Staffing & Employment

Staffing & Employment

What type of manufacturing business do you have or want? Wood furniture? Specialty sporting equipment? Rebuilt compressors for automobile air conditioning units? Custom clothing? Unique energy-saving devices? The list could go on and on. Most people who start a small manufacturing business are either well-trained experts on the product type they are producing or they are following a dream.

For the product experts, many family-run, larger businesses existing today started as someone’s bright idea or a better way to build or construct something. Innovators, engineers, scientists and do-it-yourselfers are the people who typically start small manufacturing businesses that over time grow into something larger. Sporting goods products are an excellent example of this category – think about the skateboard, the surfboard and the snowboard. The people who started these businesses were the innovators who became the subject matter experts because they were using the equipment, and they were passionate about what they were doing.

Others often take a hobby they have dabbled in or an intellectual passion they have thought about for some time and turn it into a small manufacturing business. Examples of this evolutionary process might include the retiree making custom bird houses or whirly gigs; a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in women’s support undergarments and comes up with a whole new product line; or, the world traveler who sits in a uniquely designed beach chair in a Central American country, then modifies the design to modernize it and sells the chairs online.

Finding and Hiring Help

In all likelihood, if you have chosen to be a small manufacturing business, you are the product expert in the technology and techniques required to produce the product(s) you sell. So, as you add staff to your company, you will be the process teacher, the quality control/product expert and the time-in-motion industrial engineer responsible for what is produced.

Unless you are making something that requires a high level of expertise (i.e., assembly or very tight tolerance electronic components), when demand for your product(s) exceeds your capacity to personally produce them, you will need to hire people to work for you. Things to look for in filling employment needs are: ability to learn quickly, reliability/dependability, and ability to do the manual, as well as some of the skilled, work.

If you are not the product expert, and are instead the financier, accountant, marketer, grant writer, etc., then you will have to recruit or develop someone with the technical expertise your business requires. For instance, if you want to become the top dog in design of easy do-it-yourself solar panels for making hot water, your marketing contributions may be the key to success of your small business and not the hands-on work of assembling the components to make your product. In other words, you are the idea person, and that’s what you most enjoy doing.

There are many local trade schools that specialize in teaching manufacturing/assembly-related skills and knowledge which will probably have students or graduates with the talent, knowledge and skill sets your business needs. A quick Internet search on “trade schools near ‘____’ (fill-in the geography or zip code)” will give you a great starter list, and each institution’s website will provide you with the latest cutting-edge training provided to students in unique areas.

Will you need help answering the phone, taking orders, answering general questions and dealing with billing issues? If so, consider hiring someone you know who may need a little extra work on the side, or perhaps it is your spouse who would like to be of assistance. A local high school or college may also have a co-op program with students for hire.

In today’s environment, it is probably best to minimize the number of full-time employees on your payroll. Not only do you have a number of tax obligations (social security, Medicare, unemployment, etc.), but legislation requiring paid benefits continues to place the burden of things like medical insurance, paid days off for sick leave, paid holidays, etc. squarely on the backs of business owners.

Moreover, depending on the nature of your work and whether you employ workers directly, you will probably need several types of business insurance. Consider getting general liability insurance as well as vehicle and property insurance. This will protect you against claims for personal injury and property damage, and cover the costs of legal proceedings. Most states also require businesses to carry specific insurance, such as workers' compensation, unemployment and state disability insurance. And you will probably want your small manufacturing business to be a stand-alone legal entity to protect your personal assets.

If you need to hire people who have the skills, certification, training and experience mentioned above, where do you find them? A quick Internet search will give you the contact information for schools which provide training in your state or geography. As well, if you use an Internet search engine to query “employment agencies near {zip code},” not only will you get names of a variety of hiring agencies but you will also see a number of job boards on which you may post your opening at virtually no cost. Also, with today’s social media reach, using your list of key contacts by letting them know you have a specific employment need will probably satisfy your talent needs faster than you can imagine.

Please refer to the Human Resource information for further suggestions and ideas on finding and hiring employees and staff.