4 Signs it’s Time to Start Hiring

Entrepreneurs riding out the economic ups and downs may not have spent much time wondering whether to add new employees. As the economic recovery begins to take shape, however, they may want to start thinking about it.

But it raises a question: How can a small-business owner know when it’s time to add staff?

You need to add workers if . . .

Ultimately, of course, spending your hard-won capital on a new hire requires a leap of faith. Still, you can improve the odds that leap will end in a happy landing by following a few rules. Some are quantitative; others involve less exact methods of forecasting.

Here are four signs that it’s time to increase payroll:

1. The amount of overtime you pay is increasing. Periodic spikes in this expense item may be nothing to worry about. But Charlotte Taylor, founder of Venture Concepts, a Washington, D.C.-based small-business consulting company, says that if a clear trend emerges, you should consider hiring a new employee. As Taylor points out, inefficient spending isn’t the only reason to be concerned about excess overtime; it may also indicate the existing workforce is nearing burnout.

2. Your backlog of sales is (or may soon be) growing. Sufficient orders in hand mean you’ll have the wherewithal to pay a new worker while also indicating a surge in demand for your goods or services. That in turn will require extra help. And even if the backlog isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, Taylor says, it may be worth making a hire to take quicker advantage of increasing demand. You can reduce the risks of such a gamble by polling your customers to see how they’re faring in developing their own order backlogs.

3. Your business’s billing multiplier has risen above the norm. The billing multiplier is computed by dividing net revenue by direct labor costs. The higher it goes, the more money you’re making per unit of labor. If you don’t know what’s normal for your industry, your accountant probably can tell you or help you find out. Aldonna Ambler, a consultant in Hammonton, N.J., says the multiplier tends to get out of whack among business owners “who don’t keep track of their capacity utilization and productivity, and so are hiring at all times by the seat of their pants.” A too-high multiplier, she adds, is a sign that the work force may be overloaded.

4. Your debt is at a level that allows you to assume additional risk. “It’s a matter of leverage and credit and risk,” Ambler says. “You make a decision that you can pull out of the recession quicker by investing in an additional person. You look at your debt service and see how much of a risk you can afford.” Ambler adds that it’s crucial for an entrepreneur to know when the gamble has not paid off and a new hire needs to go. Too many small-business owners are reluctant to make that kind of tough decision, she says.

Full time versus temporary

Once the decision to hire is made, the question is whether to hire a full-time employee, a temporary worker or a subcontractor.

“If the work is part of the core service of the company, it makes sense to hire [a full timer],” Ambler says. “But if it’s more of a secondary thing, or not as important to the customer, it’s better to subcontract because you reduce expenses.”

Taylor also recommends subcontracting as a way to obtain professional help with a minimum of hassle. Many outsourcing companies, she notes, provide a worker with health insurance and will withhold taxes.

In the case of lower-level support staff, Taylor says several of her consulting clients have used temps to cover short-term needs and then ended up hiring them for full-time positions. “It’s an excellent way to try people out,” she says.

Competition with big businesses

But small-business owners needn’t be in too much of a hurry to add staff, thinking the labor market will slam shut or the competition for skilled workers will be too daunting as the recovery gathers steam.

While it is true that small companies have difficulty competing against major corporations in the area of benefits, Taylor says, “Most people who go with a small business have concerns other than money. The person who has gotten an MBA and wants to go with a big corporation is going to go with a big corporation.”

And, she adds, there’s always the growing pool of skilled older workers who have taken early retirement. They constitute a hiring ace-in-the-hole that small businesses will play with increasing frequency.

How to Spot a Bad Boss in an Interview

By Stephanie Christianson – Forbes.com

A boss can literally, make or break your career. Here are five ways to spot the bad ones BEFORE they become yours.
A great boss can make you feel engaged and empowered at work, will keep you out of unnecessary office politics, and can identify and grow your strengths. But a bad boss can make the most impressive job on paper (and salary) quickly unbearable. Not only will a bad boss make you dislike at least 80% of your week, your relationships might suffer, too. A recent study conducted at Baylor University found that stress and tension caused by an abusive boss “affects the marital relationship and subsequently, the employee’s entire family.” Supervisor abuse isn’t always as blatant as a screaming temper tantrum; it can include taking personal anger out on you for no reason, dismissing your ideas in a meeting, or simply, being rude and critical of your work, while offering no constructive ways to improve it. Whatever the exhibition of bad boss behavior, your work and personal life will suffer. Merideth Ferguson, PH.D., co-author of the study and assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor explains that “it may be that as supervisor abuse heightens tension in the relationship, the employee is less motivated or able to engage in positive interactions with the partner and other family members.”
There are many ways to try and combat the effects of a bad boss, including confronting him or her directly to work towards a productive solution, suggesting that you report to another supervisor, or soliciting the help of human resources. But none of those tactics gurantee improvement, and quite often, they’ll lead to more stress. The best solution is to spot a bad boss—before they become yours! Here are five ways to tell whether your interviewer is a future bad boss.

