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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The inflection point....

All businesses experience critical points of change that can lead to incredible growth or undeniable failure. Sometimes these moments are manifested in an immediate crisis; in others, the 'turn' is almost invisible and the owner and staff don't really know what is happening. In either case, decisions and events long before the crisis, coupled with immediate responses and a certain amount of luck and fate, determine the ultimate outcome.

Our business is now experiencing one of these amazingly important moments; one which on the surface looks to be truly challenging, but really gives me great hope for the future.

Last Friday at 3:30 p.m., our number one salesperson, who had worked with the company on pure commission for more than a decade, phoned me, distraught. About three weeks previously, following a conflict where I mismanaged a file, she had given her notice effective in 60 days. In the Friday call, she said she would need to leave immediately to deal with a family health issue. (At the time of the original incident, I took full responsibility for my mistake, and remedied the problem, but I did not beg her to stay.)

Then, on Monday a.m., just before our regular weekly conference call with contractors and team members across North America, our able and recently hired administrative person told me she had news -- she would be leaving very soon for a government job in her field of training, and would need to leave in approximately one week.

Three years ago, we had approximately 20 employees on the payroll, working from home office in Canada and in the U.S. Now we are down to one. Me.

Yet I know that this time next year, the business will be around, vital and healthy, with a solid core of great employees and a continuing expansion of the network of suppliers and contractors.

Consider these points.

The great salesperson who left us would not touch a computer. We can now hire someone much more comfortable in the on-line world.

A few years ago we developed an inexpensive, rapid, fair and systematic method of hiring new employees. It is amazingly stress free, totally complies with human rights/employment fairness rules, and allows us to avoid the traps of fakery and time-wasting screening and interviews. In essense, our system creates a self-screening process; and our interviews, when we are ready, are actual paid work assignments on temporary one day agreements -- we see how the prospective employee actually works before offering anything more permanent. So we will be able to fill the vacancies reasonably quickly.

The effective use of technology, and some practical experience that correlates with my grey hairs, allows me to get a lot more done in a lot less time than before. Thus we are continuing to publish our papers in Canada and the U.S., but now that I am doing hands-on work rather than delegating the editorial stuff to someone else, I can see simple and exciting improvements, and I am implementing them. We are also building up our freelance network and soon will be able to offer steady work to the best (and least expensive) freelancers we know. And we are making good progress in our move to electronic publishing.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I saw how the lessons learned over the past several years -- and enhanced by undersandings from corporate consultant Bill Caswell of Caswell Corporate Coaching Company -- are expressed in our weekly Monday meeting. Contractors in Winnipeg, Vancouver and North Carolina, communicate effectively and keep posted about the business, its changes, and its plans. Despite all the changes around us, the business team is stronger and more cohesive than ever.

In a previous newsletter, I described the key pillars of success in business; passion, sincerity and respect. Today, as I temporarily wear the hats of human resources staffing officer, editor, publisher, IT manager, and business consultant, I am reminded of the importance of these values. Despite the stress, and the change, I am enjoying the experience and challenges. And there is a big difference from when we had 20 employees on the payroll -- we are profitable.

I welcome your comments, either through the comment function of this blog, or by email to You can also phone me toll free at 888-432-3555 ext 224.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this ... can you explain more about your hiring sysem?