When Peer Bearing Company in Waukegan, Ill., decided to relieve the sales department' s paperworkburden, HR manager Jerry Baker found himself balancing the demands of recruiting and training a newcustomer service department with other human resource responsibilities. It took a lot of people to buildthe new department, Baker says.

"Originally we had just salespeople, but we wanted a different format where customer service peoplewould handle non-sales tasks such as tracking orders" at the ball bearing wholesale company, accordingto Baker.

He began last fall by developing a wage range and getting a feel for the market. Then, with each salesdivision expressing different needs, he had to pull together a cohesive profile of what a customer servicedepartment for the 270-person company would look like.

With only one HR assistant on staff, Baker was directly involved in recruiting the seven members of whateventually will be a 10-to-12-person staff. "I was overrun," he says, noting that starting up a newdepartment didn' t happen in a vacuum. At the same time, "we bought a million-dollar ERP system."

Training also was difficult, he says. "It' s one thing to place people where they can learn from peoplearound them. But there was no history, no culture for that department. There were just a lot of new faces."

So all the sales managers and owners of the family business got involved in training, and a departmentmanager took on the added role of manager of customer services.

Keep Objectives in Sight

"Not only was there turmoil in creating a department from scratch, but we had to revamp the salesdepartment. Salespeople are taking on a different role; they are being asked to do more traveling andmore prospecting. They have to depend on people where they never did before."

To start up a new department, Baker recommends keeping your main objective firmly in mind. "What doyou want to achieve? You want to serve the customer well, of course. But be specific. What is theirrelationship with other departments? Who do they serve and how do they serve them? Then the other stufffalls into place. Know where you' re headed and set your ground rules and priorities."

While it' s great to pull a lot of people together to work on the new department, "you need one person whois the taskmaster, driving the ship. If you don' t have that, it slows things down a lot."

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