Are you an expert at writing job ads for your small business? No? Get tips on how to write the perfect job ad on this week’s edition of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast with hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks.
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Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with another episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin. I’m here with small business guru, Gene Marks.
Gene: On time.
Elizabeth: Who is always on time. I’m going to read another one of our iTunes reviews because it’s really nice.
Gene: This has to be a bad one, right?
Elizabeth: No, no, no.
Gene: Oh, it’s another good review from iTunes?
Elizabeth: It’s pretty good, yeah. I know. We haven’t gotten any bad ones yet. If you want to leave a bad one, you can leave us a review on iTunes.
Gene: No, don’t do that. Go on, bring it on. I like hearing these good things.
Elizabeth: Okay, “This is pretty good.”
Gene: Wait, did you say that, or did the reviewer say that?
Elizabeth: That’s the review.
Elizabeth: “I just stumbled on this as I was looking for info on starting a business. There’s a lot of good information and the hosts are fun to listen to. It covers a wide range of subjects for business owners, but it’s mostly focused on new businesses, which I like. I’ve purchased a few e-books on running a business, and they’re all geared toward businesses that have like 40 employees. My business will be a sole proprietorship, and there just isn’t a lot of info geared towards these types of businesses.”
Gene: Good for you.
Elizabeth: Well, thank you so much for the review.
Gene: Good for you.
Elizabeth: I think, yeah, we actually answer a lot of questions from sole proprietors.
Gene: We do.
Elizabeth: A lot of the questions for sole proprietors are transferable to those bigger companies. Most of the questions we answer are pretty … They have common themes.
Gene: They do. We talk about business management and how to make money.
Elizabeth: How to make money. All right, we will be right back with our first question on hiring right after this.
QUESTION #1: Writing the Perfect Job Ad for Your Small Business
We’re back with question number 1. This is from Marcy from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gene: Yes, Marcy.
Elizabeth: Oh my goodness.
Gene: Going out for drinks after this, with my wife as well. I don’t know, Marcy, if you’re married or not.
Elizabeth: All right, so Marcy writes,
“I quickly need to hire 2 new people for my busy season. I’m getting the worst applicants from Craiglist and LinkedIn. It’s like no one bothers to read the ad before they apply. Most of them are unqualified and don’t follow simple instructions like including a cover letter. How do I get people to actually read my ad?”
Elizabeth: Gene, I’m going to defer to you on this because you just wrote an article for us about this.
Gene: Yeah, it’s funny because I do advertising when I’m looking for both employees and contractors. I like Craiglist. It’s 25 bucks to place an ad on Craiglist, and I’ve always had good success with it. As good as I am at writing a Craiglist ad, just like on Monster.com, or any of the other sites that are out there, I still get a bunch of knuckleheads that apply.
I’ll be like, “Only interested in people in the Philadelphia area,” and I’m getting from Islamabad, people are applying, or, “Please see cover letter and resume,” and I’m only getting their resume.
Elizabeth: In PDF format.
Gene: Yeah, PDF format. They’ll send it to me in Word format, which is like, “Oh, great,” full of viruses or whatever.
Gene: I’m not going to download that. Maybe it’s the type of job I’m looking for, maybe it’s the environment that we’re in. I realize that it’s low on employment, but whenever I place an ad, I always seem to get lots of responses, so I always feel like I’m in a buyer’s market, meaning that when I get ads that don’t comply with my requests, I just delete.
Gene: I’m like, “Dude, if you’re not going to read a simple want ad and just comply with my request,” and I get requests like I’m looking for somebody that specializes, is a computer programmer, a developer, and I’ll get people that have nothing … People randomly sending out their resumes.
Elizabeth: Do you even bother responding to those people? I wouldn’t.
Gene: See, now that’s a whole other thing. No, I don’t. First of all, anything that doesn’t comply, I just delete because I don’t think you want somebody working for you that just cannot do that very first step and follow that information. I’m going to stop.
Gene: Resuming, writing a good advertisement, no matter how good an advertisement that you write, people are still not going to comply.
Elizabeth: You’re probably going to get 50% to 60%, maybe 70%, of people that just are not qualified.
Elizabeth: Just delete those …
Gene: I delete them.
Elizabeth: Then, you’re dealing with those 30%.
Gene: The whole exercise of advertising for people is disqualification, so they’re making it easier for you. To me, I need to get through all of the noise, so I can narrow it down to my top 5 or 10 candidates even, and then I still have to disqualify down from there. Thanks for helping me out. I asked for a cover letter, you didn’t give me one, delete.