1. Pronoun usage. Performance consultant John Brubaker says that the top verbal tell a boss gives is in pronoun choice and the context it is used. If your interviewer uses the term “you” in communicating negative information ( such as, “you will deal with a lot of ambiguity”), don’t expect the boss to be a mentor. If the boss chooses the word “I” to describe the department’s success—that’s a red flag. If the interviewer says “we” in regards to a particular challenge the team or company faced, it may indicate that he or she deflects responsibility and places blame.
2. Concern with your hobbies. There is a fine line between genuine relationship building, and fishing for information, so use your discretion on this one. If you have an overall good impression of the potential boss it may be that he or she is truly interested in the fact that you are heavily involved in charity work, and is simply getting to know you. On the other hand, the interviewer may be trying to determine whether you have too many commitments outside of work. The interviewer can’t legally ask if you are married, or have kids, so digging into your personal life can be a clever way to understand just how available you are.
3. They’re distracted. The era of email, BlackBerrys and smartphones have made it “okay” for people to develop disrespectful communication habits in the name of work. Particularly in a frenzied workplace, reading email while a person is speaking, multi-tasking on conference calls and checking the message behind that blinking BlackBerry mid-conversation has become the norm of business communications. But, regardless of his or her role in the company, the interviewer should be striving to make a good impression—which includes shutting down tech tools to give you undivided attention. If your interviewer is glancing at emails while you’re speaking, taking phone calls, or late to the interview, don’t expect a boss who will make time for you.
4. They can’t give you a straight answer. Caren Goldberg, Ph.D. is an HR professor at the Kogod School of Business at American University. She says a key “tell” is vague answers to your questions. Listen for pauses, awkwardness, or overly-generic responses when you inquire what happened to the person who held the position you are interviewing for, and/or what has created the need to hire. (For example, if you are told the person was a “bad fit,” it may indicate that the workplace doesn’t spend much time on employee-development, and blames them when things don’t work out).
You should also question turnover rates, how long people stay in given roles, and what their career path has been. All of these answers can indicate not only if the boss is one people want to work for, but whether pay is competitive, and employees are given a career growth plan.
5. They’ve got a record. Ask the potential boss how long he or she has been at the company, in the role, and where he or she worked before coming to it to get a feel for his or management style, and whether it’s what you respond to. For example, bosses making a switch from a large corporation to a small company may lead with formality. On the other hand, entrepreneurs tend to be passionately involved in business, which can be a help or a hindrance, depending on your workstyle.
Goldberg also recommends searching the site eBossWatch, where you read reviews that former employees have given to a boss. If you’re serious about the position, she also suggests reaching to the former employee whose spot you are interviewing for, and asking for their take on the workplace. (LinkedIn makes this task easy to do). The former employee’s recount may not necessarily reflect your potential experience, but it can help you to determine whether his or her description of the job and company “jibes” with what the potential boss said.

7 Tips for Staying Productive:

Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks.
Writing “launch company website” at the top of your to-do list is a sure way to make sure you never get it done. Break down the work into smaller and smaller chunks until you have specific tasks that can be accomplished in a few hours or less: Sketch a wireframe, outline an introduction for the homepage video, etc. That’s how you set goals and actually succeed in crossing them off your list.

Stop multi-tasking.
No, seriously—stop. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).

Be militant about eliminating distractions.
Lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, texts, email, and instant messaging. In fact, if you know you may sneak a peek at your email, set it to offline mode, or even turn off your Internet connection. Go to a quiet area and focus on completing one task.

Schedule your email.
Pick two or three times during the day when you’re going to use your email. Checking your email constantly throughout the day creates a ton of noise and kills your productivity.

Use the phone.
Email isn’t meant for conversations. Don’t reply more than twice to an email. Pick up the phone instead.

Work on your own agenda.
Don’t let something else set your day. Most people go right to their emails and start freaking out. You will end up at inbox-zero, but accomplish nothing. After you wake up, drink water so you rehydrate, eat a good breakfast to replenish your glucose, then set prioritized goals for the rest of your day.

Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals.
Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.

Bizarre Business News of the Week

Weird things happen all the time, and some of the odd things that go on in the business world are just as bizarre as anything you find in the pages of your daily newspaper’s entertainment pages or police blotter.

Some of these oddball things that go on in the business world can serve as lessons of what not to do, or how to capitalize on different situations. So we thought it would be worth sharing some of those weird things.

• How can you capitalize on something as bizarre as the saga of now-convicted felon and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich? Spirit Airlines has found a way to attract customers and get some free publicity.

