“How do I make this business work?’’ Sacha Meier became so frustrated about working long hours in his business for little reward that he turned on his computer, went to Google and typed in “How will I make my business work’’. Luckily for Sacha, he came across the Victorian Government’s My Business, My People website (www.business.vic.gov.au/my businessmypeople) where he registered for a free workforce planning program available to businesses that employ 5-100 staff. Sacha, along with his wife Cherie, opened their restaurant and bar, Ba Ba Lu Bar, in Lorne at the end of 2003. After four and a half years, the business was not making any money despite Sacha working up to 120 hours a week in peak season. His downfall wasn’t from lack of industry experience. Sacha had worked in hospitality since he was 14, including several years as manager of a restaurant in Switzerland. It wasn’t the location either. Ba Ba Lu Bar is on Mountjoy Parade in Lorne, a coastal strip that attracts a plentiful stream of customers. The problem was how the business was being run – a lack of direction, processes and financial management. The My Business, My People program helped turn the business around and for the first time since opening, Sacha started making a profit. Within 12 months turnover had increased 50%, there is now a profit and the business continues to grow and prosper. “Put simply, I don’t know where I’d be without this program, it totally saved our business. I’ve since recommended it to five other businesses. I now work fewer hours because the business is better managed and can operate smoothly without my being there all of the time. The most important thing for me is that I have more time to spend with my family and have a better work/life balance.” The program Sacha accessed is a Victorian Government initiative to assist small business in understanding workforce planning. A business consultant from Tourism & Hospitality, one of the three service providers contracted to deliver the program, visited Sacha’s business to help get it back on track. “After we did a diagnostic (a spreadsheet of where the business is at), it was clear that I was making the old cliché mistake – I was working in the business not on the business,” Sacha said. “I felt like I was the face of the business and had to be there all the time. I was constantly telling people what to do instead of training them so they knew what they were supposed to be doing.” Sacha believes that besides all of the work the business consultant did developing a business plan, providing templates to follow, analysing the profit drivers in the business and more, it was this major change in attitude that saved the business. “I was chasing my tail a bit and feeling quite uncertain about the future of the business,” Sacha said. “Our staff meetings were quite negative and counter-productive. We weren’t doing anything to improve the situation. The program helped give me the distance to look at the business properly and work out where we were going wrong.” Some of the ideas that the business consultant identified included: • Writing detailed role descriptions so every staff member knows what their responsibilities are. • Writing detailed recruitment ads with key words and phrases to attract serious applicants who had the right experience and attitude for the job. • Preparing an interview process that enabled Sacha to get the relevant information from the candidate to make an informed decision about if they were right for the business. • Developing an induction process so that all paperwork was completed prior to a staff member starting and ensuring they know exactly what was required of them from day one. • Enrolling staff into training programs to give them the skills and confidence to manage their departments. • Hiring a bookkeeper and installing a point of sale system to better account for profits, loss and stock levels. Creating processes improved the professionalism of the business and showed staff that Ba Ba Lu Bar was a serious place to work with clear expectations that needed to be met.