Tag Archive: staffing_plans

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.

Help Wanted–Sales: When is the Right Time to Hire Your First Sales Rep?

Help Wanted–Sales: When is the Right Time to Hire Your First Sales Rep?by Iris Dorbian.

When David Greenberg launched Parliament Tutors (an academic coaching service targeting students from kindergarten to college), in 2009, he did everything—from sales and marketing to training and recruiting. The multi-tasking paid off because a year later, the twenty-something wunderkind found himself in an enviable position: His startup, whose staff consisted of just himself and an academic advisor, was thriving, having reached $30,000 a month in sales. Upon hitting that figure, the NYU graduate decided it was time to hire his first sales rep.

It was an auspicious move. In January, Parliament Tutors, which now employs more than 500 tutors (most of whom are independent contractors), has four full-time employees and serves customers in 25 states, had its best month ever with sales of $52,000. A large part of that success, according to Greenberg, is attributable to his decision to hire a sales rep.

Still, it wasn’t easy. “Making that step was definitely intimidating because things obviously slowed a bit while [the sales rep] adjusted into his new role,” Greenberg admits. “However, it proved to make sense, while I focused on improving our business model and growth strategy.”

For entrepreneurs like Greenberg, hiring a sales rep can be a pivotal point in a company’s growth. The critical question is: When is the right time to make such a hire? Is it the obvious—when your company starts generating profits and you are unable to meet your business objectives without assistance? Or are there other circumstances that warrant it? Furthermore, how do you train and retain these new sales reps so they will fit in with your corporate culture and not flee for greener financial pastures once another opportunity arises?
Hire when it’s affordable

“New businesses should hire their first sales rep as quickly as they can afford it,” says Michelle Furyaka, executive vice president of NPD Global Inc., a five-year-old executive recruitment firm based in New York City.

However, she acknowledges there’s a catch. “It takes time to find the right personality to work for a small firm,” she cautions. “Don’t be fooled by a sales rep that promises you a lot of business. Small companies struggle to pay a top-notch person and they wind up leaving quickly because they are not used to rolling up their sleeves.”
PQ_SalesRep.jpgFind like-minded souls

For Greenberg, it helps that his first sales rep shared his vision about education and had done plenty of homework about the company well before the job interview.

“When we spoke, he was less focused on the deficiencies in the system, and was incredibly knowledgeable on what was working,” Greenberg recalls. “I was really impressed, considering most of my interviewees focused on the problems when asked to discuss the education environment today.”

NPD Global hired its first sales rep a year after its launch. “We stabilized our expenses and became self sufficient,” relates Furyaka. “Once all operational expenses were covered, we were ready to grow. In the beginning, one of the principals was doing all the sales, but once we reached a certain number and she was needed for another role, we were ready to hire.”

Although NPD Global’s first sales rep did play a key role in growing overall sales, profits were still flat. Management underestimated the total cost of hiring a sales professional. “We found the right person who helped us open a few new accounts, but there were expenses affiliated with him, such as salary, support, and client [costs].”
Analyze your sales cycle

The equation changes if the sales position is a straight commission role, says Tom Armour, co-founder of High Return Selection, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses attract and retain top talent. In this case, the cost can be relatively low.

The length of the sales cycle is a factor as well. “Sales roles vary dramatically across businesses,” continues Armour, an HR executive who once worked at Hewlett-Packard. “Basically there are sales roles that sell products, while others sell services. The length of the sales cycle can vary from one hour to 18 months.” Armour cites retail sales as an industry with a sales cycle that can be completed quickly, typically within an hour, while B2B product or service sales can take months to complete. Longer sales cycle jobs can cost a business 10 percent to 15 percent of new sales, he says.
Time it right

Other than when your company starts growing revenue, when is it time for your small business to hire a sales rep? Here are a few more hints from the experts:

You don’t have the time anymore to generate leads and follow-up with potential or existing customers in a timely fashion.
You are not a skilled sales person.
Your time is better served in working on other areas of your business.

Like a casting director seeking out the right actors for roles, small business owners should be deliberate when bringing on a sales rep that best matches their company’s culture.

Other best practices to employ:

Make sure your first sales hire has values that match your own. “Your first sales rep is going to be the new face and the front line of your business,” advises Greenberg. “Don’t just consider their ability to ‘sell’ a customer.”
Look for people with a solid work ethic. They don’t need to be from the same industry, says Furyaka. “If the foundation is there and they are willing to learn, you will retain them and everyone will be happy.”
Offer competitive compensation and enticing incentives. “A top sales professional can make good money in many businesses,” maintains Armour, “but it is the leadership and recognition that retains them.”