Small business: Hiring staff - Bluebells Cakery

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Karla Goodwin, proprietor of Bluebells Cakery. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Karla Goodwin, proprietor of Bluebells Cakery. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Karla Goodwin, owner of Bluebells Cakery in Hillsborough Road, talks to Gill South about hiring new staff.

My first few hires were people that were recommended to me through friends and by my coffee supplier, Supreme. I just asked around if anybody knew of a good baker or barista and a couple of names came back to me. When you're looking for a job, it's all about the people you know. But the same goes for when you're on the other side of it. When you are hiring your networks are always going to be your first port of call.

Since opening the shop though I've hired a few more people on my own, and mostly I've found them through social media. When I started to feel the need for an extra pair of hands in the kitchen and in the shop, I put up a post on my Facebook page saying that I was looking for an experienced, hardworking friendly person to join the team. I also sent out a Tweet about it.

The first time I did that I had a really great response. I've managed to find three or four really good people that way now. I think it works well for me because social media has always been a big part of how I market Bluebells. I've built up a good base of 'fans/likes', which means when I post an ad like that lots of people end up seeing it, and a follower might share it with someone they know who they think would suit the role.

So for me that initial stage of finding people or getting people to apply has always been easy and free. But the difficult part is choosing the right person. I always get new people to come in for a one or two day trial, and there's a few benchmarks they have to meet before I'll take them on. I need to see that they're experienced, efficient, smart, well presented and willing and able to do everything they might be required to do, including dishes and cleaning.

But I think the most important thing to look for in staff, if you can find it, is an internal drive or self-motivation. At the end of the day you can teach skills, but if someone's motivation goes beyond what you can offer them (a pay check and a reference), then they'll bring more to the business.

As things have become busier, I've decided that I'll try to only hire people with commercial kitchen experience from now on. (I hired someone recently with commercial experience and the difference in efficiency is really notable. Up until then my bakers had been hospitality students, or just passionate bakers).

In a small business it's difficult to walk the line between hiring for good relationships or productivity and efficiency. There's never more than four of us in the shop at once, so the dynamic has to be right. But being friends also means that it can be difficult to be the boss and be authoritative if people aren't pulling their weight.

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