Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Unemployment dominates the news as a key bellwether of our country’s economic health. This is what we hear: If we could create jobs, our economy would be healthy, but, in a sort of Catch-22, we can’t create more jobs until the economy recovers.So, employers are afraid to hire in these uncertain times, and unemployment remains high.

At the same time, here’s what I notice, nearly every day: For virtually every client I have consulted for in recent years, new hires are the best investment these companies could make. For these companies, hiring new people is a great way to turn nickels into dollars.


Most companies trimmed their costs (often “to the bone”) in the recent recession. As a result of this, many companies are short-staffed in a crucial area: Customer contact.

I see companies who sell things over the phone understaffed and unable to answer their phones to sell to customers who are ready to buy.

I see companies with customer relationship managers unable to contact customers who are willing to spend more money.

I see companies that are too understaffed to keep customers informed about the progress of projects, resulting in customer service disappointments.

I don’t think these situations are unique.

For these companies, new hires are the best investments they could make. The best way to unleash the latent profit in most businesses is not through continued cost cutting, but by encouraging customers to become better customers who buy more, pay more and refer more. This requires having enough people in place to engage, serve and build relationships with customers.

Think of your daily experience as a consumer to understand this issue. How often have you been browsing in a store, possibly interested in buying something, but didn’t see a sales person and walked out without purchasing? (I’ll bet my purchases at Home Depot are 50% of what they’d be if the store were teeming with eager, helpful sales people.)

Does this situation describe your company? Here’s how you can tell:

  • Is someone from your company accessible at the very moment a customer needs them?
  • Is your company in close enough contact with customers to know what they want, when they want it, and what they care about?
  • When a customer shows interest in buying from you, is there someone there to notice?

I’m guessing what many of you are thinking as you read this: “Yes, this describes my company, but I’ll never convince my colleagues that hiring new people is a good investment.”

Here are my suggestions:

  • Talk investment! Most conversations about “headcount” focus on employment costs and HR policies. Put those issues on the back burner! Talk about the financial benefits of hiring.
  • Focus on your company’s “exceptionalism.” Sure, the rest of the country is scared to hire, but isn’t it wonderful that you are in the special position of being able to hire and make money from it?
  • Support your case with data. Can you demonstrate where being understaffed in areas of customer contact is costing you money? (I love using this technique.)

As a final suggestion, ignore the TV and printed news when making decisions like this for your company. It’s easy when listening to the scary news about our macro-economy to miss the important realization that your company’s success has a lot more to do with your own micro-economy than any mega-trends affecting our overall economy.

In our service-based world, one of the best ways to move your bottom line in the right direction is to ensure that you have enough of the right people in place to engage customers. Every one of your customers has more money to spend … are you ready to accept their money?


  • George Dom
    Aug 14, 2012 - 09:28 am

    Based on my 90 minute phone call with AT&T yesterday for a simple scheduling request, they need to hire more customer service reps ASAP. It was an awful experience. I had to threaten (politely) to cancel my purchase of bundled services before I could get to speak to someone with the authority to approve my request.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Aug 23, 2012 - 11:44 am

    But they won’t hire more people … ATT clearly doesn’t agree with my premise! They make their money by overcharging, having onerous contracts, and not giving service.

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