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Preparing for the peak

Apr 11, 2019
Thoughts on how to manage the seasonal rush from Ray daSilva from Mobility Exchange.

Preparing for the peak

Are we really talking about the peak season already?  Didn’t we just get through cleaning up after the last one?  Aaah! The vicious cycle of the moving business.  Peaks and valleys and then we do it all over again. We don’t even get a chance to take a little breather before the ‘P’ word gets spoken again, do we?

Ray DaSilvaHow do we break the cycle?

One of the challenges of managing a seasonal business is controlling fixed overheads.  As business owners we have developed a knee-jerk reaction to changes in these costs. We instinctively recoil from adding anything to our fixed overhead because it grossly impacts our margin during the slow part of our year.  So, the thought of hiring new staff or training seasonal staff in February or March is still a strange concept for many of us.

Another approach

The great news is that many disciplined movers have learned to break the cycle.  They know the peak is coming and can almost predict the precise moment when a comfortable canter switches to a spirited sprint.  These movers start their interviews and screening processes in February.  The hiring falls into two categories:  permanent hires and seasonal staff.

Seasonal staff

Screening of seasonal staff is especially critical for both administrative and operational roles.  Operational staff are in the homes of the customers, interacting with them and family members.  If we wait until the peak is upon us, our hiring and screening decisions will no doubt be influenced by urgency or worse, panic.  We do not want to be in that position.  Consider a careful interview and screening process when things are still calm.

Operational activities in the warehouse and especially at the job site, involve many risks.  A careful, thoughtful, orientation and training process can eliminate some of these risks.  During this process, we might weed out some staff members who present incompatible attitudes or show signs of risky behaviour.

Some managers think that it may not be worth investing much in seasonal staff as they will not be around long and will be handling simpler tasks under careful supervision.  We have all been there. When the crush of the season hits, all capable hands are on deck, and we find ourselves without much choice but to entrust our best customers into seasonal hands or face having no hands at all.

The return on the upfront investment required to properly on-board seasonal staff always pays off in preventing service failures, industrial accidents, maintaining morale and avoiding customer bad will.

Permanent hires

Part of professional staff development discipline is to plan the career progression path of loyal, trusted staff members.  The seasonal lull is the time to review the organisation chart and reward those who have performed well and are seeking career advancement opportunities. 

Additional skills training should be made part of the programme.  When a staff member is promoted and given new responsibilities, it creates a domino effect which requires backfilling of the staff member’s current responsibilities.  A well-structured company creates a career succession plan which maps junior staff into the roles being vacated through promotions or other transitions.

We do not need to be dealing with staff transitions in the peak.  Now is the time to carefully review the organisation chart in preparation for the busy period.

Resources

While larger organisations in our industry have professional HR staff who help to focus attention on these priorities, small to medium-sized enterprises struggle.  There are a number of professional consulting companies who specialise in providing advice and in assisting companies to get started on a path of planned professional staff development.  The advantage to using consulting companies is that they can be hired for the specific scope of the assistance required and do not become part of the fixed overhead costs of the organisation.  Sometimes, all one needs is a little help in taking the first steps towards getting the ball rolling in the right direction.

Many industry associations provide training resources which can be used as part of a professional staff development programme.  The International Association of Movers (IAM), for example, has rolled out an excellent training programme through its IAM Learning initiative for Move Coordination.  It is gearing up to launch its Residential Sales Training Programme in March 2019. 

IAM Learning drives the point home about the impact one inadequately trained staff member can have on your business in this animated videohttp://bit.ly/2SAOAmm

Photo:  Ray DaSilva

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