Now Hiring – Retail Store Employee (Vancouver, BC)

Starlit Citadel  is hiring again in Vancouver, BC!

This is a year-round part-time position that works in the retail store and at conventions as needed.   With our move to a full brick & mortar location, we have need of a dedicated retail store employee to work with customers at the counter and answer questions.

The retail employee’s main role will be handling customer interactions in the store, assisting customers in locating products and with their product knowledge as well as the checking customers out.   In addition, they will be required to help invoice and pull orders from the online store, receive products and clean and tidy the retail location as needed.  Work at conventions both in Vancouver, BC and out-of-province will be required from time-to-time. Additional projects and one-off tasks will also be assigned from time to time, according to the needs of the company.

As this is the first retail employee hired, the employee will need to be quick on his feet with a preference given to those with previous retail experience (as an employee and manager).  They will at times be required to help develop procedure guides for tasks and help develop better procedures to increase efficiency in the company.  will be provided hands-on training and written procedure guides for all of the above tasks, and will be expected to follow them in order to reduce errors and ensure consistency of service in the company.

This job’s primary hours will be during the Friday to Sunday shifts (8 hours each) with occasional additional hours during weeknights as needed.

Requirements:

  • Full-time availability Saturday & Sunday
  • Familiarity and comfort with computers and data entry
  • Good customer service skills
  • Detail oriented and focused

Nice to Haves:

  • Full-time availability on Friday, partial availability during weeknights
  • Gaming knowledge (specifically board games) and general geek culture knowledge
  • Knowledge of Magic the Gathering
  • Valid class 5 driver’s license
  • Previous retail experience

If you are interested, please send your resume to logistics@starlitcitadel.com with your hours of availability and a cover letter explaining your fit with the job. Please note that this job will initially pay at minimum wage.

Employees, Wages and Hours

Last Christmas, for the first time we had up to 6 employees working in the warehouse at any one time. We didn’t actually increase hours / work that much from the previous year – we just split the hours that we had up among the employees even further. It was an interesting experiment and one that highlighted an oddity in our business and business processes.

Peak Hours

Right now, our peak hours range from Noon to 4pm – basically, just after lunch hour is when many if not all our shipments for that day will have arrived while we have begun processing / pulling orders. By 4pm, all orders that have to go out that day have been processed; so things start slowing down.

During the ‘peak’ period, we might have up to 5 shipments from different vendors arrive and over 60+ orders to process and ship. That’s when we want multiple hands on-deck – some processing orders, some receiving new product, others shipping the order s and doing customer service.

Open Houses & Events

Another benefit of having multiple employees was that we could run Open Houses without burning out employees. We didn’t need to ask employees to work 6 days a week for only a few hours each time every week – instead, we could rotate our employees without a problem even when we had weekly open houses.

Business Sense

In this sense, it makes perfectly logical sense to have multiple part-time workers, none of which are ever given more than 20 – 30 hours. That way, when we do have things on weekends – events, open houses; etc we can flex these employees and have them work extra hours without having to pay over-time.

This also comes into play when you lose an employee – for the few weeks you are down an employee, you just need to increase the hours of your existing employees to make up for it till you hire another individual.

Business Non-sense

Of course, there’s a negative to this. Not everyone is going to be happy / able to work / willing to work for 10-30 hours a week for long periods of time. McDonalds and other fast food areas make do, systemizing the business such that it is easy enough to slot in new people with only a little loss in productivity. We’re not that big (or systemized); so that makes it more difficult, and frankly, trying / keeping people on part-time hours indefinitely might not be fair.

This isn’t true for everyone of course – some employees want the part-time hours and flexibility. Randy is one – he likes the work we do and the hours he gets, but he’s not at all interested in going full-time due to his other commitments. There are obviously others like this (students, artists, etc).

Still, if you hire someone on a part-time basis with no expectation of ever going full-time, you (as the business) can expect to see a higher than normal turnover. Which then compounds the need to have more trained employees so that when you do lose an employee, your normal operations aren’t disrupted.

On the other hand, expecting employees to never leave is rather silly as well…

Independent Contractors

I’ve talked about volunteers, interns & other free help before.  So today, let’s talk about another one of the most common ‘shortcuts’ businesses take in terms of cost and hiring is to hire an individual on as an ‘independent contractor’.

