Do you have the right employees to take advantage of the coming boom?

– by Barry Shamis

Good market. Bad market. Nothing has changed. It still remains that the only sustainable competitive advantage is the quality of your people.

No one knows when the current market problems will take a turn for the better. But, only a complete cynic believes that it won’t.

Those organizations that have prepared and have the right people in place are going to have a tremendous advantage. The CEO that takes steps now to prepare can avoid the mad scramble for people after the market does turn.

I got a call last week from a mortgage broker who needed to hire 200 new reps as soon as possible. With the recent lowering of interest rates, he was completely unprepared to handle the demand of all the people trying to refinance existing properties. His competitors are cleaning his clock while he is scurrying around trying to find employees.

Don’t get caught in the unenviable position of missing market opportunities because you don’t have the staff in place to capitalize.

Here are five things you can do today to get ready to pounce once the opportunities present themselves.

Identify Your Business Model

The first step is to determine what your business is going to look like on the other side. What changes to your model are you making? How are you addressing the new market realities?

How are your processes going to change and how will those changes affect the type of employee you need? You might decide to go with a direct sales model versus your previous distribution model. This dictates different employees to make the business successful. How is your customer mix going to change? How are their needs changing? What type of employee will it take to service your new customer? The makeup of your employees may have to change drastically.

You cannot effectively address your employee needs without first clearly defining your business model.

Translate Business Needs Into People Needs

The next step is to translate your new model into the specific people needs necessary to make it work. Begin by identifying the outcomes and deliverables the new model dictates. What are the specific results your staff needs to deliver?

Think about all the tasks and processes necessitated by your model. How many people will it take to deliver the results you need to hit your targets? How can you best organize to meet the new demands?

As you work through the process, focus on skill sets as opposed just raw numbers of people. Train yourself to think in terms of outcomes instead of just open positions. This manpower planning exercise results in a picture of a new organization.


Audit Existing Staff

To continue, you need to audit your existing staff. A complete understanding of your current capabilities is necessary before you can make any changes. Here’s a simple process to help you identify your existing capabilities.

First, look at your technical capabilities. How strong are the technical capabilities in your organization? And this doesn’t just mean technology. What is the collective knowledge-base in your company’s area of specialty? How wide and deep are the capabilities of your current staff? How much bench strength, if any, do you have?

Next, assess your staff’s style. What is it like to do business with your company? How do you deal with your customers? How flexible is your staff? Do you have risk-takers or do your people play it close to the vest?

Is yours a learning organization? How quickly can your existing people change and implement new directives? Do your people adapt to changing conditions? These are the types of questions that get to the heart of your real capabilities.

The structure of your company may have to change on the other side and you don’t ever want to organize around personalities. Capabilities must be the driving force behind any organizational structure.

One final thought on your existing staff. Do not put the baby out with the bath water. Your greatest asset is your existing talent base. According to Tim Jones, Vice President Global Human

Resources at Hypercom, “We are challenged to both reduce cost but also initiate efforts to continue to engage the key players in our organization.” He goes on to say, “When the inevitable up-turn comes, the organizations that have maintained their key players will emerge on the other side as the vibrant successful organization with momentum.”


Start Recruiting Now!

The one great upside to this down market is you are being offered the most fertile recruiting environment in a generation. There are more talented people available now than at any time in the recent past. And, you have more flexibility on compensation issues.

A colleague of mine is a recruiter in the financial services industry. Given recent events, you wouldn’t think he is busy. However, he called to tell me he is swamped recruiting and hiring stock brokers. While the “big boys” are falling apart, the small, forward-thinking firms are snapping up all the talent.

The single most consistent complaint I get from clients during hot markets is, “I don’t have time to recruit, I am too busy running my company.” Instead, they resort to throwing money at recruiting problems when they confront a hot market.

The current recruiting market is begging to be exploited. Hording talent now is the only way to hit the ground running when the market turns. I can just about promise a very aggressive recruiting campaign now should be void of any serious competition.

This doesn’t mean you need to hire everyone you see. Think of this exercise as building a pipeline of well-qualified prospects you can move on in the blink of an eye when you need them. Put together a database of as many talented people as you can. This gives you the competitive edge on the rest of your competitors.

Almost everyone has circled the wagons and gone into a shell. You have a golden opportunity. Never has there been a better time to find a higher quality of employee. Don’t fall into the trap that everyone else has.

Only a select few are going to be prepared to maximize market opportunities when they arise. Don’t get left in the dust.

Barry Shamis is President of Selecting Winners and has been presenting to Vistage groups for 18 years. He has been providing counsel to Business Owners for more than 36 years. You can find a wealth of articles and get a free copy of his Hiring Made Easy Book at Or you can contact him at 360-452-7328 x201.