When a typical start-up embroidery company opens its doors for the first days of business the staff usually consist of a single entrepreneur or sometimes a couple of good friends who form a simple working partnership. These dedicated individuals work long hours and often perform a plethora of duties which include selling, purchasing, accounting, operating an embroidery machine, and finishing and engineering just to name a few. Often these businesses are started on a tight budget and the owners postpone their first paychecks to re-invest that money back into the business to allow it to grow.
With a good business plan to guide this venture, it is inevitable that a business will grow and flourish. Along with this growth comes an increase in the number of man-hours necessary to meet these demands. The math is simple - there are only so many hours in one day that one person can sustain before it becomes overwhelming. At this point in time, you have only two choices:
- You can turn away business and keep the business small
- Add staff and allow the company to grow
If you choose this second option, the question now becomes how do I go about re-distributing the work and matching it to good, qualified people?
Before exploring these questions, it’s important to understand the relationship betweenfundamental job skill sets and personal temperament. After that, it will be necessary to assess the owner’s skill sets and then hire accordingly. This will yield the best results as you add people to your company.
Fundamental job skills
The three primary skill sets necessary to run most businesses are a) sales b) accounting and c) production or operations.
- Selling is a unique skill that requires strong communication skills. This is the person who represents the company to the customer. They have to approach the customer properly and make a good impression. They have to determine a match between the customer’s needs and the product or service being offered by the company. They have to ask for the order. Finally, they have to follow up and service the account.
- Accounting is also a unique skill that requires the knowledge of how a Profit and Loss statement and a Balance Sheet work together. They have to be comfortable working with numbers and be meticulous in maintaining and balancing accounts and statements. They have to understand how a credit and debit system works and how ratios can be used to determine the financial health of a company.
- Production and operations people also have unique skills that focus on how to produce goods in the most productive, efficient and cost effective manner. These skills focus more on applying the laws of physics to manufacturing and distributing a product.
Programmed within each and every one of us is a unique work temperament. This is what makes us like and dislike different tasks or jobs. While one person may enjoy operating an embroidery machine, another may find it too complicated or not understand the process. In a selling capacity, one person may love to meet and visit with new people whereas another may be very uncomfortable in that same situation.
When you understand this concept, you can begin to match people’s temperament to different job skills. When you do this, you will create not only very productive individuals, but also very happy employees.
Assess owner's skills
The best piece of advice that I received from a SCORE representative of the SBA over 40 years ago still holds true today. He said:
”Before starting into business, make a list of your skills that are considered ‘assets’ and then make a list of your skills that are considered ‘liabilities.’ Next, DO your ‘assets' and HIRE out your ‘liabilities.’
In other words, do what you do best and hire people who perform your weak skills better.
Now, how do I go about re-distributing the work and matching it to good qualified people?
More than likely, your increased work demands did not pop up overnight. They have been slowly building over time. They may have been sporadic at times and range from very heavy to moderate or light. During this phase in your growth, and in order to keep costs to a minimum, you may consider a part-time employee as a temporary solution to this unpredictable, heavy work load.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of arrangement. The obvious benefits would include cost savings over a full time employee and some tax savings. The offsetting disadvantage would be the amount of training necessary to get them up-to-speed and then losing them to another job offer. Also be careful when using contractors (IRS Form1099) since the IRS stipulates the guidelines for a part-time working relationship, not the employer. (See IRS form SS8).
When you begin your search for help, remember to question the potential candidate about their working likes and dislikes to determine their temperament. You won’t really know until you work with them, but you do want to make every effort to match their temperament to the job tasks required.
Another important policy to establish when beginning to build a work force is to mandate cross training. You still want to try to keep the work skills within each candidate’s temperament but at the same time you need to build as much flexibility for you to manage your business as possible. If someone should quit or get fired, you need to have several people who can jump in to cover the work. This is most significant when considering the jobs that have the most technical skills like operating the embroidery machine. If you were to rely on only one person to operate your machine and they suddenly quit you would be left in a compromising position.
Also, keep in mind that a typical embroidery machine has a learning curve. It is not as simple as a photocopy machine to learn and operate. It is best to expose everyone to the basic operation of the embroidery machine. The best operators will show their skill sets during their training sessions. Melco's EMT16 Embroidery Machine is easy to learn and training is provided in-person or online.
Finally, remember that associates are probably your most valuable asset. All the machines and raw materials are worthless without someone to render them into beautiful artistic embellishments. Let your people know what your expectations are. Be firm, fair, and most importantly, praise publicly, and reprimand privately. People will respect you for this. Focus on earning their respect and encourage them to take ownership in their work. If you follow these simple rules you will build a solid, dependable, productive work force.