After “Blago” was sentenced to 14 years in prison, the airline offered a “seat-selling” sale of $14 one-way tickets from Chicago, according to the Huffington Post.

• The entertainment industry can be a cut-throat business, but the Discovery Channel TV series “Mythbusters” took the pirate-theme a bit too far this week. The show was doing a stunt with a cannon ball when it misfired and went through a nearby housing development.

The wayward cannon ball went through two houses and a van before stopping, according to MSNBC.com. Luckily nobody was hurt in the incident, but that’s not the type of publicity the network wanted.

• Some say investing in the stock market these days is no different than going to Las Vegas and gambling with your life savings. But a column on Yahoo Inc. ‘s finance Web site this week reveals that so-called “sin stocks” are paying a much higher return than the markets overall.

Companies such as adult entertainment firm Rick’s Cabaret International is up 30 percent since early October, with beer giant Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Jack Daniels maker Brown Forman Inc. both up big as well.

But the oddest thing is that a “vice” mutual fund has been organized so you can buy the full slate of tobacco, alcohol and gambling-related stocks, such as Las Vegas Sands . But it even includes defense companies that make weapons, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.

Stock market swings have hit pension funds hard in 2011

With the global economy taking its toll on stocks and bonds, pension funds are coming up short.

Lesser returns on stocks and low bond yields translate into the need for greater contributions by publicly traded companies and governments to keep pensions fully funded. And increased contributions mean more stress on earnings, cash flow and already strapped budgets.

“When the market goes up, it has the impact of increasing the attractiveness of the stock. It can magnify the direction of the stock and the market overall,” said Tom Mangan, senior vice president and portfolio manager of Beavercreek-based James Investment Research Inc. “It makes things really, really bad when things are bad and really, really good when the markets are good.”

For example, in mid-August, Credit Suisse analyst David Zion estimated the pension plans of AK Steel , Supervalu , Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman , all of which have Dayton area operations, had declined equal to or more than 10 percent of the companies’ market value.

According to Zion, there’s a $388 billion gap in corporate pension plans of S&P 500 companies, which is even higher than the $326 billion funding gap recorded in 2008. AK Steel has a $1.3 billion funding gap in its pension, which represents 92.4 percent of the company’s market capitalization. And Lockheed Martin has a $14.3 billion funding gap, which represents 38.8 percent of the company’s market cap.

Mangan said part of the problem pensions face is they are set up based on expected returns from the more robust stock market days and don’t account for the years of compound negative returns the country experienced.

For that reason, a number of companies with the means to make a switch have started to provide defined contributions rather than defined benefits, Mangan said.

A defined contribution plan is a retirement plan in which a set amount is contributed to the plan each year. These plans, the most common of which is a 401(k) plan, don’t have an expected retirement benefit.

A defined benefit plan, on the other hand, is a retirement plan with specifiec retirement benefits. The annual contribution to the plan then is based on what is necessary to meet those set benefits and is not determined by profits.

However, a number of companies don’t have the option to switch to defined contributions because of bargaining agreements already in place.

What NOT to Put on Your Resume

By Scot Feldmeyer – BarryStaff of Cincinnati 12/13/2011

Here at BarryStaff we see a lot of resumes. Since most people are not professional job seekers they are also not professional resume writers. So many of the resumes we see need a little help, reorganization, or “tweaking.” But every now and then we see a resume that goes into our file of very special resumes. This is the file that makes us smile when we need a lift. It’s the file of resumes that are so bad that they are unintentionally hysterical. So with those resumes in mind, let me offer this list of things that should NOT be on your resume.

1. A Picture of Yourself
You may be an incredibly good-looking person. In fact, your looks may have helped to land you jobs while you were in high school. But really, they have no place in a professional resume. My favorite was the resume we received with the guy’s picture of himself on the front page. He was wistfully looking out a window while shirtless but still flaunting a collection of gold chains that would have humbled Mr. T. We agreed that his beard was also pretty patchy and he should have shaved before posing for his resume headshot. Please, just give us the pertinent information unless you are applying for a modeling job.

2. Exaggerations (Lies)
It’s not at all unusual to spice up a resume with some statements that make you sound a little more important at some job than you really were. But saying you worked someplace that you didn’t or that you held a title that you never did could backfire on you once you are in the interview process or if someone actually calls and checks (which we regularly do at Barrystaff). We recently had an applicant tell us that he had worked at a place for 4 ½ years. We called them to verify his employment and they told us that he was off by about 4 years. He had worked for them for six month and it was 4 years ago. Once we find out that you’ve lied to us, you get on our DO NOT USE list for all time. The same holds true for making up college degrees and educational credentials.

