Small Business Owner: I’m too busy to hire help!


In the May 2, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a doctor’s small business suffers from hiring the wrong people.

Question

I’m a doctor running a solo medical practice. How do small businesses like mine get good managers and staff? I have two medical assistants I’m dependent on to keep work flow steady.

I caught the new assistant doing something very inappropriate! I was livid, but there were patients waiting and I needed them to get back to work. So, the next morning I had a talk with them. My instincts told me to fire the old assistant on the spot, because she makes a lot of errors and isn’t very conscientious, but I need her until I can hire someone new.

So, I’m scrambling to find someone. I’m too busy running to look up. I may have found a good prospect but she needs to give notice to her current employer. There ought to be some semi-structured ways to find under-employed business managers and great employees. Any suggestions?

Nick’s Reply

I know the fire drill: Small business owner is too busy to hire good help. Meanwhile, the business burns down.

Small business is too busy

Employers kid themselves that they’re too busy to recruit and hire good people. My rule of thumb: If you’re not spending 15% of your time recruiting — even if you’re not ready to hire immediately — then you’re not managing your business. Your business depends on good employees.

It’s clear that the staffing problems you describe are the result of hiring the wrong people to begin with. If you were devoting 15% of your time to recruiting, you’d have good people in your hiring pipeline. Yes — you read that right. Even a business with just two employees needs a candidate pipeline! When you don’t have a short list of very good potential hires in your desk drawer, you’ll wind up hiring the wrong people and pretty soon you’ll need to fire them (if they don’t quit). That’s no way to run a healthy business.

Good sources keep your candidate pipeline full

Small business owners rely too much on a sort of “just in time” hiring strategy — posting ads at the last minute and interviewing random applicants who come in over the transom. That’s no way to hire.

You must maintain a pipeline full of the kinds of people you’d be happy to hire. This means you must go out into your professional community to meet and and recruit them yourself. Posting jobs and waiting for candidates to appear when you need them is a fool’s errand. You already know that. I want you to realize it.

But stop looking for job candidates. The people you need to hire will come to you mostly via trusted referrals — so learn to identify sources of good candidates. One good source will lead you to worthy candidates again and again.

Make sourcing your business

Make it your business to source good managers and employees. I’ll start you off with a few examples.

As part of your 15% recruiting time, you should regularly attend a local chamber of commerce breakfast. Ask the attendees and event coordinators – not for referrals to possible candidates, but for referrals to possible sources of good candidates. A handful of reliable, trusted sources is an absolute must for any small business that can’t afford to be down 50% of its staff. That’s where the best job candidates always come from.

Go to that chamber meeting. Chat up who you meet. These are the movers and shakers in your business community.

How to Say It
“If you were trying to fill a job like this, who would you go to for some good referrals? Who do you know that knows under-employed business managers? Would you be kind enough to introduce us?”

I’m talking about local lawyers, accountants, retailers, building contractors, bankers, technology consultants — all the people who gather to feed one another business. As a group, they know everyone — including people you need to hire. If you feed this channel of referrals regularly, it will be there when you need to hire. By feeding, I mean returning favors: Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why). Stay in touch with them. They know who’s under-employed, who’s talented, and who may be looking for work.

Recruiting: A small business necessity

You can recruit anywhere, any time. That 15% recruiting-time suggestion isn’t so outlandish if you consider that you can do it while doing other things. You can source potential hires while chatting with a patient who might know local talent. Or in the grocery checkout line. Or while talking with a pharmaceutical sales rep who calls on other medical offices and knows who’s happy at their job and who’s not. (Meet the right people offers tips to help job seekers network. But any employer can use the same tips to recruit.)

Don’t make sourcing and recruiting a last-minute fire drill in your business — especially if it’s a small business. If you think you can post a job ad and wait for instant job applicants, you’re going to hire more wrong people – “because they came along.”

Take the medicine now

I’ll bet you tell your patients, “Take the medicine now. Change your diet and behavior now. Or suddenly it’ll be too late.”

Start devoting 15% of your time to keeping your staff at 100%. If you’re too busy running to look up, you should see what it’s like to wind up flat on your back with no support staff.

For more tips about how to recruit like your business depends on it, see Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.

Once you find good candidates, know what to do with them! Read Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants (Part 1).

Still think you need help to hire good help? Check Talk to Nick. (No, I’m not going to sell you headhunting services. The offer is to teach you the basics of being your own headhunter for your own small business!)

How do you maintain 100% staffing for your small business? Do you rely on job postings and just-in-time hiring? Or do you make recruiting personal?

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