Growing your staff is not something you learn how to do in school.
Most small business owners have to learn as they go. This is no easy feat and those first few hires are usually born out of necessity.
When your company is growing, your hiring approach is to add staff as you have need. If you are having trouble getting brand recognition, you hire someone to do marketing. If you can’t keep up with orders, you bring on operations help. If you need more sales, you hire a salesperson.
This is totally normal. But pretty soon your team is small group of people with a mash-up of different skill sets. There aren’t clear roles of who is doing what as everyone’s position has developed around what they are capable of doing. But stuff is getting done so it is a “good enough” system that’s working.
But there are some pitfalls.
What if someone that you’ve built your business around suddenly leaves for a new opportunity? Their departure causes a rift in the status quo as your remaining employees scramble to figure out how to fill the gap.
A few weeks later, another employee leaves before you had a chance to replace the first one. The scramble continues.
Then as the workload mounts even higher another staff member resigns. Then another. It feels like a landslide, the team is really in a panic.
Pretty soon, the “good enough” system has completely bottomed out and you feel like you have to start over. Furthermore, you realize that the learn-as-you-go approach to hiring didn’t serve in the end. Work is piling up, staff keeps leaving, and your company is on the line. You need help, FAST.
Iris and her husband, E-Kwan, run an internationally recognized textile company, Brentano Fabrics. They had been building the business over the course of 30 years. During those years, they hired several people to manage different sections of the business and everything was great. The business was growing, customers were thrilled, and things were humming along.
Then one day, a sales manager resigned after 20 years of working at the company.
His departure caused a tidal wave of resignations and, within a matter of months, Iris and E-Kwan found themselves with almost no management team. They didn’t know what had happened and didn’t know how to recover.
This thinned out staff put the business in a perilous position. The owners and the remaining staff, were trying to manage so much that suddenly things felt very loose and nothing was holding together. Each day they were wondering if more people would leave. Adding new clients was almost impossible as the business owners tried to grapple with getting their staff numbers back-up while maintaining their current pace. Revenue started to drop.
Iris and E-Kwan were very nervous about keeping the business going and building up the team at the same time. They knew they could not solve their hiring conundrums by themselves and maintain the high level of service they had built their reputation upon. Even more, they wanted to avoid the same thing from happening ever again.
They heard about Brad with Anchor Advisors. They liked how quickly he understood their situation and who they were as business owners. His “smart and quick” style sealed the deal and they decided he was the one to help.
Brad and the Anchor Advisors team got down to work so that Brentano Fabrics could rebuild their team and create an approach to hiring for the long-term.
They evaluated every aspect of Brentano’s hiring practices and discovered many decisions that had put the company at risk.
Their first task was to establish a new approach to financial planning because this is where hiring decisions should start. Brad developed a forecasting tool for Iris and E-Kwan so that they can evaluate what kind of investments and expenses to take on and when – including one of the biggest investments of all – their staff! They would no longer rely on adding staff whenever there was extra work to do and figuring things out later.
Next the Anchor Advisors team looked at why everything failed when one person left the company. They discovered that the roles were often defined around what team members wanted and were interested in. Over time this built a chaotic structure with no way to measure anyone’s performance. As a result, many of the team members did not have the necessary skills for the roles they were in. It was almost like it had been put together with duct tape over the years. When one piece finally got ripped off, the whole thing collapsed.
To replace this, Brad and his team built a solid employee structure that was designed around the company’s needs. Anchor Advisors created job descriptions, salary requirements, and qualifications for each role to be competitive in the marketplace and reflect the culture and goals of Brentano Fabrics. These pieces would make sure there would be no guessing whether a candidate was the right fit during the hiring process AND ensure that the positions in the company supported what Iris and E-Kwan needed to reach their goals.
For example, one area that needed the most restructuring was the sales department. With their sales volume growing and their customer base changing Brentano needed more specific positions to enable the company to reach the whole market. They introduced new roles, like adding a VP of Sales and Marketing and District Managers that had different qualifications. The VP of Sales and Marketing had to be a numbers person that could evaluate sales data to guide the department and advise the owners. In contrast, the district managers had to possess strong leadership qualities to develop staff, communication skills for clients, and sales know-how to meet sales goals.
Finally, after the financial forecasting and company structure was in place, it was time to bring on the staff.
Anchor Advisors managed the entire recruitment and interview process and guided Iris and E-Kwan through each step. They coached Iris and E-Kwan on expert interviewing, negotiation skills, and helped them identify the right candidates. This process for evaluating both hard skills and soft qualities of a candidate would ensure that Brentano would only bring on the people that were the best-fit for the role.
Brentano Fabrics is now thriving from a solid team structure with a growing staff.
The new structure is working very well and Iris and E-Kwan now focus on growing the business to new levels. Their new staff members are highly successful and already shining in their roles. Iris describes the new staff as “down-to-Earth and conservative” which fits in perfectly with the culture her and her husband wanted to build.
Best of all, Brentano is set to fully recover from their losses last year and even expect to see 10% growth in sales! Morale has greatly improved and there have been no resignations to speak of.
Anchor Advisors’ help has set Brentano Fabrics up for bigger and better things! Things are no longer “loose” in the company; Iris and E-Kwan have gotten total control of their business back and feel good about going into work every single day with their happy team!