By Kor de Boer, EO Netherland member and DGA/CCO of .
This is a story about how my company survived troubled times and managed to get back on track. My business partner and I started our company at the end of 2003, a time when stress was ever-present in our industry. Around this time, businesses were employing fewer people, and they were encountering numerous problems along the way.
Like most ambitious entrepreneurs, we didn’t think we had the same problems as our customers and competition. Unfortunately, we did. My business revolves around sales recruitment, and our market had been decreasing rapidly due to a lack of job openings. We knew that if we continued along our path, we would be out of business within a year. It was time to act!
We attempted to resolve the issue by hiring a lot of employees, many of whom departed soon after they joined the company. Looking back, I know what went wrong. Because our focus was on growth, we hired new staff with ease, thinking the more people we had, the better off we would be. We did not look at the candidates’ personalities that much or consider how they would interact with the rest of the team. This negatively impacted our business, so we had to come up with a solution.
We decided to downsize four of our people, cut costs and renegotiate with several suppliers. Also, our account managers and management department got involved with our biggest customers to prepare us, and them, for better times. We even gave training and support to clients for free and helped them out with human resource management issues.
What’s more, we were very candid with our customers, which turned out to be beneficial for business. I told my clients—and my employees—that business still wasn’t going well, and that times ahead may be a lot tougher than it has been. Basically, we told them the truth. As a result, we found ourselves in position to achieve improved results and increased success.
Because of our honesty, the mood and mentality of my staff also changed. Employees went from an “It’s not going to work” way of thinking to “What a great opportunity we have here!” mindset. What’s more, the employees started to get more involved and committed to our plans. In the end, I realized that those who are frank about what they’re looking for in employees and the state of business will help their businesses reach new heights.