Five hiring tips any size business can employ

Whether you are launching a startup or have been around for decades you know the most important question is "Where is my next dollar coming from?". The next question you should be ask is "Where is my next great employee coming from?". The good news is they are often standing right in front of your cash register.

During a recent trip to Chipotle, I noticed some interested reading material while in line. It was a recruiting brochure in plain view for all of their customers to see. Let's break this down and find out how even small business employers can have a continual pool of candidates at the ready.

Assess your company's value. Make a list of everything you have to offer potential candidates, both hard dollars and the experience. What is your company's purpose? Are there any unique perks in working for you? What are career path options for employees at your firm?

Even if the path leads people away from your company it can still be a plus. Though I haven't worked at my first post college company in years I still get calls for positions simply because of that company's name on my resume.

Get the word out and don't over think it. In the era of social media and YouTube onw may feel compelled to create something with sizzle. Keep it simple, state the facts about why your company is the best place to work in town. Make small tri-folds and put them in all the high traffic areas of your stores.

Start with your fans. Particularly if you are in retail, let every customer know  you are growing the team. People that spend money in your business would also like to spend their time earning money their too.

Make it easy for people to apply. In an ideal world integrate an applicant tracking system into your website. Allowing candidates to complete their application online says your company is cool and relevant. It also makes managing and screening multiple applications much easier.

Advertise the URL or email address for people to apply on all of your digital and printed material that faces the public.

Follow up and keep in touch. When the applications start rolling in, get back to people right away, regardless of the answer. Your prompt reply is setting a standard of performance that you will expect every day.

If you are always accepting candidates (which is a good idea to do) clearly state a timeline of what to expect. "We will respond each Wednesday to all applications submitted the week prior." Over time you will build a list of candidates to pick from the next time you have a need to fill a position.

Just like marketing to paying customers, marketing the value of your company to future employees is a life blood for growth.

How do you advertise openings and attract great employees?

The cost of misclassifying workers in California

I recently read some simple yet sage tips on hiring a contractor. As a human capital management professional the first question that pops into my mind is, "Is the person you're hiring a contractor or an employee?"

Before you work through how to hire a contract make sure you're not hiring and employee. Here's how getting it wrong could cost you.

Over the last month some big names have been in the news. Companies in the on-demand / sharing economy sector face legal rulings that could drastically alter their business models. Their business practices have lead courts to conclude many of their workers have been misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees.

The California Labor Commission ruled in one case that an Uber driver was an employee and should be reimbursed for certain expenses. Future wide ranging court rulings could change how other Uber and other operate in California.

Also in June, FedEx made a move to settle over 2,000 claims that will create a $228 million fund to take care of workers of FedEx Ground and Home.

While fines and fees for misclassifying workers may be smaller for the average small business, they are no less impactful for the employer. Try these two simple steps. If you are still not sure seek out professional guidance.

First do a gut check

Are you trying to avoid the added expenses of workers comp insurance, payroll taxes and providing paid sick leave in California? Either figure out how to build in the cost of an employee or do the work on your own. In most cases you'll be better off bringing on the employee in the long run.

Enter the matrix

The IRS has prepared a 20 point checklist you can use to determine if a worker should be classified as an employee or contractor. Answering the questions in the form should be a good indicator on how to classify a worker.

Get help

Your resources for these type of labor issues are plentiful. Contact a good employer focused employment law attorney. If that feels daunting (read expensive) there are several HR support tools you can subscribe to that will provide help from seasoned human resource professionals.

What are youfr concerns regarding the Contractor vs Employee conversation?


Customer reviews of your wait staff's awesomeness all in one app

So two guys walk into a bar...

After enjoying drinks and a great experience, they realized the bartender has no easy way to stay connected to them as repeat customers.
Founders Jack and Terrance have an answer with I Like My Waitress. Their vision is to turn your wait staff into sales people well beyond the table and give service personnel a platform to build their brand.

Recently I talked about beating the competition by having better employees. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon I Like My Waitress (ILMW), a great tool to multiply the value of your employee's performance. This is an exciting tool for proactive restaurateurs.

Here's my interview with one of the founders Jack Moore. 

