Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
From starvation to indigestion
At the moment our industry feels like we’ve passed through the wardrobe door and into some kind of Narnia parallel universe. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before in decades in the game. If we literally had a talking animal ask us to quote a project at this point, we’d go “yeah, that’s 2022 for you.”
We’re getting calls from clients:
“We had an event booked with another company in two weeks, and they’ve just contacted us to say they can’t do it. Can you do it?”
Events people are like McGyver. They don’t give up easy. They’re used to dealing with all kinds of last-minute shenanigans in tenacious style. And improvising something out of paper clips and rubber bands to make the show go on.
Plus they have been starved of revenue for two years.
Pulling out of a show two weeks out is some unheard-of shit in our world. It’s like Labradors saying no to food.
Yet it’s happening, thanks to skills shortages, COVID iso and a Hoover Dam-sized pent-up demand for events after two years of Zoom. I’ve been told of CBD hotels running at 40% occupancy because that’s the limit of their housekeeping staff. And unable to hold gala dinners because they simply can’t get enough floor staff.
We’re in a comparatively good position, having managed to keep almost all our people on board throughout COVID. It’s still a nightmare trying to find more people to deal with the extra demand.
Here are a few thoughts that have helped us.
1. Move away from your most labour-intensive work
Our virtual studios saved our business during COVID. And they brought in a bunch of great new clients. We planned to build a permanent studio space for the post-lockdown era, and took out a lease on another warehouse in our block. We went through the nightmare saga of council development applications.
Problem: studio work is much more labour-intensive than our regular live event work. For any given invoice, studio work has nearly twice the percentage of labour than live events. We were prepared to work with that, until it became clear in late 2021 how scarce good staff were becoming.
So we put the studio on indefinite hold, and we’ll use the space as storage. More equipment, less labour. Since then, the skills shortage has gotten much worse and it’s clear we made the right call.
Think about what you do that takes up the most labour in your business. Chances are it’s always been the least profitable. And now it needs more staff you can’t find.
Maybe it’s time to cut it out.
I would totally go to a café that refuses to do coffee with anything other than regular milk. It wouldn’t please everyone, but it would be a badge of pride among plenty of coffee drinkers.
And save the owner a ton of time juggling boxes of oat, almond, coconut or llama milk. A lot of customers respect a business that does a few things really well.
2. Be realistic in recruitment ads
Right now Seek is an infinite stream of job ads as everyone in our field tries to rebuild after COVID. They all look the same.
“Are you a dynamic achiever? Want to work in a fast-paced environment with others who are passionate about outcomes?”
They’re written like it’s still 2019 and a buyer’s market. We’re running ads that get straight to the point and address what we all know:
Casual AV Technicians: You can afford to choose
Let’s face the facts of 2022. Seek is completely slammed with AV jobs, as every company tries to get back up to speed after the last two years.
Why should you consider this one? Because if you’re good, you can afford to choose. And there’s a lot to consider right now.
Freelance AV work is kinda like career Tinder. Lots of options that look worth a shot. Then you find out the truth about five minutes into that first shift.
You learn a lot about the others you work alongside. Do they have each others’ backs? Are they friendly and positive about their work? And you learn about the quality of tech you’re expected to work with. It all makes a big difference to your working life. Lucky old you: as a casual you can come back for more, or screen their calls from that day on.
We hope you might enjoy working with Scene Change.
I wrote a longer story a few years ago about over-selling in job ads (The Greatest Recruitment Ad That Never Ran) and I feel all the points still stand.
3. Reduce your churn
There’s no point going through the recruiting saga, finally landing some staff from the shallow pool of candidates, then throwing them into a job that others have hated and left.
You see it a lot in bigger corporates. Candidates brought in with big promises, then they descend into the maelstrom of disappointment.
Staff churn is stupidly expensive.
Have better conversations with people who are leaving. Not a tick-a-box survey from HR that gets presented as a column graph and sheds no light on anything. It needs a deep conversation, without you going on the defensive.
Accept their decision and ask for the unvarnished truth. It will save others from leaving in the future.
4. Pay people better
Sorry to state the obvious. It is amazing that so many large, profitable businesses are only willing to pay the lowest hourly rate they can legally get away with. Then they complain to the media that you can’t get good staff, people now are so lazy and entitled etc.
Do better, you tightarses. Do away with some middle management or consultants, and pay your frontline people a bit better. The word will spread that you are a decent place to work.
But if you’re a smaller business, how do you afford to pay people better? Oh yes that’s right:
5. Put your prices up
Higher prices mean you can afford more, better staff. Do you want to be the company with the cheapest deals and a reputation for not being able to deliver? It’s not as bad as I made it sound there, some customers are OK with that. But it’s a choice.
I wrote last month on why we’re putting our prices up. It’s just the commercial reality now.
We have had close to zero pushback on those price increases since that story. If you can’t sell it to your customers now, you should close your business and get a salaried job.
6. Form alliances with training colleges
About five years ago we approached some of the training colleges in our field and asked how we could help.
That led to us doing some guest lecturing, and students doing practical placements with us. Since then we’ve employed a bunch of graduates. It’s great: they soak up your culture and work practices without having to undo habits picked up elsewere.
It feels like the whole skills shortage isn’t going to drop off any time soon, so growing your own up-and-comers is a good habit to get into.
With all of these points, it’s like the old joke about lions and running shoes. You don’t have to be the most desirable workplace in the country. You just have to be better than all the shitty ones out there. You can do that.
This week’s story dedicated to a guy who had no shortage of skills. Toby Travanner, loved by so many in the events, tech and telco industries, passed away at a way-too-early age on Sunday. Legendary nice guy, total pro, lit up every room he entered. This news has hit so many people hard and I guess that’s the sign of a life well played. RIP mate.
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Want higher margins?
Want more details on how to put your prices up and raise your margins higher than your competitors? May I suggest a book with specific chapters on both those things. Yes it’s Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change.
Every week since it came out 8 months ago, it’s the #1 Review-Rated biz book on all of Booktopia. On paper, electronic or audio book with me reading it. Get it here:
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For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: