Tag Archive: human_resources

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

by Susan Caminiti.

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business Remember when you were in college and couldn’t wait to get some work experience out in the so-called “real world”? Well, there’s a current crop of college students who feel the same way, and when utilized correctly, they can be a big help to your small business. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Contrary to what you might think, college interns aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Whether for the summer or during the fall and spring semesters, hiring an intern enables you to influence the next generation of professionals that will soon be out in the workforce—and gives you valuable insights from young, enthusiastic men and women who are interested in your industry. In fact, in a survey of their members, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that employers last year planned on hiring 8.5 percent more college students for internships than they did the prior year. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Before you rush out to your local college or trade school to find students to hire, however, there are some basics do’s and don’ts of internships that are important to understand. Some are simple common sense, but others, if violated, could run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Define the job

The first thing to understand is that these opportunities are more for the benefit of the college student than your small business. Think of internships as a smart way for you to take your experience and success and pay it forward. That’s not to say, however, that there can’t be an upside for your company. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

That’s why it’s important to take the time to define what you really expect from any intern you bring in—the same as you would a full-time employee. Decide on the job functions, how he or she will benefit from the internship, and who will supervise the intern.

 

Crissy Koehler, vice president of sales and marketing for Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based firm that stages hands-on cooking parties and corporate team-building events, says that her company hires interns for its marketing department and for its kitchen management functions. “The students we bring in for our marketing department need to be proficient in social media and communications,” she says. The students in the kitchen management program need food- and cooking-related skills.  “We make it very clear in our job descriptions what the candidate will need for a specific internship,” Koehler adds. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Hiring-Interns_PQ.jpgGet your staff involved

Tara Goodwin Frier, founder of the Goodwin Group, a public relations firm based in Walpole, Mass., has two to three unpaid interns working for her at any given time. She typically finds them by attending college fairs or through the connections she’s developed as a guest lecturer at Boston University. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

While she always makes sure to interview each candidate herself, she also has her younger employees interview the college student as well. These “peer interviews” as she calls them, often reveal more than what Frier will be able to glean. “It’s amazing what a college student will say—or reveal—to someone closer to their age,” she says, noting that some candidates have admitted during the interview process that they’re not even sure what they want to do with their lives. “As much as we value transparency in my company, I do tell these students that that’s something they probably don’t want to repeat in other job interviews,” Frier says. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Decide paid or unpaid

Given that most small businesses are not flush with money, many opt to offer unpaid internships. In most cases, the student will receive college credits for the hours worked in lieu of a paycheck. While hiring an unpaid intern is perfectly legal, there are some guidelines established by the Department of Labor that must be followed. Among them: The intern’s training should be centered on the skill they’re pursuing in college—writing, accounting, culinary trade—and not something unrelated to their studies. In other words, having an unpaid intern around as a source of cheap labor to pick up office supplies or fetch your dry cleaning would likely be frowned upon by the Labor Department. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Frier doesn’t pay her interns, but she does cover expenses related to any events she has them attend on behalf of the company and its clients, and does offer a stipend of several hundred dollars at their end of their internship. “They are getting college credit for the time they’re spending with the company, but I also think the stipend shows that we value their contribution,” she says. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

 

Be ready to offer feedback—and patience

Though some interns will shine brighter than others, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re still college students and will likely need some gentle course correcting—or sometimes more—while they work at your company. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

As a public relations firm with several high-profile clients, including the NFL’s New England Patriots, Frier often needs her interns to interact with reporters. “One of the things I noticed was that college students lack telephone etiquette,” she says. “They’re so used to simply texting or emailing.” To break them of that habit, Frier says she’s written out scripts for what they need to say on the phone when they reach a reporter to figure out if they’re interested in covering a particular event or client. “We work in a multi-generational world,” she says, “so it’s important that we stay aware of the skills that each generation brings with them—or doesn’t.” Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

Branching Out: Staffing Issues to Consider When Opening a Second Location

Branching Out: Staffing Issues to Consider When Opening a Second Location By Iris Dorbian.

Imagine this scenario: After some early struggles, your small business is starting to make money. Your customers are loyal and steady and you are at a point where you can easily pay your overhead and vendors (while taking a healthy salary for yourself). More so than ever, you are ready to open a second location.

Such a proposition presents exciting opportunities for a growing business but it also offers considerable challenges. The biggest hurdle—aside from finding a convenient and affordable location in relatively good condition—is personnel. How are you going to find reliable employees that you’ll be able to trust when you’re not around?

