You own a small business or you help manage one. You feel responsible for the lives of the people who work for you and you think the market is going to pick up at some point in the next year. Maybe an “extra” sales person would help your business grow. Maybe you have the right sales people, but they are starting to get busy again and you really need someone to help manage those new clients. Maybe your human resource person has been working as a 1- person show for years and it’s time to help him/her to become more strategic and you want to hire another person for that department. Situations, similar to the ones above, are occurring all over the country and yes, are even happening in Michigan. Most of the small business leaders I have met in Michigan still have interest in growing their businesses and increasing their profitability, which typically increases a demand for hiring (whether to add new heads or top-grade current employees), but attempting to be mindful of running your business; when is the right time to hire?
In my opinion, hiring is the byproduct of strong recruiting activity and recruiting, believe it or not, is strategic and has a disciplined methodology. Recruiting is something that organizations could be doing on a regular basis, but why would businesses actively recruit in a down market? My answer; recruiting can help with a strategic “top-grade” of talent in a down market and it can proactively connect you with pools of talent, so when the market picks up, your company’s time to recruit and hire is dramatically reduced. It is natural for a leader to question, so it’s normal that the questions of; is the “investment” in new people worth the risk? Can your business afford to hire? Is the market positively turning in Michigan within 6, 12 or 18 months? No one has the perfect answer for these questions, so now is the time to lead, fearlessly.
I consult with small and mid-sized businesses each year that face these challenges. For 15 years I have been “putting people to work” and helping companies design the “processes” for how to find, screen, interview and hire the right talent for their organizations. Michigan’s “rebound” from the economic disaster of 2008 & 2009 may not happen for another 6-12 months and when it does, we’ll still feel “different” than the glory days we experienced in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but that shouldn’t prevent the chief executives in Michigan’s small business community from making a brave decision; paying close attention to the power of having the right people on their teams, regardless of economic times.
For those who haven’t read it; Jim Collins wrote Good to Great and in his book, Mr. Collins and his research team review the findings of years of research where they looked for trends to “pinpoint” why certain companies in the United States moved from “good performing companies” to “great performing companies” and one of the trends Mr. Collins’ team discovered was the common denominator of “great performing companies” finding the right people to work for their companies and ensuring that those hires are in the right role within their organization. He uses the metaphor of a bus ride and says that business is like a bus; get the right people on your bus, make sure that they are sitting in the right seats on that bus and you’ll be one step closer to having a smooth ride. As a business owner, you have your own “bus” and you determine what defines the “right” people and if you commit to it; you’ll also be able to work hard to determine who sits where on the bus, ensuring a successful trip.
As you read Good to Great, it becomes apparent that most of these business examples detail the experiences of “large” organizations, but the core exercise of keeping the right people on the bus can be applied to a bus that holds 5000 people or a bus that has 5 people. Another strong read that illustrates similar points is Bo Burlingham’s book; Small Giants. This book highlights organizations that choose to be great instead of big (growing not for the sake of revenues, but to increase their impact on a certain region).
The businesses I consult for want guidance and information about knowing how and when they should hire, so when I say “recruit” proactively, these leaders typically say, “I’m not ready to hire” to which I respond with; “recruiting is the process of attracting talent into your business radar, hiring happens AFTER you recruit.”. Yes… you can recruit without having to hire!
If your business is contemplating hiring; talk to an expert and work together to design a plan that affords your organization the people who will help your company grow. Ironically, in a down turn, it can be one of the most strategic times to explore building an “engine” that can help you recruit the quality and the volume that is specific to your company. Don’t wait until the market picks up and you “need” the hire, because by then, it may actually cost you more than you could have imagined.
Travis Furlow is a Managing Director with Resource Recruiting and Learning Solutions and he has been in the recruiting industry for 15 years. He devotes his time to coaching & consulting business owners who contemplate using innovative methods to recruit for their organizations. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a note at www.fearlessleadership.wordpress.com .