Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Hiring right - Andrew Fearnside, Wild Wheat Bakery

This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about hiring right.
Andrew Fearnside, owner of Wild Wheat Bakery.
Andrew Fearnside, owner of Wild Wheat Bakery.

Andrew Fearnside is the owner of Wild Wheat Bakery.

Can you tell me about the staffing and hiring situation currently in your business?

Lately as we've grown we seem to almost always be looking for staff. I have 85 staff on the books - in a mixture of full and part time roles - and the business is spread over five locations, with production runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As well as needing more staff as we grow, there's also a level of natural attrition - especially amongst the shift workers. At the moment we're looking for a manager for our Mt Eden retail store, but more often we're looking to fill lower level positions.

What are some of the mistakes you feel you've made over the years when it comes to hiring?

My biggest mistake is always rushing in to choose a candidate, especially in the kitchens.

Often we don't get much notice when someone is leaving, and there's a real panic to find a replacement. Not having time to let an ad linger for a while has meant at times I've hired slightly out of desperation, and made the wrong choices. The 90 day trial period has been a godsend in respect to that. I don't make those rushed mistakes as much as I used to, and the 90 days allows you to take a punt, even if you're not 100 percent sure. Thankfully the majority tend to work out okay these days.

What have you learnt now about getting the right people on board that will fit a particular role and the culture of your company?

As the company has become bigger and more well-known, it's been easier to attract candidates who can associate with our brand. They know our style of baking and where we sit in the marketplace. That's a helpful start as opposed to being just another bakery looking for staff.

As I've become more confident and experienced in my role, I've found it's best to start hiring conversations by being very honest about what we're looking for, what we require from the role, and where the particular candidate will fit in the bigger picture. I think the more a person knows about a role and the company, the better informed they'll be when making a decision to join.

Andrew Fearnside, owner of Wild Wheat Bakery.
Andrew Fearnside, owner of Wild Wheat Bakery.

Getting staff in for a trial has always been important for me, especially with kitchen staff. Both myself and my head pastry chef Kristina have been in the industry a long time, and you can see a lot from just getting people in for the day. CVs can be a bit misleading at times, but a day in the kitchen tends to give you a good idea of the person's relevant skills. We run that policy through the retail stores as well, to let the managers get a feel for who they're hiring and their personality for customer service.

What is the biggest lesson you've learnt as a business owner about hiring right?

Hiring wrong can create a nightmare at times, especially when you're filling senior roles. The 90 day trial period does give you an escape route, but I've found significant damage can be done in even a short space of time. Getting the wrong person in can often result in six months of lost production and time as you train and then have to retrain someone else.

COMING UP: What are the experiences of some small business owners who have built up longstanding relationships with their suppliers over time, and how are they extracting the most value out of those relationships? If you've got a story to share about supplier relationships, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

That's why hiring the right person becomes so important. It means people can hit the ground running, and that any training required is time well spent. Getting the right person also makes life so much easier for everyone else in the team, and hopefully brings in people who will add value to the organisation as a whole.

- NZ Herald

Coming up in Small Business: The baby boomer market is growing. What are some businesses specifically targeting this demographic, and what have they learnt about reaching this audience?

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