Transfer responsible employees to the second location

If you know straight off that you will not be present much at your company’s second branch, consider transferring key employees who are already well-versed in how your business runs. Such a move will not only save you a lot of sleepless nights, but it will also give your second location a running start by staffing it with trained personnel who can prioritize and act responsibly on your behalf.

Keep in mind some potential pitfalls, however. Moving original staff to a second branch could cause disruption to the workflow at the flagship location. Further, original staffers might not be adept at training a new team to handle company protocol while also dealing with the work volume. That’s why it’s important to fully explain expectations to your flagship staff before you begin shifting workers around.

Hire only when necessary

This may sound counterintuitive when you’re looking to expand, but if your business is a small mom and pop-owned operation with limited funds, it’s an important point to consider.

“Don’t take on the added expense of extra employees until you really need to,” advises Lucille Skroce, co-owner of Matisse Chocolatier, an Englewood, New Jersey-based gourmet chocolate shop that recently opened a second branch in Orangeburg, New York. “You work with what you have until you can’t do it anymore.”

Skroce, who purchased the business in 1995 with her husband Vlado, cites a familiar scourge as the reason for the expansion. “My husband has been unemployed in the construction industry the last three years,” she admits. “[Matisse Chocolatier] is the one business [in our family] that’s doing OK so we thought maybe we can do it again and have another revenue stream coming in.”

Since the second location opened last December, Skroce and her husband have been its full-time staff. However, she recently hired a part-time employee who is not a transplant from the flagship store, which has two full-timers and several part-timers. This addition allows Skroce time to pursue other things and “have a life,” she says.

Don’t sacrifice customer service

Replicating the success of your flagship at a second or even third location means offering the same level of customer service. Don’t sabotage those efforts by skimping on your employee training.

“Our clients love the ability to talk to a real person every time they call in,” says Craig Rollins, CEO of LJCooper Wealth Advisors, a small wealth management firm that launched in Utah in 2000 and has since branched out to offices in Colorado, California, and Florida. “I will never have an automatic or phone tree installed because our customers go out of their way to tell us how much they appreciate being able to speak to a live person.”

“Servicing your clientele needs to be about providing a quality experience that is repeatable and reliable from the receptionist to the CEO,” says Rollins. “Management should staff according to how good they want their customers’ experience to be.”

Even though Lucille and Vlado Skroce are the full-time team at their new location, they are slowly integrating their part-time employee into the new store. The goal of this take-it-slow approach is to give them the time to sufficiently train the new hire so that eventually she will be able to run the second location with little to no supervision.

PQ_StaffingIssues.jpgHire via word of mouth

For small business owners, hiring a new worker through referrals, rather than placing an ad on an industry job board or a site like Craigslist, may be their best bet. Filling a position via word of mouth fosters a greater climate of reliability.

“When you have a small family-run business, your whole family and life revolves around it,” says Skroce. “That’s why it’s so important that the people you bring in are people you can trust.”

Find future employees among customers

“Learn from your prototype what you want out of your staff, then start building buzz to attract that type of individual long before your new store opens,” advises Edward Liesenfelt, general manager of Gelato Paradiso, an Italian dessert shop that opened in Newport Beach, California in 1999 and expanded to a second location in Laguna Beach in 2006. “The reason you are expanding is likely because your flagship location is popular enough to warrant a new venture. Use that to leverage interest in your new location not only from consumers but for potential employees as well.”

Using a strategy similar to that employed by the Skroces, Liesenfelt says Gelato Paradiso, which typically hires employees on a part-time hourly basis, does not advertise vacant positions—even on its website. Rather, Liesenfelt says he looks for applicants drawn from customers that have expressed an interest in working at the shop.

“This way, when we require new help, we start with an applicant base that has already come in, tasted our product, and taken the initiative to get a foot in the door,” he explains .“By the time new prospects fill out their applications, they have already envisioned themselves as a part of our company, which shows during the interview process and beyond.”

Never forget that employees are your best brand ambassadors. Hire smartly and you will foster a work dynamic that will not only make workers want to be part of that environment but attract enthusiastic customers to your next store as well.

Overturn Turnover: How to Keep Employees from Leaving for Greener Pastures

Overturn Turnover: How to Keep Employees from Leaving for Greener Pastures. By Sherron Lumley.

Small businesses want the same top talent that large businesses do, but holding on to good employees is challenging when jobs are plentiful. As a result, small business owners have to be especially creative when it comes to attracting—and retaining—the best workers.