EB: Tell everyone how you came up with the idea for ILMW.

Jack: Terrance has had a lot of exposure to the service industries and night life with as well as experience work in the industry. He saw a need for customers to better connect with their server and saw a need for service staff to be able to better brand themselves. We thought this would be a great tool to let service staff do more with their professional service careers. Servers can market themselves directly to their customers.

EB: How long has the app been on the market and who is your initial target user?

Jack: We came out in early December (2014). Right now we are taking a minimalist approach. We want our initial feature set to be a really sleek experience for any one who uses the app. Our goal, especially when our 2.0 comes out, is to get this to the service professionals. The big message we want to get across is that we are advocating for the service professionals. As managers seek to operate more efficiently and customers seek better deals the service professional can get lost in all of that. We want waiters, waitresses and bartenders to have better opportunities and more tools through which they can perform better.

EB: What are some of the features of ILMW that help servers sell?

Jack: From the customer side ILMW allows you to follow your favorite server, like when they are working. You can also share a little bit of personal information like drink preferences with your server. For the diners we want this to be a simple use case. They can review their service at any restaurant (from one app). You know when to come in for high quality service from the servers you like.

On the server side, the server can market directly to you (the customer) in a very personalized way. If you develop a rapport with a certain bartender you can expect to hear from him about a slow night this week with an offer to come in and he will buy you a beer.

From the server side we wanted this to be a complex tool for managing their careers. We looked at Linkedin and found that less than three percent of bartenders, waiters, and waitresses are using it as a career tool. We asked, "What is their culture not providing that we could provide?" We let the servers market themselves directly to the customer.

Managers have visibility to the person by person reviews and scores a server receives. They can see which servers are driving sales through the app and which servers are receiving the best reviews. This lets them (managers) really manage the service experience in the restaurant.

EB: How will a server be able to learn from a bad review and  improve their score?

Jack: We are working on an algorithm to isolate a server's performance based on a simple one to five star rating that we ask for from the diner. We want to filter out mitigating factors that the server has no control over. Like if your food comes out really late because the kitchen is swamped. We want to make sure no server gets put in the tank because the restaurant had a bad night. On a similar note we don't want a server to be able to use a stunning restaurant as a crutch.

We want people to learn as much as they can. They can experiment with their approach to service. If they have the initiative and drive they can become this next level server that commands higher tips and brings in more customers to their restaurant. We are providing a way to show those numbers in a sure fire way. Currently managers would have to be on the floor to see a server in action or go on a gut feeling.

EB: How can a manager use this data to customize training programs to include best practices?

Jack: We are not as mature in that thinking as we'd like to be. We have talked a lot about creating a knowledge base on ways to improve service performance. We will keep people involved by writing articles on how to get better tips and improving service. 

EB: What is your monetization plan for the app?

Jack: The app is free to servers and diners. A small set of features will be free to managers. All of the data analytics will be a premium service. We are working on ways to track how good of a marketer the servers are based on server reach out offers. Managers will be able to see reviews and ratings on each server. You (manager) will be able to offer promotions through the app as well. We are still working on the right price point.

EB: What do you say to managers who are concerned about losing their best servers to other gigs because they now have this self promotion platform?

Jack: We have heard a little bit of that from managers. What we say is that for every great server you may loose we are going to bring you three more. where your going to know coming in that they are a high quality service professional. Where as before you would not know until you put them on the floor.

I really enjoyed my time with Jack. You can tell the founders of ILMW have a desire to help wait staff succeed who are willing to put in the work.

The issue of server safety did come up. Jack was clear that the app has controls for privacy. The server controls how much of their personal and professional information they put on the app. I have a good feeling these guys will continue to smooth out any wrinkles along the way.

How would you use I Like My Waitress to elevate the performance of your service staff? 


5 things to do BEFORE the competition moves in

Competition: regardless of how you feel it is here to stay!

My drive home takes me past an independent business called Coffee Connection. For the last six years I have been driving past, it looks like they have had a good thing going. Their location is busy and visible. Coffee connoisseurs and wifi surfers enjoy the full range of java beverages and light meals. The space is a mix of cafe, meeting lounge and courtyard. All this and there is off street parking to boot. Any business owner should be happy, right?

