Are You a People Person?

If your plumbing company is big enough to have employees, but too small for a human resources manager, check out these tips to save time and reduce stress.

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Human resources people are frequently the brunt of jokes in the comic strip Dilbert, but if you find yourself having to take care of payroll, benefits, recruiting, hiring, training and legal matters for your employees, you know that human resources is no laughing matter. In fact, it can be a stressful matter. These tasks take a lot of time, especially when they are not your specialty. But what can you do? Hiring a full-time human resources professional is probably not financially feasible, but somebody’s got to take care of the people business.

Get schooled

You don’t need a degree in human resources management, but a little formal training wouldn’t hurt. Check with your local technical college, community college or university to see if they offer an introductory course that you or someone in your office could benefit from. There are also online courses in human resources available, as well as numerous lectures on human resources topics available for free on YouTube.

Read all about it

If you don’t want to take a formal class, articles covering a broad spectrum of human resources topics are available online. The Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) is a great place to go for basic information before you hire your first employee. Find information on everything from how to write a job description or an employee handbook to an overview of required and optional employee benefits. The site also explains the difference between a contract worker and an employee.

If legal issues regarding employees are what you need information about, the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov) provides answers. It’s a great source for keeping up to date on topics like wages, unemployment insurance, health plans and benefits, health and safety laws, and compliance issues.

For a little levity on the subject, check out the Evil HR Lady at www.evilhrlady.org. This blog promises to demystify human resources. Content skews a little more corporate than small business, but it’s so packed full of information, you’re sure to find tidbits of wisdom you can put to good use. You can also submit questions and hope the Evil HR Lady answers them. And if you don’t find the answers you seek on this site, there are links to dozens of related sites.

Tools you can use

As with any task, managing human resources is easier if you have the right equipment. Start at www.gneil.com and check out nifty tools to help manage and motivate people. You’ll find everything from Federal Labor Law posters, to training games, to Employee of the Month programs complete with plaques, ready-to-engrave nameplates and award certificates.

Electronics to the rescue

The right software can also make your human resources tasks easier. Some products are designed to work with your accounting software, like SimpleHR, which works with QuickBooks. There’s a product especially for offices that are heavy users of Microsoft products called Microsoft Dynamics. Other programs to check out include People-Trak HR, OrangeHRM and EmpXtrack Starter Edition.

Make sure any software you consider is adequate, but not more than you need for a small business. By that I mean some software is very task-specific and only does one thing, like payroll or benefits administration.

You probably need a good, general personnel tracking software package.

Keep in mind that some HR software is web-based. This might be advantageous to you if you find yourself squeezing in HR tasks at the end of the day at home, or you are on the road a lot but still need to keep up with HR chores. Be sure to read user reviews of the product, and if you are still confused after browsing software options online, talk with owners of similar businesses to see what they use and how they like it. Your accountant may have an opinion as well.

Outsource it

Paying someone outside of your company to take over all HR functions is an attractive option, but out of reach cost-wise for small businesses with fewer than 12 employees. Professional employer organizations, or PEOs as they are called, generally charge a fee of anywhere from 2 to 12 percent of total wages paid. But some PEOs might, for small companies with only two to five employees, price their services at a flat monthly fee. If getting HR off your desk entirely is a priority, it wouldn’t hurt to look into hiring a PEO.

The more you know

It’s probably rare for a human resources professional to start a plumbing business, but it’s quite common for the owner of plumbing business to do the work of an HR professional. You can either be frustrated by the time and effort you put into these tasks, or realize that your employees are your greatest assets and, as such, they must be taken care of.

Take the time to increase your knowledge and you won’t bear the brunt of jokes or get the reputation of being an “evil” HR person. You’ll have happier employees, a more compliant business and, hopefully, more of the workday to devote to revenue-generating activities.


Judy Kneiszel has operated her own small business for 20 years and is familiar with the many rewards and challenges of ownership. Write to her with questions, comments or topic suggestions at thewordhouse@ameritech.net.



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