Friday, May 9, 2008

Trade show participation in the UK

Last month we attended our first trade show in the UK called Natural Products Exhibition. The exhibition took place at Olympia in London. This show was geared towards the retailers of natural products and we participated in it with the hopes that we will find a few resellers from there as this category has been working out very well for us in Canada.  These trade shows are also helpful in building a brand image as well as sending the message to the existing customers that we are still alive and kicking.

There is quite  a bit of cost involved in doing a trade show both in terms of time and money. It also gets very tiring to manage the booth for long hours. Once the show is over, the leads have to be followed up vigorously to get the best out of the show.  Natural Products Exhibition was a relatively small two day show that cost us in the neighborhood of £ 3500. This cost does not reflect the time spent before, during and after the show.  Shahzad, Gloria, Mariam and John did a superb job to plan, organize and work the show. Congratulations to the entire UK team for their successful first show. Here are few of the pictures:

image005 A visitor is picking up some brochures and product pamphlets.
image006 Gloria worked tirelessly for two days to introduce the products to the booth visitors.
image010 Gloria and Mariam are chatting. The Heaven Fresh banner in the back ground was done at the very last minute.
image014 Gloria is explaining the products to a couple of show attendees.
image015 Looks like break time for Mariam. I know from experience that these shows can be very physically and mentally draining.
image011 The DVD player in the picture was running demo videos. I think we need a bigger screen for the next show.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hiring Employees for a Micro MNC

Before starting Heaven Fresh,  I worked for various companies and during my job hunting process I always wondered about the reasons for the existence of head hunters.  My thinking was that there was no justification for an employer to pay to an employment agency just to get a resume forwarded especially when the employer could get resumes directly from the candidates. Probably I developed this thought process simply because I was always able to find jobs by sending my resume directly to the employers.

Having been on the other side of the table for past 5 years, I can say that finding right people to work for your organization is probably the most difficult and challenging task.   When we first contacted a head hunting company, I was quite astonished to find out that they charge around 20% of the hired person's salary which meant that if we hired someone for $40,000 / year, we would pay $8,000 in fees to the head hunter.  However, scanning resumes, calling candidates and interviewing them is such a lengthy and tiring process that not only head hunting companies start making perfect sense but also their fees sound very justified.

The process of hiring people is particularly difficult for a micro-multinational because of the preference to find people who can wear multiple hats and can handle variety of responsibilities. We have been looking for a bilingual person who can speak fluent English and French to help us with marketing and sales along with alleviating some of the burden of incoming customer phone calls in the Canada office.  We have not been able to find the right person yet and seeking help from a head hunter is getting more and more tempting but then again, the money that we will pay to a head hunter can cover the compensation of an employee for two months.

I feel lucky to have found very talented and responsible people to work with  just by coincidence . But I guess the lucky streak has to end somewhere and now we have a decision to make whether to bite the bullet and pay the fee to a head hunter or to ease our search criteria. We will see who wins, cash strapped bank account that need preservation for slow summer season or already stretched resources desperately in need of having some additional help on board as soon as possible.