How to invest in staff from abroad in your business

Here, Motin Miah, owner of Bangkok Lounge Group, discusses how investing in staff from abroad can boost your business.

Running your own business means you as the owner, whether director of a company or sole trader, have to develop a vast number of skills and expertise in many fields. For example, when it’s just yourself, you have to initiate all forms of interest in anyway you can. This can be done using social media, emailing, networking, attending local fairs/markets/events etc.

You also have to be the person that converts those leads into sales. Primarily you are solely accountable for HR – sales and marketing – finance – health and safety – product development – customer service. These are huge learning curves one must overcome in order to give your business the best chance of success.

As the business grows you have the finance to employ the specific skills set you require, this then enables you to back off a little and concentrate on your core business. This can be a very anxious time and where the first real test for you as an employer comes in. Have you; hired the right person with the right experience and industry knowledge?

Have you offered them training?

Training comes in multiple guises e.g. on the job, academic or industry accreditation training. If all the above is in place then do you have the belief in your employee that they will have the same passion and drive for your business, to ultimately satisfy your customer.

I find I as a business owner; and one that is borne out of passion, will find it difficult to let go and believe our staff will treat the customer as we would. It is crucial for the survival of any business that staff truly love the product they are selling and that’s why tailor made, specific training for an individual is imperative. They have to live and breathe your product, know every detail about it. They are your best sellers and the face of your business and in turn need to be empowered to do this.

Reward schemes are a great way to keep staff happy and motivated. These can be in the form of bonus, time off, treats etc. Make the targets realistic and achievable, unworkable expectations from an employer will soon demotivate staff and in worst cases can lead to resignations.

We have seen many changes in the labour workforce over the last 20 years; some figures show there is an average of 39 applications for each vacancy. The market is inundated with so many candidates of different abilities but even in those circumstances there is still the need to recruit from abroad for certain job roles.

Because of the nature of my business I have hired many people from SE Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Owning Indian and Thai restaurants, I have had to recruit expert chefs from Thailand and Central India who by their very location and exposure have the advantage and the experience required for authentic cuisine. The knowledge and training these people already have would take months even years to master for non-ethnic candidates.

In these modern times we can interview several candidates from many countries on the same day thanks to facetime/skype. Now we can afford to be choosy who we hire and not have to worry about additional interview costs.

When I initially started 20 years ago, the government immigration process for work permits was a little easier and not as expensive. Since then many foreign secretaries have come in and tried to make a dent in our net migration, for the betterment of our community and the current labour work force within the UK.

Currently you have the Tier systems and depending on your business you have to acquire a licence first and foremost. In order to acquire that licence you have to fulfil many criteria ranging from minimum trading period to showing profits – this is not easy for many start-up businesses to show profit in the crucial early stages.

Employment laws are changing all the time and we need to keep abreast of these developments in order to be proactive and not reactive to what lies ahead. This is a fundamental adaptation in being a successful business; always changing with the times to ensure we survive and thrive.

A simple example on the law change; restaurants that offer a takeaway service, in the eyes of the policy makers, are branded as fast food places and not restaurants. So therefore licences could not be extended / renewed in order to bring or keep foreign staff from outside the UK.

These changes have had drastic effects on my businesses, as the laws affected how I was able to hire staff. In order to circumvent the inevitable hurdles of staffing from abroad, I’ve had to reduce the number of outlets while still in profit so that the sales of these businesses were maximised – no one wants to buy a loss making business.

As an entrepreneur we have to meet new challenges and diversify into other businesses. Being self-employed is extremely satisfying and rewarding. Never lose focus while you’re doing it. Always find work life balance.

Motin Miah is owner of Bangkok Lounge Group.

Further reading on investing in staff from abroad

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Managing Staff

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