business_link I need to recruit a member of staff, how should I approach it?

This might seem like a strange question to tackle in the current climate, but quite a number of business are taking the opportunity presented by the recession to grow and are looking to recruit.

It is quite a while since we have looked at this topic in our newsletters so we will revisit it again in this and the next one.

But is recruitment the right way to go at the moment?


Good question. Let's look at some of the more common reasons to recruit:

  • We need more help and or expertise in sales;
  • We need more back-office support to release me to spend more time on the critical tasks related to developing the business;
  • The workload is increasing generally as the business grows, and people are being overstretched, so we need to reorganise and bring in another person;
  • We are targeting a new market and we need someone with expertise and experience in that market.

First of all look at how you organise your business and yourself.

  • Can your systems be improved so that more effective use is made of yours and staff time?
  • Can you and your staff work more effectively within the existing system by identifying and concentrating on priorities - working smarter?
  • Could outsourcing be a more cost-effective solution to taking on the fixed cost of a new member of staff? Bookkeeping, admin, telemarketing are some common activities to outsource.

Just to reinforce the point, you need to make sure your systems are effective and that you and your staff are working effectively, otherwise you will not get the full benefit from a new employee, but you will incur the full cost.

I've done all that, but I need to employ an extra person.

Ok, let's start at the beginning; good planning is crucial to good recruitment.

  • First let's look at the role; ask yourself:
  • Why do I need to recruit?
  • Where does the role fit within my vision and plans for the business?
  • What overall responsibilities will the new member of staff have?
  • What specific activities and tasks will the new employee be required to undertake?
  • What standards of performance am I looking for, and how will I measure the new employee's job performance?
  • How will the new job fit in with existing roles within the business, who will they liaise with?
  • Who will they need to communicate with: other staff, customers etc?
  • Who will they report to?

From this you can draw up a job description,

Next create a mental picture of the ideal person to fill the role for instance:

  • Past experience;
  • Skills, knowledge and education qualifications.
  • Identify the ideal qualities that you are looking for in the new employee, but also think about your minimum requirements.

Two cautionary notes when thinking about the right person for the job:

i) If you are too restrictive in the way you describe the person you are looking for you might miss out on some less obvious candidates who, with some training and nurturing, potentially could grow into the role and be very successful. Have a picture of who you are looking for, but watch out for those potential future stars.

i) It is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of: sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or disability.

Both the Job Description and the Personal Specification can be given to others for them to help you with the recruitment process i.e. Job Centre Plus, recruitment agencies etc. Potential candidates can self-assess themselves using these documents. The content will also form the basis for the interview and the core questions you will need to address.

So where have we got to?

Well, we have decided to recruit, identified the job in detail, the performance standards required and given some thought to the type of person best suited to the role and the business.

Next month we will look at the recruitment process, the interview itself and the induction.



That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support



business link

I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?

In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.

However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.

What opportunities do we want to capitalise on?

You will need to identify an opportunity. This might be submitting a joint bid on a tender, or entering another market sector, or a particularly large customer to target which otherwise you would not have the credibility, skill or the resources to convert into a customer. You may not identify a specific opportunity at the early stage, but all parties should have a purpose for wanting to collaborate.

Choose your partners - but choose wisely!

The choice of collaborative partner is critical. Sometimes the criteria for partner selection are woefully inadequate and more suitable to choosing a golf partner than a business partner. Getting on with business partners is essential, but more is needed.

Taking it on trust

Trust; this is a difficult one as it only truly forms with experience. There will be issues possibly, for some, on intellectual property and the need for confidentiality and confidentiality agreements. But ultimately you will need to trust partners, sometimes with sensitive information about your own business as you proceed to collaborate. Not only that, you will need to trust that the other parties will fulfil their responsibilities on the projects or ventures that you undertake; there will inevitably be division of labour and you are unlikely to be in a position to supervise, hands-on, the things that others are accountable for.

Skills match

One of the big advantages of business collaboration is that you gain access to skills and competencies not available in your own business i.e. the other party excels in areas where you are weak and vice versa. This doesn't happen automatically; drawing up a skills map and skills-auditing each potential partner in order to match skills required with skills available is a crucial part of the preparation stage.

Cultural match

If you, as a sole trader, are wanting to collaborate with other sole traders, understanding the other party's style of doing business, vision, view of the world around them, their values and beliefs and behaviours will be important for effective collaboration.

If you are a larger business with staff and even possibly a management team, how you go about understanding each other's business culture will need a lot of careful thought. Each MD spending time at the other's business getting to know people and processes is a good place to start.

Process matching

This is about how you or your company actually works from end to end. How you sell, market your products & services, communicate internally, & externally, deal with suppliers, customer relationship management; how you actually make the products and provide the service, how you run your admin and finance functions etc. Don't assume that because your own business runs effectively and smoothly that there will be no difficulties when you collaborate with others even if they too have a smooth running business.

Legal & structural aspects

Collaborative agreements or even legal entities may be needed depending on the depth of the relationship and complexity of the work being undertaken. Seek specialist advice.

So yes it is definitely an option to consider...

It is widely accepted that business cooperation / collaboration is a valid strategy for growing a business. There are huge benefits to be had from utilising the synergy of complementary businesses as well as potential economies of scale.

...but don't go into it blindfolded

We have only scratched the surface and looked at a few aspects, but even so it should be clear that some form of due diligence is needed before any decision is made. Good advice is essential for each party separately and, if the idea progresses, possibly a facilitator, either internal, or external to mediate and to project manage the formation and early stages of the partnership or joint-venture.

A sobering thought is that the majority of collaborative business relationships fail. So do your groundwork first, be prepared to put the time and effort into making the partnership work and you stand a chance of being one of those businesses that succeed with collaborative cooperative relationships.

In a nutshell:

  • Identify the business opportunity
  • Choose your partner carefully
  • Spend time getting to know them and their business
  • Take advice
  • Be clear about the risks and benefits

If you think that collaborative co-operative working is a possible strategy for you but you're not sure where to start, talk to one of our business advisers.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser
tel: 07717 290309

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Business Link - the place to go for business support



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