Starting a New Business During COVID-19

23 July 2020

By Sam Palmer

Starting a New Business During COVID-19

​I have been thinking of starting my own recruitment company for many years, but I couldn’t muster the courage to actually give it a go. Last year I finally decided it was the right time as I had established the perfect niche to venture into.

While living in ‘The Manor’ a 56,000 sq. ft home in Los Angeles, I noticed what an enormous task it was to keep a property of that size running. The Manor had a staff of 30 - 50 people, positions included House Manager, Housekeeper, Butler, Chef, Security, Nanny, Personal Assistant and Gardener. I became entrenched in understanding every aspect of the home, and I was fascinated by how much knowledge our House Manager had regarding running a property of that size. Within four months of our working together, we had reduced the power bills by half, cut our vendor spend, and recruited a better team of individuals more suited to maintaining the level of service a house of that stature deserved.

We moved from 'The Manor' into our new home in September, and I spent the rest of the year perfecting the staff and creating workflows to allow the family and staff to co-exist better. This was the best internship I could have wished for, I created a blueprint of what is needed to run a large estate effectively and cost-efficiently.

January was greeted with excitement as I finally hit go on my new company Staffing Properties. I couldn’t wait to get started and help other homeowners who were experiencing the same challenges as we were. Just as we were getting off the ground March hit us with something I could never have prepared for, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. What I felt was a recession-proof business when we started was suddenly greeted with calls from homeowners telling us they no longer felt safe having staff in such close proximity to their families. We had a big problem on our hands and I had to make some very big decisions so we could survive.

One of my first thoughts was to hit pause on the business and simply reopen when it had died down. We discussed this as a team and after careful consideration, we felt continuing but forgetting about turning a profit may be the best idea. So we turned our attention away from earning money and onto marketing the business. I created a brochure and letter and sent it to homeowners throughout our neighborhood. We explained that we would help anyone who needed advice on what to do with their household staff for free. After speaking with homeowners we worked out a plan to keep the staff they had in a safe manner. We created workflows so they didn’t come into contact with each other, implemented temperature checks, and provided masks and gloves. Over the next few months, we saved around 200 American jobs, something I am very proud of.

The next step was to embrace social media, I was taught to do this around 5 years ago by my then employer people2people. If I am honest, when they spoke about how this will be the future of recruitment I rolled my eyes and thought they were mad (Mark & Gregg you were right). Again I took myself out of my comfort zone and dived in headfirst. I realized all the people I wanted to connect with were sitting at home like myself and they were available to speak. I connected with people on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and most importantly, Instagram. I told my story over a series of Instagram Live interviews, and people became interested. After a live interview with Million Dollar Listing star David Parnes, the Wall Street Journal approached me for an interview. I couldn’t quite believe that a publication of that stature was interested in telling my story. We completed the interview and all of a sudden the phone started ringing again. Now we are taking on jobs helping homeowners like we are meant too, I feel we are now in an even greater position to advise on what is best for clients as we have gained the necessary experience.

By no means are we clear of this, and I am sure there will be plenty of twists and turns in our tale. I wanted to share this as I know other business owners are sitting there feeling just like I did a few months ago. My advice is to do all you can to help your business survive, improve your skills while you still have the chance. Maybe it will not be enough but at least you can say you gave it all you possibly could.

Sam Palmer

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