When it comes to growing your brokerage, the aim is to staff it smarter so you can be freed up to work on your business, not be submerged in it.

It looks like the recruitment drought that plagued Australian business in the last year or so, has broken. According to the latest Banjo SME Compass 2024, SME business owners are currently much less concerned about staff shortages than they were last year.

Many broker businesses are SMEs themselves, and you may have faced hiring challenges in recent times, whether that’s been a shortage of suitable candidates, or a ‘job seeker’s market’ where potential employees upped the ante on salaries or conditions.
While it seems that the recruitment space has now stabilised, the recent challenges might have led you to consider pivoting from hiring the usual full-time permanent employees, to alternatives such as contractors, or a different staffing business model.

One of the legacies from the COVID era has been the increased demand for a working from home (WFH) option or other flexible work policies.

Interestingly, SMEs appear to be sticking to the tried and trusted strategy of offering higher salaries to attract good talent, with far less focus on flexible working policies compared to 2022.

The WFH model is certainly not for every business. Ian Christie, General Manager of Podium Money, says that while Podium are a flexible employer, experience has shown that for operational efficiency, resolving issues and good general collaboration, staff need to be in the office 3-4 days a week, depending on their role.

In terms of attracting the right calibre of staff, Jamie King, Executive Managing Partner at BlueRock Finance has found that their business model is a significant drawcard.

“The basis of our structure is that each of our relationship managers is effectively operating a business within the greater business. They are all PAYG, not commission-based, and have their own profit and loss centre.”

“We work with each relationship manager on forecasting for their business and provide the systems, teams and processes to support them. Together we set an expectation of their net margin, and how they’ll get there. There’s also a bonus structure if they achieve significantly beyond their net profit expectations,” Jamie explained.

“Our model has helped us attract self-driven people who want to feel like they’re running their own business, but also have the backing of a wider team and enterprise.”

Having a strong brand and a good reputation has helped Podium Finance attract talented, hard-working employees.

SMEs appear to be sticking to the tried and trusted strategy of offering higher salaries to attract good talent, with far less focus on flexible working policies compared to 2022.
Banjo SME Compass Report 2024
“Many candidates have done their due diligence before they apply to us. They’ve asked around the industry and have quickly learned from both lenders and other brokers that we’re a good company to work for,” says Ian Christie.

“Being flexible in our working conditions also helps us retain good staff. For example, if a team member needs to attend to a personal matter during the day, and make up time in the evening, that’s all good with us,” Ian says.

“We respect our team members, and they return that respect. Our culture is a bit like a big family - we have a lot of fun, but we keep it real and never forget we’re a business.”

Both Jamie and Ian have found that in commercial broking, recruiting people with a background in finance, banking in particular, has worked extremely well. But there are always exceptions - Ian recently recruited a former schoolteacher, a mature individual who is prepared to “do the time” and learn the craft.

Jamie found that former bankers were particularly attracted to the BlueRock model, which is similar to the operation of a business bank.

In the end, it always comes down to hiring the right people. Nothing replaces doing due diligence, asking around your contacts for recommendations and impressions.

Ian sums up the goal for broker business owners, “Once you’ve got the right, trusted people around you, you’ll be able to release yourself from working in your business and be free to do the big picture thinking.”