25/03/2009 - 22:00

Eldridge sees a window of opportunity

25/03/2009 - 22:00

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A LOT has changed in the past year,the skilled labour shortage has all but gone and unemployment is at 5.2 per cent.

PERCEPTION: Rob Eldridge says the economic downturn presents businesses like his with a number of opportunities. Photo: Grant Currall

A LOT has changed in the past year. The skilled labour shortage has all but gone and unemployment is at 5.2 per cent.

Far from being downcast, however, small business owner Rob Eldridge says it's an amazing time to be in business.

After years of struggling to employ quality, qualified staff for his Malaga-based blinds and flooring company, Global Window Fashions, Mr Eldridge says the tables have now turned.

"We've interviewed people in the past and they've said 'the place has a nice atmosphere we want to work here' which is good," Mr Eldridge told WA Business News.

"But we went through a dry patch of trying to employ people, mostly installers, where people would come in and basically interview me and say 'I'll call you in a week's time if I want the job' instead of it being the other way around."

The quality of people looking for work has changed of late, with many of those applying for work having come from "up north". And while there was a downside to employment in the current market, Mr Eldridge said there was a real benefit to business with the number of qualified job seekers.

Since buying the small business in April 2005, Mr Eldridge has embedded a workplace culture based on family values, generating a significant degree of loyalty among his 15 employees.

"We've got an amazing team of people who have been with us for a long time," he said.

"It was employing around the periphery of that that became a problem for us to get extra people.

"We had one point last year when we advertised for three months for factory staff without even one applicant."

Having redefined the criteria for suitable employees to fit Global Window Fashions' workplace culture, Mr Eldridge said the applications were pouring in.

"We've just recruited, we put an ad in on Wednesday for a carpenter and we had 27 applicants," he said.

"That was pleasant, to get people applying for the job who were qualified for the position."

However, Mr Eldridge only learned the lessons of recruiting after struggling to find a suitable accounts manager following his purchase of the business in 2005.

"I bought the business after I was employed at Global Window Fashions as a sales manager and I bought the boss out and restructured the operation," he said.

"The girl who was doing the accounts was related to the original owner; she basically was just going to leave and said 'I'll stay with you for a short time but then I need to go'.

"I put a few adverts in the paper but the quality of people applying was not great.

"Then I put an advert in the paper thinking I would try and attract somebody to the workplace who maybe had kids and wanted good hours.

"So we put the ad in for 9am to 3pm hours, and we got an amazing response. This was three to three-and-a-half years ago and our accounts manager has been with us ever since.

"She would be one of the best employment decisions I've ever made, so that's worked really, really well for us."

"We're very much a family type of business; we believe in trying to look after all our people like they are part of our family.

"If the kids are sick but aren't bed-ridden and can't go to school they come in here and sit in my office and play Playstation.

"I always tell my staff I'd rather they came to work, and if the kids are in here that's fine.

"We know that keeping family values is important.

"It's like they've got a bit of ownership with the business and it's great when you have loyalty.

"It's not just for that reason that we know that it's smart for business, I've got my own kids and I know that if somebody can help you out and can get you out of a sticky situation then it benefits everybody."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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