Gene: I asked for somebody local to Philly, and you’re located in Los Angeles, delete. You’re helping me, because I want the people that follow the instructions so I can narrow it down to my best 10. I think they’re doing you a favor.
Elizabeth: She’s saying that most are unqualified, so that means there are some that are qualified, and then just spend your time on those.
Gene: Correct, correct.
Elizabeth: Now, have you ever looked for people on, let’s say, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or you mostly just do …
Gene: There are services that do that. I mostly do Monster, although the only time that I … When I look for contractors, or specific people to do … I need a developer in C++ to write this code, or somebody that integrates these 2 applications together, that’s a specialty, and it’s not something … I don’t need an employee, I just need a …
Elizabeth: Contingent worker.
Gene: Contingent, right.
Gene: LinkedIn is a great place to go for something like that because LinkedIn is really, in effect, a big database of resumes.
Gene: That’s all it is. I go there and I do my searching, and I find people and I reach out. It’s people that are contractors or consultants, or whatever. “Do you do this work? Do you know anybody that does?” That’s been successful for me. The other place that is great is Upwork.
Elizabeth: Upwork, okay.
Gene: Upwork.com is very, very good.
Elizabeth: Okay. Now, how often, or how many ads do you think Marcy should write? Do you think she should place different drafts? Should she test out her ad to get … ?
Gene: That’s a good question. Again, the service itself, like Craig’s List, again, is 25 bucks, so if you write the ad … You can look at other Craig’s List ads. Look at other ads on Monster. One thing that people talk about writing a good ad, you don’t … You’re not creating the wheel here. This has been done a lot in the past, and there are a lot of good examples of ads that are … I look for ads, if I’m trying to formulate an ad for a certain position, I go to established sites like Monster, or Career Builder is another one. I look for ads written by big companies, by HR people at big companies, because these are people that it’s their job. They’re trained and have gotten special education in how to write an ad, so why am I trying to figure this out? I’m going to look at what they’ve done, take an ad that was done, and just emulate it.
Elizabeth: That’s true. Now, do you use any of the old … Every ad says “detail oriented.” Do you use any of those, I guess you would call them tropes?
Gene: Yeah. Those annoy me very much. The one thing that I do to my ads, I do try to put it in my own voice. When I write an ad, I say, “Hey, we’re a 10-person company located outside of Philadelphia, and we’re looking for somebody that can whatever.” When you say stuff like, “Detail oriented, team player … Do you know what I mean?
Gene: “Positive thinker, good attitude.” Is there anybody that doesn’t think that of themselves?
Elizabeth: No, everyone thinks that.
Gene: Yeah, I’m a team player, I’m a positive attitude. It seems so silly that you’re putting that in an ad. It seems like a waste. Well, of course.
Elizabeth: Before you hire someone then, do you give them an assignment or a project to do?
Gene: No, and that’s also a good way. Usually I don’t bring somebody on as an employee until they’ve been a contractor for me for a bit.
Elizabeth: Oh, okay.
Gene: I give them 90 days as a contractor and we’ll throw them out on smaller clients with the full intention of them screwing it up. Then, if that happens, okay, that didn’t work out. Hopefully, we’ve done enough vetting, and there is enough supervision where that doesn’t happen, and I recommend that to a lot of my clients. Before you bring on somebody, particularly in somewhat of a key position, contract out with them first.
Be completely up front. Say, “We’ll do it for 90 days, and if it’s all working out …”
Elizabeth: We’ll give you all of the training.
Gene: Yeah, we’ll give you the training. We’ll work it out. We’re going to pay you your $150 an hour, a contractor’s rate or whatever, but just after 90 days, then we’ll work on an employment agreement together.
Elizabeth: In Marcy’s situation then, Marcy from Philadelphia, your neighbor …
Elizabeth: She has a busy season, so let’s say that she needs 2 people. Let’s say she hires them right before her busy season and she trains them. One of them doesn’t work out and one of them quits.
Elizabeth: What about hiring them before her busy season and giving them 30 days? Now, she might be “wasting money,” but at the same time, wouldn’t that be better than?
Gene: That’s all in a perfect world. If you’ve got the capital to invest in people. People that are seasonal, around busy seasons, always want to walk into their busy season being ready to go, everybody prepared, staffed up, resources there, inventory on the shelves, cash in the register, and all of that kind of thing, and it never happens. It’s like everybody football team goes to a game wanting to have their full guys ready to go, and somebody gets injured in practice the day before.
Gene: In a perfect world, that would be great to be able to be in that position. In reality, I’m not quite sure if that’s really worth it.
Elizabeth: Okay. All right, great. We will be right back with question 2 after we hear from our sponsor.
