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Management Buzz 8/01

Buying a business to get employees, dress policies and more
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the August 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Buying Talent

Despite all the recent layoffs, are you still finding it hard to attract talent? You might want to try a more aggressive approach: HR buys. More firms are buying businesses solely for their staffs, says William Weisberg, a partner at law firm Mintz Levin in Reston, Virginia, who advises start-up businesses.

If you've got the cash, an acquisition can get you the employees. That's what Jim Clements, co-founder and CEO of New York City-based Web content developer DeepBridge Content Solutions Inc., has done.

Clements, 48, bought the 12-employee OnLine Communications Inc., a Washington, DC, Web content development firm, in September 2000. "They brought a capability to do world-class user interface design," he says. "Mark Hollander, the head of the firm, got listed in the top designers of the year."

Holding on to the prize dozen at OnLine Communications took work. Clements had to make frequent trips to DC during the acquisition, prepare a package explaining his company's benefits and company procedures, and offer OnLine employees equity in his firm.

It was worth the work: The move kept Clements' 100-employee company on a rapid growth track. In March, his annual run rate was $13 million, and he expects to do more than $20 million by year-end.

Pay Delay

What's the worst news you could give your employees? Announcing delayed paychecks has to be right up there. Robert Hisrich, the Mixon Chair of Entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University, has advised companies faced with this task. "There's no sadder news," he says.

If you have to deal with this horrible prospect, here's what to do:

Be open. Whether it's because of a canceled contract or some other catastrophe, detail how the company got to this point. "As much as you feel comfortable, show the numbers," says Hisrich.

Leak the info. If you're positive about the bad news, then just tell everyone upfront. But if you aren't sure, a warning might be better. "It's occasionally nice to lay the groundwork through the grapevine beforehand," Hisrich says.

Share the pain. Don't plan on taking any cash out of the business until your payroll is caught up. Appearances matter, too. So don't expect to buy a new sports car anytime soon.

"Put Some Clothes On!"

If a female employee interprets "business casual" to mean dressing like Jennifer Lopez, you've got a problem. According to a CareerBuilder study, 80.8 percent of women and 45.2 percent of men find visible cleavage unprofessional. The women will fume, the men will gawk, and work will slow down.

"It's absolutely a distraction," says Sherry Maysonave, author of Casual Power: How to Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication & Dress Down for Success (Bright Books).

To cut off a battle of the sexes, you must take action. First, make sure you have an explicit dress policy, says Maysonave. List items, such as halter tops, that cannot be worn, and illustrate exactly what you mean by "tight clothes" with pictures if necessary.

Then, take the offender aside. (Men: Take along a female manager.) "Ask her if she's interested in a career in the company," says Maysonave. With a dress code as your legal backing, explain how her unprofessional attire may cost her promotions and raises, and send her home to change.

Some employees may be angered, but your company will get back to work.

Chris Sandlund is a former editor of Success magazine.

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