Now the 800 lb. gorilla has arrived!

Within the last month Starbucks has taken up residence on the corner directly across the street. What is a small business like CC going to do?

Whatever they choose to do first, it had better involve their people.

I have never had a remarkable experience with Starbucks staff, positive or negative. The same is true for Coffee Connection. I'd describe the experiences as fine, nice, pleasant.  That is okay for SB but horrible for CC.

Employers, particularly small independent ones, must train employees and provide the tools that allow them to WOW customers with every interaction.

Leverage your staff to insulate your business from competition with these practical ideas.

Clarify the mission. Why does the business exist? How are we going to change the world regardless of the size of our world? Who will benefit from our execution on delivering value?

Hire and train for the remarkable. Contrary to the old publicity adage, in business all press is not good press. Hire people that can deliver the value your customers seek out with their dollars. Each day sell your staff in word and deed on why the mission is critical. Set the standard that WOW is the mark of excellence. Remember your clientele will tell!

Answer the WIIFM (what's in it for me) for your staff.  People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The job you provide should be a stepping stone in their career. Create community within the company, employees thrive on interaction. Make their path to advancement clear, even if it means they move on. 

Reward: Thank you's are always free so spend them generously. Say thank you to your employees in public, in front of other team members, customers, and in your media.

Build your rep: Just like you need a pipeline of prospective clients the same is true for potential employees. Hold interviews on a set schedule each month. Hold mock interviews for students who will be entering the workforce soon. Show up for career days at the local high school, JC and university. Even if you don't set up a booth, you could land your next superstar just by being in the room. Ask your staff for testimonials. You want to be the top (insert your industry) to work for in the area.

Empower the people. Your business is a platform for your staff to shine. Instill in them the confidence to take action without your explicit direction. Listen to them and act on the feedback they receive from customers. Your staff interacts with clients more than you do.

Your staff is the one asset that can't be duplicated. Treat them as the unique deliverers of value they are. Marketing, advertising and promotions can't beat a group dedicated individuals focused on excellence.

How has your staff staved off the competition?


Six ways to honor a deceased employee and co-worker

On January 4th 2015 I lost my sportscaster. If you are an American sports fan and you came of age in the 90's Sunday was a sad day for you as well. The sports world lost one of it's greatest innovators in broadcasting, Stuart Scott

The outpouring of grief from fans has been tremendous. They have taken to all forms of social media in expressing their appreciation for his work and support for his family. Because he was (I can't believe I am saying WAS about Stuart Scott) a public figure working for ESPN, we have been able to see how his co-workers are honoring him as well. 

Yesterday's news got me thinking about the best ways to honor a co-worker who has passed away.

We spend forty to sixty hours a week in close proximity working on a common goal with people who were once strangers. Most businesses are small so the familiarity can become significant. There are only ten of us at my company. We bowl, play basketball, eat and deliver value to our clients TOGETHER. Every last one of my co-workers means something to me. 

When someone dies the people they spend the most time with week to week are often overlooked, their co-workers. Honoring an employee is a way to pay respect and allow healing to happen in the workplace. 

Pause: Simply taking the time to acknowledge the loss is important. Allowing staff to have a little extra time at lunch or before the day starts makes a difference. Open up the office a little early to let staff tell stories, you may be surprised by the cheer it brings.

Get out of the way: The boss doesn't always have to be the leader. In these moments an employee led ceremony is appropriate. Sure, you want to set limits and make sure things stay professional. Once the boundaries are set (time of day, duration, food, music, employee remarks) let the people who worked closest with the deceased the lead the way. 

Permanent reminders: I am a proud graduate of St. Mary's College of California. A big part of the reason I attended was because my mother worked there when I was in high school. Unfortunately, she passed away halfway through my freshman year of college. One of the ways her co-workers in her department honored her was with an engraved brick. This red brick with her name and a short sentiment in gold writing was placed on a quiet patio with other bricks to honor members of the SMC family.

A plaque or picture collage on a wall would be fitting in a business setting. These type of gestures don't have to be reserved solely for founders. If your business owns the property and your have outdoor space plant a tree in the person's honor. 

