Staff shouldn’t be ‘The biggest problem a small business owner has to face’.

After a busy December, most of which we spent short-staffed in the kitchen (more about this later), I am climbing back on my blogging and social media horse and this time I am determined to stay on for good.  Enough of the pathetic excuses though.

Every so often on the blog I write an entry that is really aimed at other people who are considering setting up a small business.  I realise that with a business just 3 months old that perhaps my thoughts are not really worth all that much – but then again I know there are people out there who are thinking of making similar life changing decisions who may appreciate it.

In my previous career I managed many people, soldiers actually, but I never directly employed any of them.  As I was conducting my research for Baltzersen’s I spoke to various people in the catering trade and other small businesses and the one thing virtually all of them told me was ‘Staff will be your biggest problem, they’re a nightmare.’.

Recently we have indeed had a bit of a problem securing the right staff and have been let down on a couple of occasions resulting in a pretty tough month for the rest of us.  But it’s not all bad; three months in we still have our six original staff members, plus three later additions, and working with them has been far from a nightmare.

Photo 3 copy

Rowan was one of our two original baristas who after pouring a couple of thousand coffees is getting the hang of it!!

A lot of planning and hard work was required in terms of branding, interior design, uniform, menu development, etc etc to get Baltzersen’s as close to our vision as we could. As long as these elements are correctly maintained and regularly tweaked they should continue to set the conditions for people to have an enjoyable experience each time they visit.  As customers become more familiar with Baltzersen’s the place their enjoyment of the visit is increasingly governed by the team who make Baltzersen’s what it is.  Staff interaction may be slightly removed as the customer may not directly speak with the barista, but hopefully they appreciate the effort that has gone into making a great tasting drink that is presented more perfectly each time they visit.  The chef may not bring the food out personally, although they try to as often as possible,  but hopefully the customer appreciates the consistency of presentation and quality of ingredients in each dish.

As yet I’m not completely sure how we secured our really great staff.  We went to the effort of designing a hiring poster that had a clear message, was eye-catching and seemed to appeal to the right people.  The original staff helped us put the finishing touches to the café, worked out the systems of service, test baked, practiced making coffees and I think this was key in forging a strong team with a sense of ownership.  Hopefully the staff feel they are treated fairly, their opinions heard and they feel encouraged to suggest changes and improvements.  In turn the staff strive to improve the way they do their jobs, are generally a happy bunch and make people feel welcome and looked after.

Jess pretty much runs things out front.

Jess pretty much runs things out front.

There has been little so far in my working life that has satisfied me more that seeing the members of the team we assembled from scratch working in full flow, explaining the ethos they helped to create and being thanked by customers for their efforts.

So café/small business owners of the future don’t fret about staff.  Not all staff will work out, but you have to be thankful for the good ones you have and look after them – without their help it’s a lonely and difficult place to be!

Thanks to our team for all the hard work you have put in so far, here’s to a busy 2013.


Post Script:

Since drafting this blog last week we have tried two new Kitchen Porters.  One worked a single shift and disappeared never to be heard of again despite accepting the job, the other worked three shifts and failed to turn up for his fourth shift with no phonecall or explanation……so there do remain some challenges for us in this area!

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