The Business Case

Hiring an independent contractor to do work for you has some advantages for a business, at least at first glance:

  • Less bureaucracy –  You get an invoice, you pay it.  You don’t need a Canada Revenue Agency Payroll account, you don’t have to withhold funds for EI or CPP or deal with the paperwork involved
  • Lower cost – you don’t have to pay EI or CPP or WorksafeBC.  Often, you can ‘bargain’ lower salaries / rates overall because the contractor sees more of their actual pay.
  • Quick termination – if they are contractors, there’s a lot fewer requirements if you are looking to terminate the contract
  • HST / GST savings –  as an ‘expense’, you get to clawback some of your HST / GST revenue if the contractor charges HST

The Contractors Case

So why do these contractors agree to this? Well, here’s a few reasons why:

  • Lack of power – sometimes, the job is offered only on these terms.
  • Expenses – whether it’s HST / GST that they charge and thus can use for other input tax credits or general expenses (e.g. telephone, rent, internet, etc.); there’s definitely financial benefit here
  • Multiple sources of income – as a theoretical contractor, you could potentially have more than one source of income as a contractor.

It sounds like a win-win situation for everybody doesn’t it? Except…

Business Liability

The problem is, there’s a definite liability if your ‘independent contractor’ is found to be an employee.  You are liable for:

  • unpaid taxes, penalties, interest, CPP and EI premiums
  • injuries on the job since the contractor wasn’t covered by WCB
  • the onus is on the business, not the contractor to prove a contractor relationship if any complaints go to HRDC or the like

Contractor Liability

  •  obviously, the contractor is also liable for unpaid taxes, penalties, interest, CPP and EI premiums
  • in addition, you aren’t automatically covered by HRDC and other employee laws.  You can always complain, but it becomes a longer process to get restitution

What CRA looks for:

  •  Control – how much control does the employer have in this relationship? Does he dictate when, where and how you work? A great example is our bookkeeper.  She does all our work remotely, I just send her the files.  The only real control I have is when I expect the work to be completed.
  • Ownership of tools – whose tools are being used? how significant are those tools? Rob who shoots all our videos brings and uses all his own equipment
  • Chance of profit / loss –  who runs the biggest risk here of profit or loss? Is the contractor taking on any potential risk? Kaja for example isn’t a contractor since she’s guaranteed her pay and she hasn’t taken on any operating expenses for the business or herself
  • Integration – This is a kind of a weird one and discusses who is absorbing who into their business practices.  It’s often an indicator of how much work is being done by the contractor for the employer / number of clients the contractor has.

Now, I’m obviously not a lawyer so this isn’t legal advice.  However, from all that I know of, the risk of not ‘hiring’ an employee properly is often quite high.  Sometimes, the line can be quite grey.  Other times, the hassle might seem too much – example, hiring a really short-term worker (a few days).   In both cases, as a business owner and as a potential independent contractor; it’s worth knowing your rights and liabilities.

 

Volunteers, Interns & Other Free Help

The use of Volunteers & Interns among other companies is an interesting area of Human Resources.  What I’m talking about in particular are the free offers that we see all too often. There are two major areas in my mind, the Legal & Ethical side of using this help.

Legal

On the legal side of things, there’s significant danger about inadvertently being liable for wages and backpay for volunteers & interns.  Details on the ESA/WRA issues can be found here, but the important part is basically that if an intern / volunteer does work that an employee normally does, that individual is considered an employee.

Now, there’s further issues on top of that.  It’s possible that if an intern / volunteer does work that you’d normally assign to an employee, they might be considered an employee as well and the work they do paid work.

Ethical

Alright, so there’s an issue that as a business, you could be liable for the wages and other costs.  The Ethical side on the other hand is a bit more nebulous.   Obviously,if you ask someone to do work for you and not pay them, that’s not particularly nice.

On the other hand, many of the internships offered provide benefit in terms of actual practical experience.  When I first arrived in Canada, finding work was extremely difficult as most employers wanted / needed you to have ‘Canadian experience’.  Frankly, if there was work that was free that I could have done to get that experience, I probably would have.  Not forever obviously, but for 3 – 6 months?

Students face the same trouble too sometimes, depending on their skill set / career paths.  Some jobs are just so much in demand that unless you can show some relevant experience / practical work, it’s really hard to get a real job.  And so, volunteers or internships.

