Practical tips on staffing

Managing the human side of your business is critical to success. It’s no mean feat to hire the right candidates, manage and motivate them, and truly engage their enthusiasm to help your business grow.

To bring a different perspective to staffing issues, I recently interviewed Debbie Williams. After working for many years in strategy consulting, Debbie decided to pursue her own entrepreneurial venture: Otto’s Meats. She’s aiming to re-design the traditional butcher’s shop model to better suit today’s busy consumers.


Q: Debbie, you developed a thorough business plan before starting out. What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs when it comes to staff?

A: Think about the kind of staff you’ll need before starting the business. Are there trained staff available? Will staff availability limit your expansion plans? What culture will you need for the kind of staff you employ? (e.g. IT vs management vs accounting vs trade vs retail) Will there be a culture clash between various parts of the organisation?

Q. In changing the culture of the traditional butcher’s shop, you’ve been through a few staff changes. What have you learned from the process?

A: It is **much** better to be under-staffed than hire the wrong person. It is very time consuming and stressful going through the process before you can fire someone and much easier to get it right the first time. In addition there is the potential for a negative impact on your customers. Take your time with hiring, even if it means slowing down your plans.

Q. We hear a lot about red tape and paperwork when it comes to employing people. How has this affected your business?

A. Understanding awards and the other contract options can be complex but it is very important. You need to take into account all costs of employing people when negotiating with staff. In addition to salaries and wages this includes: loadings for overtime, weekends etc; leave loadings; holiday pay; allowances (some awards have tens of these); superannuation; and workcover (which is based on total wages). 

I’d advise people to consider casual employment models. It provides you more flexibility as your needs change, and some staff prefer to receive more money when they work rather than holiday pay (e.g. young mothers who need to pay for childcare when they work). The additional 20-25% loading is nearly always offset by not having to pay holiday and sick leave, and your staff often feel like they are being paid more.

Also, lots of businesses (especially in retail and hospitality) pay staff off the books in cash. If you want to grow your business into something someone will invest in, I believe that everything needs to be above board. If an investor can’t trust your salary figures, what does that say about how you run the rest of your business?

Q. FInally, what advice do you have on motivating staff?

A. Staff all have different things that are important to them – some are just interested in the money, others are more interested in job satisfaction. You need to understand what is motivating each person. And treat your best staff like gods. They will pay you back in kind and can save your butt!


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