Hiring in a Pandemic Economy Raises Questions While Providing Opportunity

It’s Tuesday, June 2, and I just finished my last interview before lunch. For me, lunch time usually consists of reading resumés, watching candidate videos and responding to emails. This has been my normal routine for the past three years as I’ve grown my startup recruiting firm, Next Level Impacts (NLI).

But with the country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of hiring has taken some prominence as companies decide what to do about their workforces. So it merits examining some of the issues facing employers and human resource departments.

Should you be hiring during these unprecedent times?

Before answering this, one of the first things to look at is cash flow. While speaking with many office equipment dealers, I learned that hardware sales have decreased between 40%-70%. Thankfully, the base is still getting billed (and hopefully still paying). But the downward trajectory in sales led many firms to furlough or terminate employees, as well as reduce the salaries of managers and senior executives to help preserve cash. It simply had to be done.

It could be helpful to compare this to another difficult economic time in recent history—the 2008 recession. During that economic crisis, I was a part-owner of Zeno Office Solutions, an office equipment company in Florida. Zeno’s MIF was depleted due to the closing of businesses. We did quite a bit in real estate and engineering (A/E), and approximately 70% of those businesses went under. Despite Florida experiencing arguably the longest-lasting recessed economy of any state, Zeno managed to foster company growth during those times.

Yes, the industry has changed over the last decade. And yes, COVID-19 has proven to be a tough corporate adversary. However, there are still lessons to be learned.

How did we continue to grow?

Was it through acquisitions? Well, yes—but not in the way you may think. We acquired and invested in high-performance salespeople.

During the recession, our competition made it easy for us to hire away their sales reps. These reps were losing portions of their commission percentages on every deal while being “nickeled and dimed” by their employers due to the (unfortunately) lower prices. This may be happening to your company right now.

Fast forward to 2020: over the past three months, NLI has received triple the amount of activity from really talented reps and managers. Typically, it would take multiple phone calls from myself or one of NLI’s recruiters to reach employees of this caliber. Their reasoning for seeking us out is identical to what was happening over a decade ago.

I encourage you to seek out and hire talented salespeople in this situation. Trust me, they’re out there. Most office equipment and med-tech dealers are interested in the talent, but aren’t ready to commit to a start date for the prospects.

I’ve heard “Keith, we want to hire him or her badly. Do you think we can start them September 1?” No, you need to pounce now! Hire them today and have them start immediately.

The single-biggest contribution you can make as an entrepreneur to your company is growing your rep productivity even during economic hardships like the COVID-19 outbreak. Depending on how your financials line up with the industry benchmark, you could grow your EBIT line by .005% if you increased your rep productivity by $1,500 per month, per rep. The question you have to ask is, “Can I get there with who we have now?” If the answer is no, then hire TODAY.

Keith Roher
About the Author
Keith Roher spent 25 years in the copier business working in sales and as an entrepreneur. Three years ago, he started Next Level Impacts––a recruiting/staffing firm. Next Level Impacts utilizes a cutting-edge video interview platform that allows firms to see and listen to candidates before meeting with them. If you are interested in learning more about our services and getting your company to the Next Level, contact Roher at kroher@nextlevelimpacts.com.