Help! I need somebody.
by Norman Froscher
Help! I need somebody.
Help! Not just anybody.
Help! You know I need someone.
I don’t know that the Beatles wrote their song “Help!” with a small business owner in mind, but the lyrics definitely feel spot on sometimes.
As small business owners, we faced many challenges in 2020. Fortunately, our stores were considered essential businesses and we not only could continue operating, but many of us had record years. For some, this posed a double-edged sword of how we handle the increased traffic and demand without miraculously cloning ourselves or working even more hours. (I know some of you are groaning at this and wondering if it is even possible.) Even before the pandemic, hiring and staffing has been an issue raised in conferences, on message boards, and on social media. How do I find a good employee? And when I do, how do I keep them?
In recruiting a new employee, the traditional methods of posting the job on Facebook, Craigslist, and Indeed are the most common alternatives. And I recommend that you do that, casting as wide a net as you can. But I would also suggest that you post signs prominently in your store. Your customers can be a valuable asset and further your reach. They are already an advocate for you and may be looking for a job themselves or know someone who is. Also, talk to your current employees. They already know what it takes to work in our industry and may know someone who would be a good fit.
Check with your local high schools and colleges. Many of them have distributive education programs where students will go to school and then work after. These students are often ideal candidates because they are not looking for full-time employment. Connecting with the administrators and advisors in charge of these type of programs may prove to be a good connections to have in the future as you engage with your community.
Once you have found a candidate, it is critical that you have an established training system set up. We offer so many services that we often take for granted but it can be a little overwhelming to a new person. As a store owner, we are used to packing with one hand, while sending a fax with the other, while creating a shipping label and notarizing a document with our proverbial third and fourth hands. In our store, we break training into small, manageable bite-sized pieces. Each additional day, we add a little more while reinforcing the previous training with repetition. We have an actual physical printed checklist, and the employee initials each service when they feel proficient with it.
One final part of hiring someone is, I feel, the most important: feedback. People want to know that they are appreciated and providing positive encouragement and feedback will help create a sense of belonging and engagement. And the more your team is happy and engaged, the better they will perform for you.
Norman Froscher and his wife Lisa co-own Espresso Mail in West Palm Beach, Florida and Norman serves on the AMBC Board of Directors as Director of Engagement and Board Vice Chair. When he’s not packing, shipping, or printing, he’s looking for a good cup of coffee or espresso, which makes it really convenient that he has a coffee bar in his store. #NormanKnows
This article was published in MBC Today Volume 23 Issue 2 on March 3, 2021. The full issue is available to AMBC Members in the member only section of ambc4me.org.