QUESTION #2: Raising Capital
Okay, we’re back with our second question. This is from Elizabeth in Butte, Montana. Good name.
Elizabeth writes, “I have an idea for a household product that I can design, and I know a little bit about manufacturing, but I need to raise capital, and I know nothing about that. Is crowdsourcing a good way to go? I’ve seen a dog toy/video camera pop up in my Facebook feed a lot lately because they’re doing a crowdsourcing campaign. What types of products do well on crowdsourcing?”
Gene: What, the dog toy?
Elizabeth: Yes. It’s a ball, and it has a video camera in it, and you can control where the ball goes, so you can play with your dog while you’re gone, and you can also watch what your dog is doing.
Elizabeth: They have had a crowdsourcing campaign. They’re doing a lot of advertising before the product even launches, and they’re getting people to buy the product before they’ve done manufacturing of it.
Gene: That’s somewhat fun and goofy, and it’s attention getting. You and I are talking about it right now. It’s cocktail party conversation like, “Oh my gosh. Look at that little thing with a ball. I’ve got a dog that would like that, or whatever.” Her idea, she makes furniture, what did she say she does?
Elizabeth: It’s a household product.
Gene: Its a household, so …
Elizabeth: I’m going to assume it’s like an as seen on TV-type product.
Gene: I need to know more about it. Crowdsourcing is just this, you’re getting money from a crowd of people. You have a lot of competition out there, people looking for stuff. Your product has got to be sexy and fun and interesting and something that people want to contribute to because people don’t expect to make money when they crowdsource a product. They’re expecting to be involved in something that’s goofy.
Remember there was the guy that was in Ohio a couple of years ago, and he said he was going to make some potato salad, and he said, “I’m going to make potato salad. I make really good potato salad. If I raise 100 dollars to make potato salad, then I’m going to make potato salad, and whoever gave to my campaign can come by my house anytime, and I’ll give you some potato salad.” He raised 65,000 dollars on Kickstarter to make his potato salad. It was Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which is, first of all, evidence of how powerful crowdsourcing can be, and also evidence that our country is completely going down the tubes.
Elizabeth: People love carbs, Gene.
Gene: But, the fact that he could do that … People love carbs, but they also love a funny story, a viral thing, and a goofy whatever, and something to talk about when they’re out at the barbecue.
If she’s expecting to raise money on a crowdsourcing campaign, she’s got to, first of all, have a built in crowd of people that she knows, friends, family, and big community that will get things going for her, and then her product itself has got to be something that’s, like I said, sexy and fun, and exciting, and something that people will talk about around the country and say, “Oh, I’d like to be part of that,” and “So would I.” If it doesn’t meet that thing, crowdsourcing is not going to be a really good option for her.
Some options, if she’s looking for financing … This is a whole other topic.
Elizabeth: Oh yeah, and we will link to some … We have a lot of content on …
Gene: On financing …
Elizabeth: Capital, raising capital.
Gene: Right. A business like that, which is not something that’s really venture capital or angel investors, I don’t think they’re going to really get … Again, unless it’s something fantastic, and she wasn’t very clear as to what the household product is. The SBA is expanding their loans program, and they give out a lot of loans. The banks themselves, they guarantee the banks for any money, so if you have a credit history, and you’re able to get a bank loan, that’s something to consider doing. The SBA itself is working hard to try and get that out to business owners just like this, in a startup mode. That’s one avenue that she might want to try.
Elizabeth: Okay, great. There are microloans out there, how do you feel about those?
Gene: I do. There are a lot of organizations that do micro-loans. Access is one of them, and they partner with The Hartford, actually. I’m sorry, I called them Access, they’re Axion.
Elizabeth: Axion, yeah.
Gene: Axion is the name of the company. Axion partners with The Hartford, and they’re a wonderful organization, regardless of their partnership with The Hartford. I know that they’re just a wonderful organization that provides micro-loans and financing, SBA consulting as well, as well as just overall consulting.
I was at an event, this was earlier this year, in Chicago, and it was an Axion, actually, sponsored event. This guy ran a barbecue restaurant, and he started doing it out of a food truck, and then he wound up buying space, and whatever. He got a series of funding, micro-loans, from Axion, and they advised him. When he was going to buy stuff for his restaurant, he was like, “Oh I need 30 thousand dollars for my restaurant equipment,” and the people at Axion came to him and said, “Actually, we looked around and you can get this for less, and you can get that for less, and you can get that for less,” so …
Elizabeth: Oh wow. Incredible.
Gene: Yeah, so “Don’t borrow 30,000, borrow 15,000 from us and you’ll be just as good. Wonderful.