It’s not a nice way of doing it because you are taking advantage of the needy, and frankly, the companies that do it seem just a bit on the scuzzy side.  On the other hand, these individuals are doing this on their own free will.  It’s not something we’d want to do (unless we are talking about a real practicum for a student); but it’s something that I can see both sides of.

 

On Hiring

We recently went through another hiring process for Christmas. We’ve also grown enough that it’s becoming a strain to keep all the balls in the air, so, hiring.

This time, we’ve had an amazing number of good to great resumes come in. We came up with a ‘short’ list of over 10 people to interview and had to cut it down to 5. It meant having to leave a lot of solid people on the floor for some arbitrary reasons because we only have so much time and only 1 position to fill.

It’s strange how luck plays a factor in this process. A year ago, we tried hiring for the exact same position and because no one came up to par, we didn’t hire anyone.

So this year, some of the reasons we cut people from being interviewed included:

  • Experience (too much, too little)
  • Language skills
  • Resume format / structure
  • Resume content (spelling mistakes, lack of ‘good’ experience, etc)
  • ‘Geek’ level

The interview process itself was interesting.  Since this isn’t a highly-skilled position, what we ended up looking for was fit more than previous experience (again, we had trimmed out many of those who had no or little relevant experience).  At the end, we judged the interviewees on:

  • Body language
  • The answers / what they didn’t say in their answers
  • The questions they asked us (or lack of)
  • ‘Fit’ with company culture / other employees

Now, the real fun happen as we ‘on-board’ the new hire in a few weeks and see how well we did.  Sometimes, some people interview well but aren’t a good fit.  We’re hoping this isn’t the case now; but you never really know till you try it out.

Managing & Personnel

As many of you know, we’ve recently been hiring and are now are a 3 person company.  That’s a great thing for us (if slightly a strain on our cashflow at the moment); but the real change has been in me having to relearn management.  It has been quite a few years since I had to manage anyone other than myself and relearning best practices has been a journey for me.

There’s a few stumbling blocks I’ve had / have and I thought I’d articulate them here as a reminder to myself:

Project Timelines

Perhaps my biggest frustration at the moment; and one that I keep forgetting.  I hand-out projects to the employees; and while I get updates, I’ve been forgetting to ask for timelines and deadlines.  Now, in the course of our business, we receive a number of set-backs and delays (a rush of orders, delays in getting products in which force us to have multiple receiving days, etc.); but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t at least have deadlines clearly articulated and pushed back (if necessary).

My biggest stumbling block here; and frustration is that I often intuitively have a deadline in mind for a project when I start it (or assign it).  I rarely articulate it (after all, who am I articulating to other than myself?); but it’s there.  Unfortunately, not articulating to employees doesn’t exactly work – and then having a project not completed to an unarticulated deadline just causes frustration.  Mostly with myself; but to a small extent the employee.  Which is obviously not fair to them.

Tasks & Documentation

Another major  area that I have a problem with currently is actually documenting the variety of tasks that I do on a daily basis; and that the company does.  It might seem strange needing to document things as simple as ‘Approve Reviews daily’ or ‘Transfer PayPal funds’ but if you don’t; and for some reason I can’t do it (like a holiday); it doesn’t get done.  As I try to shift more mundane tasks like that away from myself to the employees; forgetting to tell them about minor tasks like that becomes a major problem that can fall through the cracks.

Delegating

Of course, that’s when I do want to let go.  Much of the delegating right now is to move ‘easier’ tasks away from me so I can tackle more complex tasks.  However, at the same time I need to learn to delegate even the more complex tasks and that’s tough. Part of that is of course the old maxim – You can delegate authority but not responsibility. It’s my company, so I still feel responsible for even the smallest tasks.  It’s a tough thing, learning to let go.

Training

Lastly there’s training.  Adding new tasks requires training, adding new projects often requires training (sometimes in simple things like project management).  Then there’s the entire realm of online sales and the complexity that is running such a site – everything from using FTP programs to uploading new modules to payment gateways.  All that at some point will need to be taught, to create redundancy in the company.   Unfortunately, I’m not necessarily the best teacher – sometimes because I’m still learning the subject matter; at other times because of my lack of patience.