3. Personal Details About Your Life
We once received a resume from a Mechanical Engineer who had an impressive background but then at the end of his resume he added a half a page of information on his favorite books, favorite TV shows, his hobbies, charities that he supported, his married life, his kids and their soccer teams, etc. It was all stuff that had nothing to do with his ability to do the job. The danger with this stuff is that you might turn off the employer with some little nugget from your personal life. You may be all about rooting for the Cleveland Browns in your spare time but if the hiring manager is a Steelers fan, you just shot yourself in the foot by putting that information on your resume.

4. Jobs you had as a kid
Okay, maybe you did get promoted to Assistant Manager of the DQ when you worked there part time after class in college. But unless you are applying for another job in food service now, leave it off your resume. Those first jobs did teach us responsibility and how to count change but most of them were not positions aimed at helping to launch a career. It was just a way to earn date and gas money while in school. The one exception for this rule is if you are right out of school and just entering the workforce. Then it helps to show that you do know how to drag yourself out of bed and get to a job on a regular basis.

5. Confidential Stuff
If you previously worked for a company and had access to “confidential” information, keep it confidential. It has no business on your resume. Giving the names of key customers, or inside information shows that you can‘t be trusted and it could not only get your resume tossed in the garbage but get you into legal trouble with your past employer.

6. An Objective
The “objective” statement at the top of a resume is a waste of paper, ink, and time. Your resume is sales tool to sell yourself to an employer. Your “objective” is a statement of what you are trying to do, which is GET A JOB. Who cares? Hiring Managers really aren’t interested in what you want. They want to know what you can do for them. Instead of an objective at the start of your resume, give a summary of who you are and what you can do. Have it be the commercial that entices them to read the rest of the resume. And use bullet points so it’s easy to read. But be careful. If you mention some skill or accomplishment in the summary, make sure they can find it in more detail in the body of the resume.

7. Too Much Detail
I read, or rather I saw, a resume the other day that was 6 pages long. Of course I didn’t read the whole thing. Who would? It went on and on about everything this person had done since kindergarten including playing second chair flute in the junior high band. Nobody wants to read your autobiography under the guise of a resume. Make it easy for some tired and busy HR person to skip through and glean the highlights. And use bullet points! Keep the sentences and paragraphs short!

8. Don’t Oversell
We all like to try and put ourselves in a favorable light when writing a resume, but don’t oversell yourself. You might like to say that you were a superstar at your last job, but describing yourself as key management in your first year out of school seems a little pretentious. Most good resumes show a line of progression with early jobs having entry-level duties and accomplishments and then a steady increase in titles and responsibilities. Keep it real.

9. Keep it Positive
Here is an actual excerpt from a resume we received.
“At that position there was a lull in the work and my supervisor was off shooting the bull with another employee and had not directed me what to do next. So I sat down and unfortunately fell asleep. Then he had the guts to fire me when it was all his fault.”
First, it’s never good to bad-mouth a past employer. Second, it’s an even worse idea to point out your own flaws or mistakes in your resume. Your resume should just be about your good side and the positive things you have done. If it comes up later in an interview, go ahead and explain why you were released but don’t let your negative resume derail your chances to get that interview.

10. I, Me, and We
Resumes are not letters to your mom. A resume is a written description of your abilities and achievements for an employer to consider. You should never write a resume in the first person. Saying, “Well first I did this and then I did that,” is a conversational way to write an informal communication or letter. It’s fine for your cover letter but is out of place on a formal resume. Instead start sentences with powerful words like, demonstrated, accomplished, built, managed, organized, improved, or the like. Your spelling and grammar checker on your computer might not like incomplete sentences but they are often okay on a resume. Again, use bullet points and make it easy to read.

Strangest “I’m Sick” Excuses

CareerBuilder  asked HR managers to cite the strangest “I’m sick” excuses they’ve ever heard. Given the high number of people who call in sick when they’re not, some of these are bound to be fibs. Others are just odd. I’m sure it’s alarming to have bats get in your hair, as one employee claimed, but once they’re gone, and you’ve washed your hair, why couldn’t you come to work? As for most of the other excuses, like the employee whose kid stuck a mint up his nose, necessitating a trip to the emergency room, well, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that one were true.

Strangest “I’m sick” excuses:

Employee’s 12 year-old daughter stole his car, leaving him with no way to get to work.
Employee said bats got in her hair.
Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
A truck carrying flour backed up into an employee’s convertible and dumped flour into it.
Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
Employee said he ate too much at a party.
Employee said he fell out of bed and broke his nose.
Employee said he got a cold from a puppy.
Employee’s child stuck a mint up his nose, so the parent had to accompany the child to the emergency room to get it removed.
Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
Employee had a headache brought on by too many garage sales.
Employee’s brother-in-law was kidnapped while in Mexico.
Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
Employee was at a bowling alley when a bucket of water crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.
What’s the strangest “I’m sick” excuse you’ve heard?