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Spotlight on Staffing

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    The monthly leads report (above) provides valuable information about where the company is heading. By keeping a regular tally of leads, proposals, and closed sales, the author can make good strategic decisions about hiring and scheduling well in advance of job start dates. Tracking leads-through-sales by origin indicates whether marketing efforts are paying off, while a brief leads-to-sales ratio report (below) tells if the company is hitting its sales targets. (For more legible tables, please see "Monthly Leads Report " on page 2 of the PDF).


I have heard a number of business owners say that the silver lining of this recession has been that it gave them an opportunity to rid their companies of underperforming employees.

During the boom years, when the demand for our services was steadily increasing, it was easy to justify making a lot of hires. But I can’t honestly say that the extra staff helped us serve our clients better. I found, for example, that when resources were stretched we would assign a less experienced architect and project manager to a demanding high-end project, and as a result we didn’t always meet the clients’ expectations.

Like any owner, I had difficult choices to make when it came to layoffs. I thought I handled it fairly, but soon realized that once an employee is let go, there are no more friendly conversations. These people had lost their jobs, they were angry and fearful, and I was to blame.

In addition, it was hard coming into work every day and seeing the looks on the faces of the remaining staff. We were getting the work done, but there was less excitement about the new kinds of jobs we were taking on, and there was always a lingering uncertainty about what lay ahead. Furthermore, I had become pretty attached to our image as a large established company, but now I was working harder for less money. I had been advised a few years earlier that I could possibly retire in another five years, but suddenly that option had vanished.

On the other hand, these setbacks forced everyone in the company to reevaluate his or her priorities. For some people this meant spending more time with their families or making sure to pursue those activities that nurture us outside of work.

I believe I have a better company now, one that serves our clients more effectively. And the next time I have a chance to hire, I’ll do it more thoughtfully and make sure there is time for training.