How Dean’s business is preparing for the holidays

The long-term owner of a party supplies business shares how regularly he recruits casual staff, and the importance of balancing casual and long-term hires.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewee:

  • For business owner Dean Salakas, the challenges of the past few years led him to consider alternative recruiting strategies such as using a recruitment agency.
  • With many other businesses cutting back on costs and hiring, Dean has seen an influx of applicants for roles at The Party People.
  • He suggests hiring a balance of people with different attitudes towards work – some looking to work at a junior level, others in management.
  • When recruiting for a role recently, Dean selected not one but two applicants – even though it wasn’t his plan, they were both too good to let go

As the retail and hospitality industries approach the busy summer and holiday period, businesses are adapting to changing business demands. For Dean Salakas, self-described Chief Party Dude at party supplies emporium The Party People, the months approaching the end of the year are the busiest of all, and this year is no exception. A few years ago, the business turned to social media to recruit Christmas casuals and outsourced certain manual labour jobs to keep up with demand. Dean shared how The Party

People has fared since, how regularly the business hires casual staff, and the importance of striking a balance between casual and long-term talent.

How has The Party People fared in the years since you last spoke with Prospa?

Dean: “Post-pandemic, things were pretty strong for the business and we saw an explosion of sales. The current economic climate has seen that pull back to a normal level, which puts us on a similar level to what businesses in other industries are experiencing.

“Hiring has been really interesting. Six months ago, when recruiting we would get hardly any applicants for a role. It was the worst I’ve seen in terms of recruiting. We were really struggling to hire, and looked to get more creative by using recruitment agencies.

“But in the past two or three weeks, we’ve been recruiting for peak season and had more applicants for one role than in the entire past six months. It’s crazy – we’ve gone from putting a call out and getting 20 applicants to getting 700.”

How do you think this reflects the current economic and hiring environment?

“It certainly feels like a lot of businesses are cutting back on staff and wages, and that puts a lot more people out in the market looking for work. In retail specifically, many businesses are cutting back, and customers are obviously spending less. That translates into businesses needing fewer staff, and more people being available when we go to recruit.

“Mid-pandemic, we tried to cut staff and find ways to save costs. We’re a different space now where we’re trying to maximise returns in a much more competitive sales environment. By the sounds of it, our sales are a little more buoyant than most of the retail industry.”

“In the past two or three weeks, we’ve been recruiting for peak season and had more applicants for one role than in the entire past six months.”

Can you describe the cadence of your staffing life cycle throughout the year, and how turnover differs depending on the role?

“We go through a similar cycle each year where we recruit for two or three months while scaling up for peak season. Then we have a natural attrition from January to June when it’s a little bit quieter, before we get back to recruiting again. There’s a natural progression for casual, frontline staff.

“Many join us as retail assistants with a short-term view, which means we have a high turnover. So we will recruit for as long as we experience that. We don’t see the same happening among staff at the head office – it’s super rare to experience a high turnover above an assistant manager level.”

How have your hiring habits changed over time? Do you still typically recruit junior rather than senior staff?

“A few weeks ago I would have said yes, but given the high quality of the applicants, we’ve been able to bring in a much higher standard of talent. The focus now is on getting good people for the roles, and people who will move up through the organisation over time.”

“We don’t see the same [turnover] among staff at the head office – it’s super rare to experience a high turnover above an assistant manager level.”

What are your tips for selecting the right people for the job when recruiting?

“You need a balance of people with different attitudes towards work. You don’t necessarily want everyone gunning for the manager’s role – they’d all be stepping over each other.

“When you find good talent, don’t let them go. Instead of recruiting just one person for the role for which we had 700 applicants, I ended up hiring two – they were both too good not to recruit.”

Looking ahead, where do you see hiring trends in the sector heading?

“I think the economy will bounce back. Things are a little tight at the moment and will likely be flat for a while, but the sales are still there for us; it’s not like we’re seeing a 30 or 40% decline like some industries are.

“We’ll keep working to maintain our staff and, as a business, hopefully grow and acquire other party stores, while also growing our online business.”

A Prospa lending specialist can help explain how a Prospa Business Line of Credit can help your business manage ongoing costs relating to hiring and employees’ salary. Applying takes just 10 minutes and funding is possible in less than 24 hours.

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