Memorial in the cloud: For a staffer who was an integral part of the company regardless of the position, a page on the company site may be appropriate. One of my clients did this to honor their COO who passed away just over a year ago now. Their choice made particular sense because of  a foundation in his honor the page highlights.

Scholarship fund or charity: If an employee was passionate about their profession or an activity outside of work support young people in pursuing the same path. Jim Buescher was serious about and well known in the promotional products and advertising industry. So much so that a scholarship for academic achievement was formed in his name within the SAAC .

Have some fun: What was your employee or co-worker passionate about outside of the office? If they didn't talk about it openly the clues are still there. Look at pictures on their desk, where did they vacation? Maybe we can't all celebrate their life in the Bahama's but we can go bowling. Bring in some fishing rods (without hooks) and practice fly fishing while telling stories about the person over lunch. 

I am sure there are other great and work appropriate ways to bring healing when a close employee is gone. Do take caution in respecting their memory and tread lightly. 

Words of caution:

Make sure any lasting memorial that will be visible around the office is up lifting and doesn't poke fun in any way. 

If customers may come in contact with the memorial make sure is relevant to all. Inside jokes the deceased may have loved might offend people from outside your circle. 

Keep religious practices to a minimum. Hopefully, co-works of other religions or who are atheist could tolerate a brief ceremony if a particular faith was important to the deceased employee. Unfortunately, some can't. The companies purpose is to bring value to clients and increase revenue, not turn into a place of corporate sanctioned worship. Consult HR on this just in case.

Check with the family. If the company is compelled to do something at the funeral, memorial service or in the community make sure the family approves. You may have spent more hours in the day with the person but they are a grieving family member's wife, father, daughter, brother, or child. 

When do you think it is appropriate to celebrate deceased employee's life? What have been the best ways of honoring someone that you have experienced?


Improving employee and customer experience with telepresence robots

Many entrepreneurs and employers share a common fantasy:
"I wish there were two of me."
One solution to this physical limitation that is gaining steam is mobile telepresence technology. Here's what happens when you mashup Skype, an A.R. Drone, a Segway and an iPad:

              by Suitable Technologies                   Double Robotics

The key innovation here is remote control mobility. With tools like WebEx, Google Hangouts and others we can connect face to face either in fixed locations or on the go.

Now lets say you want to break free from the conference room monitor and take a look around the office under your own direction. What's a teleconferencing business person to do?

Enter the telepresence robot. Take your iPad and attach it to a stick on wheels. Control the height and movement of said stick on wheels with a pc or second tablet. Mobile broadband and wifi make it possible to control the device from anywhere.

Products like Beam+ and Double Robotics put all of the tools I mentioned on an adjustable RC device. Several companies have entered the space but these two are leading the way with products that are within reach of small business users.

How can you be a be a better employer with a tool like this?

Managing multiple locations: Do you spend an inordinate amount of time driving between your various locations to oversee and help your staff? Activate your telepresence device instead. Now you can walk an employee through an issue with equipment or other procedures and be right by their side no matter where you are.

Customer Service: Sometimes only the boss will do. Your staff member has done all he or she can to appease a patron. They demand to speak to the owner. Of course you'd be happy to listen but you are in a different location. Dazzle your customer and turn them into a referring client. Roll up, greet them on a Beam+ or Double Robot and address the issue. Score one for the robots!

Site walks: Any time you feel like it,  you can walk the production line. If your sales team schedules a facility tour for a prospective client you can join in whether you are on site or not.

Flexible work schedule: Allowing knowledge based staff to work remotely is nothing new. With mobile telepresence they can work in the office not just in the cloud. Moving about the office and interacting with co-workers is key to effective work. Great ideas and team culture come from connecting in real time. Telecommuters never have to hear "you just had to be there" again.

Training: Allow a remote office team member to be in the classroom during formal and impromptu training sessions.

Random inspection: Peek in on your team when you are away. Not in the big brother or sneaky sense. Sometimes to get a true feel for how people are handling tasks you need to see them live in the moment.

