Dan Heyworth is CEO of home design and build company Box Living.

Can you tell me about your staffing situation in the business in recent years?

We've been growing at a consistent pace since the business started five years ago. We started in a recession, but now a lot more people are becoming interested in and educated about designing and building their own homes. Obviously the economy is going well and house prices are growing in the right direction.

What that's meant is we've needed more skilled people across a range of areas - drafting, design, quantity surveying and project management. More recently we've also been searching for more senior people who are able to step up and be the future leaders of the business in each of those areas.

What are some of the challenges you've encountered when trying to find good staff?


It's very difficult to know how well people will actually perform in our environment until you have them working in the business for a short while - such is the complex nature of relationships and motivation!

Sometimes you can make the wrong decision when you're in a hurry to hire, so we've found good long-term resource planning is important; we start hunting for people well in advance of when we need them.

If a great fit falls into our lap we need to bear the cost of bringing them on earlier than expected. It's far better than taking on the wrong person because you're in a hurry to fill the hole. In today's market there is a shortage of good candidates.

What are some other strategies you're using to help you find good people in the tight market?

We're having to resort to social media. We have our own Facebook page and Twitter feed, where we have about 1000 followers, and so we'll just put it out there and say 'if anyone can help us find a quantity surveyor, there's some money in it for you'.

Quite often the way to find good people is through someone who knows someone who can recommend someone and then you can just shoulder tap them. You have to proactively search for people, which is time consuming, and something you need to keep working at. When we find candidates we'll often get a third party to interview them, do psychometric testing and reference-check.

How about retaining staff? How is the business faring in that regard?

Retaining staff is less of an issue. We've worked to create a fun, vibrant office and that company culture really stems from the owners and managers of the business. They have to embody the brand, and that comes through in the way they communicate with and manage their teams. It's one of those soft, intangible things but a good manager is key to retaining good employees. The key is to keep people feeling valued and inspired and to create a fun and open environment.


Another thing that I think is important is to create a good office environment, which includes giving people the proper tools - a decent computer, or a standing desk if they need it - that they need to do their jobs. And also just treating people like grown ups. We don't really have any working hours as such; the people who work here just have goals and deadlines - things that need to be achieved by a certain date - which they agree on with their managers and use whatever hours they choose to achieve that.

What's been your biggest learning as a business owner about finding and keeping good staff?

If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Don't be pressed into accepting someone because you're in a hurry. It will always be the wrong decision in the long-run.

Coming up in Your Business: Trade shows are part of the marketing mix for many businesses. So what are some of the strategies companies use to get the most out of their investment in attending these kinds of events? If you've got some experiences to share, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com