The numbers help tell the story. Since the official end of the recession in July of 2009, job openings are up 45 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. In the first month of 2012, there were a more robust 3.5-million job openings, although that number remains below the 4.3 million mark before the recession began in December 2007. But even in those good old pre-recession days, employee turnover was higher for small businesses than for larger businesses, according to a report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, (SBA).

“Both large and small companies want to hire the same people,” says Casey Alseika, partner of WatsonBarron LLC, an executive recruiting firm in Spring Lake, N.J. His company works with clients ranging in size from major corporations to family-owned small businesses, providing him with a unique vantage point on the matter.

“Larger companies have taken the stance that the job market is not great and they have reduced their numbers and have fewer people doing more work,” says Alseika. “On the other hand, smaller companies are doing the opposite, trying to create a better overall quality-of-life experience for their employees,” he says.
First, hire the right people

Shawn Whisenhunt is the owner of Performace Prototypes, a manufacturing business in Vancouver, Washington that makes parts for excavators, forklifts and other heavy industrial equipment. He’s in his eighth year of operations with 14 employees and has had zero employee turnover since day one. So what’s his secret?

When it comes to hiring, Whisenhunt admits to being selective, taking care to make sure it’s a good fit before a position is offered. After that, “It’s a pretty simple equation,” he says. “Treat employees decently and pay them decently and they will be loyal. I’ve yet to have anyone quit on me.”

He describes the culture at his company as busy yet laid back, and says even though the workers could possibly make a bit more elsewhere, they stay because they like the work atmosphere.

“I let them listen to the stereo all day and they don’t have a set schedule. They can go to lunch when they want, and we have all-you-can-drink coffee,” he says. “As long as they’re turning out good products, I’m happy.”
PQ_Turnover.jpgThen, create the right culture

Kevin Sheridan is Senior Vice President of Human Resources Optimization for Avatar Solutions in Chicago and author of the new book, Building a Magnetic Culture. While he was surprised to see his book shoot to best-seller status, he feels its popularity underscores the mounting concern and interest that businesses have in attracting and retaining talent.

“The top reason people leave,” says Sheridan, “is lack of work-life balance, combined with job stress, which is the perfect storm for disengagement.” Work-life balance, he explains, means employees want to have flexible job hours to deal with things that come up from day to day and they also want the ability to telecommute or work from home, which lets them save money on gas and avoid the stress of a commute.

Besides flexibility, giving employees time off is also part of the work-life balance formula. “This is especially valued by younger workers,” says Sheridan.

The magnetic small business culture that wins the loyalty of its people is one of values and emotional and intellectual commitment from employees, Sheridan explains. “Employee engagement is the attractor and glue of top talent.”
Next, engage employees at all levels

CDL Helpers in Winona, Minn., was created to tackle employee retention in the trucking trade, an industry with some of the highest annual turnover—81 percent last year.

“Employees that feel like their work destabilizes their lives or that their job keeps them from achieving their personal goals will leave,” says CDL Helper’s founder, Tucker Robeson. He recommends a focus on creating stability in the lives of employees and paying people what they need to lead a satisfying, fulfilling life.

Robeson also advises small business owners to reach out to employees personally on a regular basis, in a situation away from their peers. “Give them a chance to have a candid one-on-one discussion with you about what you can do to make their days easier and improve their work environment,” he says.

It’s also important to show your ground floor employees exactly how their small actions are crucial to the big goals of the business, Robeson adds. Tell them directly how important their job truly is to the overall success of the business.

Alseika from WatsonBarron concurs. “People are a small company’s biggest resource. It’s important to give everyone a sense that they are a part of the company’s long term plans.”
Consider your employee benefits

Like it or not, “It’s difficult for a small business to retain employees if they don’t offer healthcare. People will take less money to get good health care benefits,” says Alseika.

Health and retirement benefits are the most important factors contributing to employee turnover, he notes, and SBA research confirms that benefits decrease the probability of an employee leaving by 26.2 percent, reports the SBA’s Department of Advocacy.

Beyond healthcare and retirement, 44 million U.S. workers lack paid sick days, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, and this is another motivator in the decision to stay or go. Although healthcare benefits may be too expensive for some small companies to offer and still stay in business, paid sick days and family leave are supportive policies that improve job quality and employee morale, which, in turn, reduce employee turnover.
Finally, say ‘Thank you.’

Back in Vancouver, Wash., Whisenhunt says his employees at Performance Prototypes know they are appreciated and he sees this as key to his success. “Thank them,” he advises, “give them a bonus, pay them for Christmas and major holidays and buy them lunch once in a while.”