IT Support: Even with all of the remote access chat support sometimes you need to show IT the physical problem you're having with equipment. Giving remote support staff the ability to "sit" next to any person in the office to trouble shoot an issue saves time and gets people back to work faster.

Trade Shows: So, you have three sales people at three trade shows and only one technical person to support all three of them. Put a telepresence robot at the other two trade shows. When prospects ask technical questions have your key employee bounce from show to show. You will score points for the face to face interaction from your team whether they are in the building or not.

In the near future these nifty devices won't supplant traditional web conferencing. They will serve a need for those who want to work around the office and not just in the cloud.

How would you use a telepresence robot in your business?


Employ better with Los Angeles job board Workpop

If you're staffing up for a grand opening or replacing an employee who just left, Workpop may be the right tool for you. Workpop is a job posting platform who's focus is on bringing cool technology to local employers. My first experience using the platform was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The few down sides I found will be cured as more people use the site. Here's my take as a hiring manager.

Setting your account

Employers and job seekers alike can use existing social media accounts or an email address to set up an account. Every feature they offer today is included. Post as many jobs as you'd like for the always attractive price of  $Free.99!

Building a company profile

The user interface feels clean and simple, yet complete. In addition to your company description employers are encouraged to include pictures and short video in their profile. Hiring managers can also include a photo along with a bio. It is like the designers at Workpop are reminding us that companies don't hire people, people hire people.

Creating a job posting

Simple is the word of the day here. Follow five easy steps and you are ready to publish your opening to the job board. The post will include the company profile, description, required skills, compensation & benefits, duties, and job title.


Here is where the fun starts. Email notifications come in as candidates apply. Upon clicking the link to view new applicants you are sometimes greeted with a video cover letter.  Right off the bat you can see how the person presents themselves and communicates. As smaller employers you know that every interaction consumers have with your staff is key. The video feature is optional and gives candidates the opportunity to make an impact before the interview.

Other vitals like a resume, contact information, skills, and schedule availability are all standard. Sorting is made easy with three buttons. You have the option to reject, mark the applicant as a maybe, or send a message with the built in IM feature.

Paying it forward

As a hiring manager I take my ability to impact a person's life seriously. Many of the people I hire are recent college grads who are seeking their first professional position. I will often take the time to give feedback to a candidate I have interviewed but can't hire. If you are so inclined, Workpop gives you the chance to do that right from their site.

When rejecting a candidate at any stage in the process you are prompted to offer feedback. I am told that this feedback will be summarized and presented anonymously to the applicants who are hitting a wall. This is a great idea. Hopefully Workpop can grow and maintain the percentage of employers who take the time to share insight with people they reject.

There is also Facebook interface to refer a listed position to a friend. As an employer this can be an easy way widen your net.  You can list the position on your Facebook page. Your staff who are so inclined can refer their friends to apply as well.

What was lacking?

The short answer is not much. Expectations were reasonably set from the start. Here is what I am look for next:

Workpop needs a larger pool of candidates to choose from. I don't know any of their numbers. I can only say that I received nine applications in two weeks of the post being live. This will only improve with time. To be fair this is not much different that my experience with Craigslist.

Where is the offer button? On your employer dashboard each position is listed along with basic stats (new applications, maybes, rejects, offers sent, and a total). When I drill down to view an application I don't see any place to indicate that an offer has been made. So how would the offers column on the dashboard change? The option may be there, it just isn't obvious.

Small employers often don't have or want to pay for specialist to write job postings for them. (Here is a freebie Workpop). Add a feature that allows candidates to provide feedback to employers on the attractiveness of the job they post. Good employers conduct exit interviews when employees leave. If participation was reasonable this could give employers insight on attracting more ideal candidates from a larger pool of prospective employees.

Will Workpop help you employ better?

Over all Workpop is adding value to employers compared to the current batch of incumbents. This is especially true if you are hiring in or look for a job in the food service and retail industries. As Workpop grows there will be more people in their ecosystem and premium features to keep them in business. Workpop offers an easy to use way to list jobs and manage applicants. They have woven in a way for you to help your fellow man with constructive critique. I will be looking out for more good things from these folks in the months to come.

What do you think of Workpop and the features they are offering local employers?