To Hire or Not to Hire That is the Question!
By Louis Gereaux, MBA
Many of us who have entered the independent bookstore business wanted a low overhead business, and the opportunity to work on our own – in our own way. Hiring part-time staff can compromise that dream. After all, there are some downsides to hiring employees. Your time is no longer your own… you lose some freedom when you hire someone else, and you add responsibility to your job as business owner. When you hire an employee, it means that you take a step back and a step up to bookstore manager. You are doing less of what you love – that of dealing with books – and more of your time is spent setting up meaningful work for an employee.
At this time, my book business is very small and entirely online, but I have had times when I needed help from others, so I know the difference between freedom and obligation. As a business grows, (and you will want it to grow), you might encounter being swamped with work. What at first seemed fun – you controlling and working in every aspect of the business, becomes burdensome. Worse than that is when you end up losing some passion for what you do. In the end, you may also miss the camaraderie of teamwork if you were previously in the job world.
It has been discovered that one of the main reasons that customers are turned away from a business is an attitude of indifference.11 You as business owner should not blame yourself. Too much work for you to do can get you down. You might need that extra help, but how to go about making a smooth transition from working alone to hiring part time employees?
One of the first things you’ll need to do is to create a job posting, along with a job description. Keep in mind that you want to create a position which is fulfilling and eliminates the attitude of indifference. A job description, after all, is not simply a listing of job duties. People work in the book business because they are passionate about books. There is another side to duties at work, and it is a big word called responsibility. It is very tempting in the casual work world of independent bookselling to give your future employees drudgery and gopher type tasks devoid of responsibility. That is a big mistake because it leads to indifference.
There are a number of places to post your job applicant wanted listings. On the other hand, the small independent bookstore is very likely to hire from their local community, and the employees you bring on board could be some of your best customers, or possibly family members or close friends. For a job application, you can probably get away with a general application form that you find for free online or photocopied from a business book. Another idea is to take an existing application that you find somewhere and modify it to your purposes. Some of you will be sophisticated enough to turn that form into digital format on your website.
As far as legal issues are concerned, you will definitely be confronting the Civil Rights Legislation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You may also encounter a need for medical exams or drug testing which you should inexpensively outsource somehow. My personal opinion is that most of the requirements for a bookstore are fairly lightweight, and rather than your typical bookworm bookstore employee, why not hire a person who is disabled? Reading is a great hobby for a disabled person, and they have the potential to be very well read. The deaf, the blind, and those confined to wheel chairs may surprise you in what they know. You may carry large print books, but do you carry books in Braille? How about audio books – or are sound books not part of your business plan? Whoever you hire, use the chance as an opportunity to expand your circle of colleagues and your horizons. College kids and retirees can also use the extra dough and are quite knowledgeable.
An appropriate way to end this article is to consider some interview questions you might ask your candidates. Yet, I am sure you will think of some good questions on your own. Make sure to keep your interview questions job related because candidates may have a tendency to talk about their personal lives too much. The topics you should cover in an interview include: past work experience, job requirements, fitting in, working with others and don’t forget about your customers, resilience, passion for the industry, what the candidate can do for you, and how professional they present themselves.