Hiring Horsepower in a Post Recession Environment

by Bill & Chris Sitter

Tips for employers in a time of slow but steady growth.

“The road to recovery will likely be marked by slow and steady acceleration, rather than speed.” This quote from the Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section, March 2, 2010, comes as no surprise to AED distributors or OEM suppliers. Let’s use this as the backdrop for a look at how employers and potential candidates might best approach the critical need for high impact (high Horsepower) managers to help enterprises steer a path to sustainable growth.

Many of our dealer, manufacturer and rental industry clients have credited our executive search firm with having a unique perspective regarding business trends, developments and economic drivers. If their assessment is valid then we have positive news for CED’s readers. We sense that this industry has survived the trough of the economic cycle & is gradually trending up.

This is significant because companies in the segments we serve (construction, mining, material handling, agriculture & forestry) have undergone multiple downsizing rounds in order to survive. Most executives we’ve spoken with agree that the cuts were so deep that very talented ladies and gentlemen were released, resulting in situations where slight increases in orders will expose serious manpower limitations. As we edge upward, CEO’s need to re-evaluate their teams and carefully consider key hiring needs, using a post-recession and gradual growth planning scenario.

At recent industry meetings and trade shows, Chris and I, together with my new partner, Jerry Randecker, enjoyed the opportunity to candidly discuss hiring expectations as companies ramp up for the recovery phase. Let’s consider how AED dealers should prepare:

    • A fresh look at a distributor’s three- to five-year business plan is definitely in order. Rather than dusting off the old plan, this calls for an objective evaluation of major changes in traditional markets: New trends, customer buying and renting practices, competitive forces and demographics.
    • It’s time to scrutinize the organizational chart and realign to support projections in the business plan. For example, if certain product support activities or promotion of new products for market niches are identified as major profit producers, then be prepared to add impact players (in product support, IT and marketing) to capitalize on profit opportunities.
    • It’s time for “tough love” as management objectivity assesses the current team, especially managers and supervisors. Question: Can each member of the team help your enterprise achieve your business objectives? If the answer is “yes,” then you’re in good shape to execute your plan – go for it. However, if there are gaps in your talent pool, then keep reading – please.
    • As executives identify critical hiring needs, they are looking for essential skill sets and are not just rehiring to fill vacant slots. They will seek multitalented candidates with modern skills and knowledge of the latest business practices. They want to hire people who will produce, with excellence, the output of two or more previous employees.
    • Although our firm deals with recruitment of superior talent from outside the dealership, we strongly encourage employers to make maximum efforts to re-train incumbents so they can contribute more; in the process they’ll enjoy work more and likely be life-long contributors.
  • When recruiting new talent, consider how he/she will adapt to your company culture. Hiring from outside affords opportunities to include modern skill sets in your desired qualifications. Examples: Very strong computer skills (be specific), business savvy with a firm grasp of how actions impact a bottom line, the ability for a marketing person to effectively employ social media tools and CRM processes to enhance customer relationships with an eye toward increasing your dealership’s “share of wallet” while enhancing customer satisfaction.

Tips for progressive candidates seeking to be hired or promoted as industry employers rebuild:

    • Do not sit back and wait for large scale re-hiring, hoping you’ll be in demand as business improves.
    • Objectively assess your skills – strengths & weaknesses. Seek outside advice. List shortcomings that hinder your ability to achieve your dreams.
    • Execute a development program to close every gap that’s holding back your career. Examples include: upgrading computer skills, completing technical certifications or degrees, enhancing communication & presentation skills (Toastmasters), & a fitness regime to improve endurance, appearance & self confidence.
    • Be a “student of your industry”. Read books & periodicals & keep current on market & product developments. Do internet research to see what companies are doing. Maintain your network of contacts.
  • Finally, revise your resume. Focus on the career roles you seek. Make potential employers aware of “the new and improved you”!

As business improves, employment opportunities are gradually being created. Progressive dealers, manufacturer’s & rental companies will seek to upgrade their talent. Rather than just re-hiring, they’ll be searching for heavy hitters…the kind of multi-taskers who can do more & overcome today’s business challenges.

Progressive candidates will strive to enhance their skills, making them attractive to employers. To the extent that dealers & potential employees accomplish this upgrading, our equipment industry will be far better positioned for sustainable long-term growth.