Elizabeth: That hints on something, a bigger issue, is a lot of people … We had a question about this on an earlier podcast, someone that wasn’t really sure if their idea was good. There are so many resources out there. The government is so invested in helping small business owners succeed, at least in the early stages of their business.
Gene: That’s true.
Elizabeth: There is so much help out there that people don’t take advantage of.
Gene: The SBA is great. Score is great, is a wonderful organization.
Elizabeth: We’ll link to all of these in the show notes.
Gene: Small business development centers, which are usually connected with universities, and they’re all around the country. It’s like anything else, all of these organizations have great people and not so great people. Do you know what I mean? That’s just the fact of the matter. Score provides retired executives that ran companies as advisors, and some of them are better than others, but if you get hooked up with a good one …
Elizabeth: That’s cool.
Gene: They can really help you.
Elizabeth: It’s a neat concept.
Gene: It really is, and it’s free.
Elizabeth: Wow. It’s free.
Gene: Yeah, sponsored by government.
Elizabeth: It’s volunteer. Oh, great.
Gene: Completely free, volunteer. Great. SBDC, the Small Business Development Center, is free, and they run programs. There is on at Wharton in Philly that is very, very good, and they bring in experts and consultants.
Elizabeth: What if Elizabeth wanted to try … It’s a household product. She knows about manufacturing. She doesn’t know about raising money. What if she wanted to do a pilot program of this? How would you launch a product when you know you’re going to need financing for manufacturing down the road? Do you need to prove the concept first?
Gene: Well, she has to have some customers that would buy it. She has to have a prototype that she is going to build as well.
Elizabeth: She should go watch Shark Tank.
Gene: Yeah, you can watch Shark Tank. That’s exactly right. If you notice, and it’s funny when you talk about Shark Tank. A lot of people ask me about startup businesses. Shark Tank is so great because, not only are they entertaining and the sharks are funny and whatever, but it really is real stuff. If you notice, they invest in companies that have a history. When somebody goes to Shark Tank, they’re like, “Here’s my prototype. This is my product. We’ve sold 10,000 of these already. We now need the money to expand our marketing or whatever.” They actually have something physical in their hands. They’re selling it already.
Elizabeth: You’d invest in that.
Gene: Yeah, then you invest in that, and they have a specific need for the money because [inaudible 00:18:54], and those were the investors themselves jump on that saying, “Well, okay, these guys have proven the concept, and it’s rolling, and I’m going to get in on it.’
If she’s just got an idea in her head. Nobody invests in ideas.
Elizabeth: She’s got to start manufacturing this on a small scale.
Gene: She does. She has to have customers, is what she has to do. She has to show to potential investors, even bankers, that I’ve sold 1,000 of these, and now I need the money because I want to expand my manufacturing. These are what numbers are, these are what my margins are, and these are what my projections are. If you’ve got all of those together, you’ll attract investors.
Elizabeth: Now, since this is a household product, what about that As Seen on TV route that you can down? There are companies that …
Gene: There are.
Elizabeth: That buy the patents, basically, or help you get a patent for those products.
Gene: They do. There are organizations that put those commercials on. If you watch any of those commercials and stick around for the credits at the end, it tells you the production companies and the organizations behind it. They do just that. They buy the companies, they advertise. They know the numbers … We talk about marketing and knowing the numbers. These companies know, we’re going to spend this amount of money on air time, there is going to be this [inaudible 00:19:59]. We know we’re going to sell this amount of units before we go in there.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s incredible.
Gene: It is incredible, and they have hundreds, hundreds, of entrepreneurs pitching them their As Seen on TV type products all of the time, and they select the products that they know are just going to sell. It has to be a product that you’re going to be able … That you’re going to have the 1-800 number on the screen, that you’re going to … It’s direct marketing so they know exactly. We also talk about, in social media marketing, the brands, the value, and [inaudible 00:20:29]. These guys are straight. We put this commercial on, we spend 10,000 dollars for the air time, we know we’re going to sell this many units for this price, and our profit is going to be X, direct affiliated to the commercial. You have to have a product that’s going to be sexy on the air.
Elizabeth: Elizabeth, you can check that out and see if maybe your product qualifies. I’m excited to hear what it is. Elizabeth, you should write back in and tell us what your product is so we could give you more specific advice here.
We will be right back with our word of brilliance from Gene, after a word from our sponsor.
Gene: Did your dog get picked up?
Elizabeth: No, she’s still there. Oh, where’s the dog walker?
Gene: What time is it, is it quarter after 3:00?
Elizabeth: We have 1 more to do, but I think I want to stop after this one …
Gene: Yeah, I got to take off.
Elizabeth: Because …
Gene: I didn’t realize it had gotten so late. Word of brilliance, when do you think this will air?
