I run my own small manufacturing business. As you can imagine, the past few years have been very difficult, with the pandemic, energy costs, and rising interest rates on my own mortgage.
The biggest problem I have right now is recruiting and I’m at my wit’s end trying to find people. We pay a good starting salary and although I employ a few apprentices, I really need more experienced staff.
I have consulted with local recruiters to try and fill this gap, but they charge a ridiculous commission which I’m not sure I can afford at the moment. I need staff to try to grow the business, but I can’t afford to pay a commission either.
Should I swallow it all and go to a recruiter or should I try to manage with a minimum of staff?
It’s harder than ever to find staff, is a recruiter worth it? Dave Fishwick responds
Dave Fishwick, This Is Money’s business physician responds: Companies have had to deal with a whole series of challenges over the past few years, and I think this is particularly true in the manufacturing sector.
Even now, in these tough economic conditions and with all the news about artificial intelligence and automation making workers redundant, I think investing in people is the best investment a company can make. Employees remain a company’s most important asset. I think it’s fantastic that you are hiring and training apprentices.
I’m a big believer in apprenticeships and I think a lot more help should be given to help employers provide internships nationally.
Here in Lancashire, a major employer at the cutting edge of engineering technology is investing heavily in apprenticeships, so it must find it interesting to attract young people before they go to university.
I’m very excited to train in-house and choose a successor from many years before they’re needed, then slowly but surely train them to be ready for that future role.
I have a staff member at my minibus company named Matt. He’s been with me for over eight years and he was trained by Mark, who was the general manager and was due to retire at 66. Mark retired last year and worked for me for over 20 years, doing a fantastic job, and Matt has now had excellent in-house training.
Matt now runs the business and does a wonderful job. If you can recruit internally and spend quality time training them for the job, you will find that it will pay huge dividends in the future.
If you need someone immediately, recruitment agencies are an instant solution but incur huge costs.
If you had a miracle solution, which of your competitors would you shoot it at and why?
Ask Dave Fishwick a question about business or career advice
Millionaire and self-made entrepreneur Dave Fishwick is our newest columnist answering your business and career questions.
Dave has a hugely successful minibus and vehicle business based in Lancashire and rose to fame with his BAFTA-winning TV series, Bank of Dave, which saw him battle the big banks.
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Borrow some of their best ideas, then approach some of their employees via social media. This is what recruitment agencies will do, and you can cut them out of the scenario and do it yourself, saving huge costs.
There are many avenues you can try before shelling out the recruiter’s fee, such as researching and posting on Linkedin yourself and many others, including various online job portals.
A word of caution about recruiting agencies using personal experience.
You may find that after just a few years, specific recruiters will come back and poach your staff members and move them to the next company or a competitor paying more fees.
Agencies tend to stay in very close contact with many of the employees they have found employment for.
You can also try contacting relevant trade associations and placing advertisements in industry publications, try posting on local bulletin boards and job boards like Resume Library.
If you don’t have time to personally review resumes and applications, make a list of “must-have” criteria and delegate the task of screening candidates.
Try reaching out to your current employees to see if they know anyone with the right experience they could recommend. It might be useful to offer an incentive for a successful referral.
I did this at Burnley Savings and Loans which was very successful.
The other option you consider is to continue with your current staffing level.
If the business model is sound and prevailing economic conditions permit, the right employee will pay more than just themselves, but the timing of hiring staff can be a factor that depends on current and future economic conditions. Maybe offering the existing team a bit more money to work overtime can help.
You may find that specific recruiters will come back and poach your staff members
Alternatively, you can employ temps or outsource some of the work, then keep your in-house staff focused on the tasks that can’t be outsourced.
You should carefully consider your coming year and decide whether your backlog will support the additional overhead of new hires. Once you hire new employees, it will affect your overhead and cash flow for many years to come.
It is almost impossible to predict every aspect of the economy in the future. Nonetheless, we can look at the prevailing conditions to help us understand where things may go in the short to medium term.
Ask yourself if the same pressures your business has faced are also affecting your customers, reducing future orders. If you think this will happen, hold your job for the time being and brace yourself to deal with the adverse conditions.
If you are more confident in your prospects, then by all means find the best people for you and go for growth!
Finally, please keep in mind one thing that has served me very well over the past 30 years of employing great people. Take care of your employees, respect them, and treat them the way you would want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot, and no one will ever leave!
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