1. Make sure you get an employment agreement in writing. A lack of written contracts ranked high on the list of small businesses' mistakes, according to a recent survey the firm conducted. 2. Develop an employee handbook. 3. Create policies that clearly define and prohibit discrimination in the workplace. For example, establish a no-tolerance policy for racist, sexist and classist actions and/or language. 4. Implement a sexual harassment policy that prohibits any unwelcome conduct or advance that is intimidating, hostile or offensive. 5. Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements of the Employee Medical Leave Act. 6. Provide a workers compensation program, which can help a small business avoid costly lawsuits and out-of-pocket expenses.In our third installment of our small-business hiring series, we speak with a handful of small businesses in a variety of industries that are optimistic about 2012 and hiring because of it.
Port Huron, Mich.
Looking to hire: 12
Prism Plastics is a small company in Michigan, and heavily reliant on the auto industry. Coming from one of the most beaten-down sectors, it makes sense to list it as the first company hiring -- you could argue it represents a beacon for the U.S. recovery as a whole as the auto sector recovery picks up. Prism Plastics, which makes plastic parts primarily for such car safety applications as seat belts and airbags, has seen rapid growth since 2010. The company is looking for managers with specialized knowledge of injection molding as well as technicians and maintenance staff they can train. Prism's plants run 24/7 and are highly automated. Still, each of its soon-to-be three plants has three shifts of workers, the company says. "We felt the pain back in 2009 and 2010. We were fortunate to stay flat. In 2011 when the auto industry started to turn a little bit we were already busy," leading the company to need another facility this year, says Jerry Williams, Prism co-owner and its vice president of engineering and sales. "Our growth is requiring a new facility, so we need to hire people to run that facility." Prism Plastics is finishing up construction on the third plant in Metro Detroit (it has a plant outside the city and in Texas) and is looking to hire an additional dozen employees over the next several months there, bringing their total to around 60. "We're a very lean organization. We have a ton of automation, which makes us competitive. We don't have a ton of people running around the plant,
Looking to hire: Five this year; 12 next year
AtmosAir Solutions is expanding, capitalizing on people's interest in spending on green products geared toward healthier lifestyles at home and work. AtmosAir installs "bio-polar air quality purification products" for business, homes, hospitals, casinos and sports arenas, among other places. The products eliminate mold, dust and odors and control bacteria and the spread of airborne viruses, it says. Its clients include many brand-name businesses, including McDonald's ( MCD), Nestle, Siemens Furniture, Hyatt Hotels ( H) and Hilton Hotels ( HLT). Even New York's Carnegie Hall has invested in clean indoor air. The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars installed AtmosAir systems in training facilities to address sports-related odors, minimize allergens and minimize energy costs, the firm says. The 7-year-old firm has seen its business boom in the past year, with sales up 20%. AtmosAir expects sales to rise an overall 30% this year and has opened offices recently in Los Angeles and Dallas and is considering doing business in China -- and that means a need for more sales staff, says Steve Levine, president of AtmosAir. The company has a dozen people on staff. "We're in a great situation, because the economy is starting to pick up, from what we see, and the environment and the public are focused on green and sustainability," Levine says. "Our challenge is: How do we spread our message to as many people as we can? The only way we can possibly do that is to add reps around the country" and focus on specific sectors such as hospitals. (AtmosAir just signed a deal with Henry Schein, the largest provider of health care products and services to doctors and dentists, which plans to market and sell AtmosAir's clean-air devices for use in medical offices.) Levine says it's a good time to be a green company and hiring. "The ones that are coming out of college -- their sensitivity toward green initiatives and their understanding about sustainability -- people are looking to join green companies. On the other side, where large companies have laid off for salary reasons some of their longer-term employees there is some excellent talent on the street to bring in to teach
West Mifflin, Pa., and Chicago
Looking to hire: Six
Champtires.com sells high-quality used tires to consumers and dealerships across the country. The company also has two retail/warehouse locations outside Pittsburgh and in Chicago. The cost of rubber -- and new tires -- has skyrocketed over the past few years, giving an advantage to Champtires.com and its ability to brand-match a customer's current tires. In 2010, the company's first full calendar year, the company sold more than 13,900 tires online; last year, it sold more than 30,000. The business is continuing to grow, with new warehouse and retail locations across the country under consideration. "We sell a lot of tires to used-car dealerships throughout the country and in the near future we're going to need salespeople to go acquire new accounts and visit all of our current customers. They call us on the phone, but we really don't interact as much as we should. There is a big opportunity for us to grow. We need to try and go and get that business," co-owner Brad Rea says. The company employs 15. As it builds out its Web site, there's a need for at least one full-time programmer. In the near future it also plans to hire a communications/marketing professional, a controller, sales manager and two regional sales staff. As it continues to look at other markets to expand into, Champtires.com will hire facility managers and staff. "My partner and I, we try to really do everything, but at some point you have to realize you actually almost start your growth" when you hire, Rea says.
Looking to hire: 15 to 20 by the end of 2012
Furniture retailer Unlimited Furniture has already added three people this year to its staff of 30 and plans to continue to hire as it benefits from new marketing strategies, particularly the embrace of Web advertising. The company expects revenue to double this year and needs sales and support positions to sustain the growth, says Lenny Kharitonov, its president. "We are investing in various things such as paid advertising on the Internet, we are paying to optimize our Web site for better organic results, we are making sure that all vendors list our store on their Web sites. These efforts are paying off much better than the traditional print advertising that we used to do," he says. There's a good time to hire in quite another way, as well: "The economy is still slow, and well-qualified people are cheap," he says. "We are getting interest in jobs that we post at 60% off what we consider market rate to be."
Looking to hire: Five
Gourmet cake and pastry shop Cakes for Occasions plans to double its retail space despite the hesitant economy. A major expansion is under way that will nearly double its current retail space, and owner Kelly Delaney is considering adding locations. The 30-person bakery puts out roughly 11,000 custom cakes a year. Business was up by 9% last year and is expected to hit $1.5 million in revenue this year. She credits innovative products and social media. Delaney was asked to sell on the Home Shopping Network, starting in February with her "cake pops." That'll just boost business, and after hiring a general manager, Delaney plans to hire more cake artists. The new retail store layout will allow these artists to decorate in windows that can be viewed by passers-by. "My business is expanding and consumers are getting their confidence back; it's a great time to hire additional staff," Delaney says. "We are certain this trend will continue, and we are excited to be a part of it."
New York and Woodbury, N.Y.
Looking to hire: Five
The Spector Group is a New York-based architecture, interior and planning firm. With 74 professionals, the company has been on a hiring spree for the past year. Architecture was hit hard by the recession, but Spector's hiring and office expansion shows The Spector Group rose above it. The company has offices in New York City, Woodbury, N.Y., Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and Mumbai. It has affiliate locations in New Jersey, Miami, London, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Spector Group hired 11 employees last year for its New York City office and plans to hire five architects within the next two months. "We are experiencing a time in our office where a variety of exciting projects are now shifting into high gear, plus
Looking to hire: Eight
Employee benefits consulting firm FirstPerson works with small, midsize and large companies to implement employee benefits programs. As clients demand more services, the company needs to find qualified experts to provide them. Last week the company hired its first general counsel for its staff of 42 and a human resources expert to roll out an HR services platform in April. The company is looking to fill more account managers and analytics positions. "We're very bullish," FirstPerson CEO Bryan Brenner says. "We see a lot of client opportunity and are diversifying our service set. Clients are asking us for more services; they want more things to come from one spot. Especially in a small-
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