Elizabeth: December, maybe.
Gene: Okay, that’s fine. That’s actually good.
Elizabeth: Okay, and we’re back with our word of brilliance from Gene.
WORD OF BRILLIANCE: OT
Gene: OT is my word of brilliance. For all of you business owners that are listening in December of 2016, new overtime rules have gone into effect, and those rules, which are by the Department of Labor, have now increased the wages that people are now getting to apply for overtime.
For example, before December 1st of this year, if you had anybody in your company that was making more than 24,000 dollars a year, just 24,000 dollars a year, and they weren’t supervising anybody, they weren’t a professional, like a salesperson, they’re an admin getting that salary, they are not entitled to any overtime for 24,000 dollars and more a year. That number has gone up to 47,000 dollars, effective December 1st 2016, which means that if you’ve got anybody in your company now that’s making less than 47,000 dollars, it’s 47,000 and change. I think it’s 47,784, Elizabeth, but assume it’s 47,000 dollars. If anybody is making less than that number now, you weren’t paying them overtime before, but they’re salary, they’re a warehouse employee, they’re an admin, they’re customer service, they’re not supervising anybody in your office, they may very well be entitled to overtime pay, and they weren’t entitled to that before.
Elizabeth: How do you find that out? Do you check with your accountant?
Gene: You do. Well, first of all, you look at your payroll register and see who you’ve got working for you that’s making less than 47,000 dollars a year. It’s actually 47,700 and something a year. That’s where you start. Next, you have to determine if that employee is supervising any people. That’s the big thing, right? Next, you also need to see if that person is a professional, like a salesperson. Salespeople are exempt.
Elizabeth: What if they are supervising people?
Gene: If they are supervising people, then they are exempt from this. You don’t have to pay them overtime. It’s just people that are not supervising others that are making this salary. If they fulfill that requirement, and, by the way, do this with your accountant for goodness sake, then that person would be entitled to any overtime wages now for any money that they’re making for working more than 40 hours a week.
Elizabeth: Does that include time on your mobile phone?
Gene: Yes, it’s a big issue. If you are working, if that employee is answering emails over the weekend, that could be considered to be overtime. By the way, it’s not that the Department of Labor or the IRS is going to audit you because they have a lot of other stuff to do than worry about your little business, but that employee will report you to the Department of Labor or to the IRS because that employee will say, “Hey, I’m entitled to overtime. I’m making 45,000 a year, and this person is making me work the weekends.”
Elizabeth: Expects me to work on Sundays and …
Gene: Yeah, I should be getting paid for this. They’ll report you, and when that Pandora’s box is open, get ready for it. You’ve got to make sure that you’re prepared in advance. There are a couple of ways to prepare yourself or adjust yourself in 2017. You can shift some of these people to hourly workers, you can give them supervisory responsibilities …
Elizabeth: Give them a raise.
Gene: You can give them a raise, or you have strict rules about overtime, meaning that when 5:00 comes, you’re out, and I don’t want to hear … This is in your employee policy, no emails over the weekend, no responses, no nothing.
Elizabeth: You would have to put that in your employee handbook that your employees would have to sign.
Elizabeth: A lot of productivity people would say, “It’s better for people to just work their 9 to 5 hours and not do work any other time.”
Gene: You could make an argument for that. Then, of course, other people would say, “No, no, no. We’re a business that needs to be available for our customers whenever.” You have to decide that for yourself, but you do need to be aware that number is now going up, those exempt wages, so you have to be careful that you are classifying your employees correctly.
Elizabeth: Are we going to see a lot of people earning 48,000 dollars a year.
Gene: You are. You’re going to see a lot of people. This is, again, another pressure put on business owners. It’s frustrating because now that this has gone up, business owners now are either going to be paying more overtime to people, or paying them higher salaries, or reducing the hours that they’re working. In other words, cost is what it is, for people to get paid more money.
Having said that, if you’re an employee making 25,000 dollars a year …
Elizabeth: Should you really be expected to be answering emails or …
Gene: Exactly, yeah …
Elizabeth: Or doing work outside work hours?
Gene: Yeah, it’s tough. Basically, there are 2 sides to the argument. The most important thing that I always tell clients, and my readers, and the people I speak to, this is now the rule, this is what’s in effect. Whatever the case is, you’ve got to deal with it. Whether you agree with it or not, whether your ethical or moral standards have been challenged, this is what it is. You have to deal with it.
Elizabeth: Okay. All right. Good word of brilliance. Thanks Gene.
Gene: You’re welcome.
Elizabeth: We’ll be back here next week.
Gene: I look forward to it.