You know it better than anyone else, and you have a passion for it. You probably have trouble making the initial contact with prospective customers. Fine. Hire someone to do that for you. Look for a personable individual who is good at cold-calling, turning up leads, and identifying prospects—and who can deal with the hardest part of selling, namely, rejection. Let that person bring you prospects who are pre-qualified and ready to buy. You’ll become the closer. That way, you’ll have control over their expectations.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Hiring, Sales, Startups