Are You Trying to Sell Wool Underwear in July?

Free workforce development articles and handoutsImagine a store trying to sell wool underwear and winter coats in the  middle of July at noon in the Mojave dessert. Do you think this is a  ridiculous way to do business? Do you think they need to adjust their  product line to be relevant to their customers? This is an analogy for  workforce development business services in the recession. Our  primary product is hiring in a market where the vast majority of  businesses aren’t hiring. We keep selling that service because we  can’t think out of the box. We need to change our product line to  include things we can offer businesses when they aren’t hiring. If they use our non-hiring services  and it helps their business we will be at the front of the line when they need personnel. Our non-hiring services position us to be the resource of choice when businesses hire. If we can figure out  how to serve the non-hiring business, we can engage every business.

To be successful with business services in today’s economy you need a full service line of  four business products. One product line is your traditional hiring services. Another is helping  businesses connect to layoff and closure aversion assistance. The third product line is being able to  facilitate connections to economic development and business growth resources. The fourth product  line is offering a complete line of non-hiring services that will add to the profit margin of a business.  With this full menu of services you will be able to serve every business and add to their bottom line.

For example, when a business services representative with only the hiring product line to sell goes  into a business and finds out they aren’t hiring they leave and lose this customer. The business  services person from the community college goes to the same business and sets up an internship  program. A representative from a well networked workforce program will perform a non-hiring service  by connecting this business to economic development resources. These resources will help them  gain access to low cost loans, teach them how to sell on the Internet, and provide management  consulting and other services that can help the business become more profitable so they can begin  hiring. A One-Stop business services representative that is savvy about incumbent worker training  would offer these non-hiring business skills upgraded services for their existing workforce to help make them more profitable. Once those employees move into new, higher skilled positions the One-Stop can fill their original positions with people from the program. A business services representative  from an agency with usable meeting space may offer the business free space at their program for  staff training, meetings, new client events, and product demonstrations.

The non-hiring product line helps you access another business customer that has never been served  by the workforce system. That customer is the sole proprietor or business without employees. The  workforce system has over looked this customer even though it is actually the fastest growing form of  business in America. We’ve overlooked them because of our exclusive focus on hiring as our only  product. You will notice our short sighted perspective on the business community by the way people  in workforce use the word employer to describe all businesses. There are more than thirty-five million  sole proprietors in the country and not one of them is an employer!  Overlooking sole proprietors is a huge mistake. The majority of sole proprietors have clients that are  businesses with employees. If your non-hiring services serve the sole proprietor they can then  introduce you to these businesses with employees. In my experience working with sole proprietors,  about seventy percent of them would like to grow their profit margin enough to have employees, while  the other thirty percent want to stay sole proprietors. If you serve the ones that want to grow you can  be right there with your hiring services when they start to add employees. Remember most sole  proprietors, growth oriented or not, can introduce you to businesses with employees.

How do you find out about sole proprietors? Look them up under non-hiring or no employee  businesses in your local labor market information to find out what kind are in your area. You’ll find  graphic designers, event planners, architects, computer systems designers, public relations people,  web site designers, accountants, lawyers, and many other types of businesses. They often belong to  business associations to help them find customers so check out your local business associations and  find their sole proprietor members. Your non-hiring services product line is ideal for the sole  proprietor! Start serving them now!  How do you get started developing a menu of non-hiring services? Convene a broad based group of  partners and conduct a mapping process to develop a menu of non-hiring services that can be  provided to businesses. If you use your imagination and all the resources of the workforce,  education, training, and economic development fields you will come up with a long list of services that  aren’t based on filling an existing job opening. Some even involve profit-making, innovative job!

Do you know about job carving, which has been done in the disability employment field for many  years? Talk with your disability service providers to find out about this innovative way to create jobs  and increase profits at the same time in almost every business with employees. Once you start  looking you will be amazed at the breath and depth of the non-hiring services that can be provided to businesses.

In my experience working with over one thousand workforce organizations, I’ve never met anyone  that knew about all of services that we as a system can offer businesses. We frequently don’t know  about all the existing services and, because of a lack of broad collaboration, we also don’t hear about  new ones as they get developed. Even with forty-five years in the workforce development field I don’t  know all the services in the bigger system because they keep growing. We are still segregated by  funding sources, turf, and history, and this keeps us from offering businesses a full menu of services  that don’t always involve filling a job opening. If you provide a business with a non-hiring service that  makes them more profitable, they will never forget you. When they start to hire you will already be  engaged with them and have the first shot at the opening. Develop your non-hiring services menu so  you can serve every business. Stop selling wool underwear in July!

Larry Robbin, Executive Director of Robbin and Associates, has over forty-five years of national experience helping workforce organizations move from placement to partnership with businesses using creative state-of-the-art strategies that appeal to the private sector mind set.  He can be reached by clicking here.