As for health or retirement benefits at Performance Prototypes, “No we haven’t got there yet,” he says, “but we’ve talked about doing it and it’s coming.”

Hiring Consultants for your Small Business

There are several factors that could lead a small business to hire a consultant, even if it’s temporary. In general terms, you might need specialized expertise for a specific period of time, such as while networking your computers or launching a web site. Or, you might want to have stable subcontractors whom you can bring in to meet seasonal demands or to handle larger projects.

There are many different types of consultants. The following are six types of independent contractors you might consider hiring depending on your small business’ needs:

Computer Consultants come with varying levels of skill and expertise. Make sure that the consultant is comfortable with a broad range of hardware and software and that the individual is actually a consultant, not a reseller.

Information Technology Consultants do not offer the same services as computer consultants. IT consultants are more strategic than operational and can help pinpoint technology needs, hire and oversee your service providers, advise on product selection and manage complex projects such as database development, network architecture and e-commerce design.

Human Resources Consultants can be brought in if a company has a hiring or staff management problem that cannot be handled internally. HR consultants can handle executive recruiting, temporary staffing of skilled workers, policy and manual drafting, and benefits administration. HR consultants can range from sole practitioners, or they can be from boutique firms or large outfits.

Sales Consultants are often hired for a number of reasons: Perhaps your track record of deal closings is not as good as it could be. Or, maybe you know how to close a deal, but have limited experience building and training a sales team. You may also need help creating a compensation and incentives structure for sales employees if you’ve grown in size.

No matter what type of contractor you are seeking, there are some guidelines you should consider as you undertake your search and hiring process:

Pull Quote.pngTap your personal network, use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Craigslist and ask for recommendations from professional associations in your area.
Consider the size of your business and your particular needs when deciding whether to hire a large brand-name consulting firm or an independent contractor
Conduct a comprehensive interview
Forget the words “verbal agreement.”The structure of your business relationship, the scope of work, fee arrangements and project timeframe should all be spelled out in a legally binding contractual agreement.
Test the waters
Keep costs under control
Don’t forget to build an exit clause

Working with experienced consultants can be an effective way to grow your business without taking on the risk of adding permanent staff. However, remember that a consultant is only as good as the client relationship allows. Be a good partner with your consultants by committing the time upfront to explain projects, making yourself available when needed and working toward making consultants feel like they’re part of your company.
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Hiring Consultants for your Small Business

There are several factors that could lead a small business to hire a consultant, even if it’s temporary. In general terms, you might need specialized expertise for a specific period of time, such as while networking your computers or launching a web site. Or, you might want to have stable subcontractors whom you can bring in to meet seasonal demands or to handle larger projects.

There are many different types of consultants. The following are six types of independent contractors you might consider hiring depending on your small business’ needs:

Computer Consultants come with varying levels of skill and expertise. Make sure that the consultant is comfortable with a broad range of hardware and software and that the individual is actually a consultant, not a reseller.

Information Technology Consultants do not offer the same services as computer consultants. IT consultants are more strategic than operational and can help pinpoint technology needs, hire and oversee your service providers, advise on product selection and manage complex projects such as database development, network architecture and e-commerce design.

Human Resources Consultants can be brought in if a company has a hiring or staff management problem that cannot be handled internally. HR consultants can handle executive recruiting, temporary staffing of skilled workers, policy and manual drafting, and benefits administration. HR consultants can range from sole practitioners, or they can be from boutique firms or large outfits.

Sales Consultants are often hired for a number of reasons: Perhaps your track record of deal closings is not as good as it could be. Or, maybe you know how to close a deal, but have limited experience building and training a sales team. You may also need help creating a compensation and incentives structure for sales employees if you’ve grown in size.

No matter what type of contractor you are seeking, there are some guidelines you should consider as you undertake your search and hiring process:

Pull Quote.pngTap your personal network, use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Craigslist and ask for recommendations from professional associations in your area.
Consider the size of your business and your particular needs when deciding whether to hire a large brand-name consulting firm or an independent contractor
Conduct a comprehensive interview
Forget the words “verbal agreement.”The structure of your business relationship, the scope of work, fee arrangements and project timeframe should all be spelled out in a legally binding contractual agreement.
Test the waters
Keep costs under control
Don’t forget to build an exit clause

Working with experienced consultants can be an effective way to grow your business without taking on the risk of adding permanent staff. However, remember that a consultant is only as good as the client relationship allows. Be a good partner with your consultants by committing the time upfront to explain projects, making yourself available when needed and working toward making consultants feel like they’re part of your company.