Small Business Tips: Expanding Your Employee Base

by Dawn Fotopulos on January 19, 2012

Our last small business tip on expanding without going bankrupt, we introduced you to a very successful dog groomer, Sharon.

She wants to train her part time staff member, Emma,  to provide the higher value services only she is qualified to deliver right now.

Attracting more customers before Sharon’s ready to handle them well could easily be a nightmare.

Let’s assume Sharon’s a great marketer. She attracts all these new customers and overwhelms the business.

She and Emma work day and night to handle the dogs and don’t do their best work. Then the customers never return. More customers is not what Sharon needs.

Sharon needs capacity first, especially if she wants to scale back the amount of physical work she does. Capacity is a function of what they can handle now with Sharon working full time as head groomer and Emma working part time doing the cleaning and brushing.

We asked Sharon a few questions like:

How many dogs a day can you take care of if Emma washes them and you do the clipping and brushing?

The answer was three, maybe four per day. Each one takes 1.5 hrs, that’s six hours on your feet and a full eight hour day including clean up. Most days the business handles two dogs.

How long will it take Emma to become proficient at clipping long, short and curly-haired dogs?

Right now, Sharon is the expert. She’s done this work for twelve years. The dogs she grooms look incredible. It’s clear she knows her business.

Even if Emma was really motivated, she could never replace Sharon’s skill with just taking a few courses. She needs real world experience and coaching on the job.

That takes time and commitment. Don’t forget the reputation of the business is on the line.

Emma will be slower and less effective than Sharon. That’s just reality as she comes up a steep learning curve. Our best estimate is that Emma will not be as capable as Sharon for at least 3 years.

Sharon has a few choices if she wants to do less physical labor:

She can hire a head groomer and do a revenue split with the groomer. If the groomer does more dogs, he or she makes more money. At the same time Emma takes classes and learns how to scissor and trim all kinds of animals.

Let Emma make her mistakes in class, not on clients’ favorite pets.

Who pays for Emma’s training? Glad you asked. Sharon wants to pay for it but right now, is not expecting anything more from Emma. We think this is a missed opportunity.

The training will cost hundreds of dollars. We think Emma owes Sharon something in return. Does she work additional hours? Does Emma make a commitment to work for the business for a period of time after her training?

We think the additional hours per week to refine her skills makes a lot of sense. Sharon will have to be very careful which animals Emma can easily handle.

A small business tip to help gain a return on investment is for staff to work additional hours equal to the value of the training. After all, Sharon is availing Emma of training she can use anywhere.

Asking Emma for a longer term commitment to the business, like an indentured servant, will be difficult to enforce. This is employment at will, employees have the freedom to leave at any time.

Notice we haven’t encouraged Sharon to expand her facility or ramp up her marketing efforts. She not ready for either of those efforts yet until she builds in more capability and capacity.

In our next article we’ll talk about when Sharon should expand the square footage of her business. She wants to do it right away. We think if she does, she’s headed for disaster.

Stay tuned for our next small business tip on facilities expansion.







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