SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Ivan kicked things off with Bobby by discussing the idea of making retirement easier. Bobby cites an interesting article he ready this week called, 13 simple ways to make early retirement easier.

Bobby pulled these key tips from the article that he thinks will help anyone considering retirement: 

  • You have to ignore the hate or resentment from others who are envious of your position to be able to retire
  • You should try to clear as many of your debts as possible before you consider retiring
  • You shouldn't leave yourself open to boredom so the key thing is to find something to do and have a plan
  • Instead of retiring 'from' something, you should be thinking of retiring 'to' something
  • You can't compare yourself to others, you have to do what is right for you
  • You should talk about the future all the time

Now onto your questions... 

I run a medium sized insurance, financial consulting and pensions business in the midlands. My dilemma is the phone. I'm finding it hard to recruit staff as there seems to be plenty of opportunities out there for receptionists and admin staff. It has been suggested by staff that we automate the phone, it would increase productivity dramatically but I've always had great pride in the fact that we provide a personal service instead of an answering machine. What do you advise? 

Bobby says this is right on the money as a strategic question for any business. With a personal service like this, Bobby says that he would be insane to automate. It can work in limited circumstances to filter calls but Bobby really wouldn't advise automating at all. 

I'm in the middle of an internal promotion and I'm wondering what I should be looking for in terms of a pay increase, either in percentage or money terms. I don't want to be screwed and be a cheaper alternative than the external candidate. 

Bobby says this is a difficult question to answer. It's all about research - this person needs to look into what people in market are being paid for this role already, both internally and externally. They could even ask a recruiter what the going rate for such a role would be in the marketplace today. Merging all of those pieces of information then will give you a better idea of what to ask for or expect. Information is key and power here. 

My boss shouted at me in a meeting in front of six other people the other day. I feel embarrassed and hurt and humiliated. I am thinking of leaving but love working with everyone except my boss. Because my confidence has been impacted, I have retracted into myself. What do you advise I do, Bobby?   

Unfortunately, this is life and this kind of thing happens even though it shouldn't, according to Bobby. His advice is to maybe take a few days off to reflect on the situation and get support from the colleagues this person gets on with. Bobby advises building up confidence slowly by maybe trying to mention good things that this person has achieved at the next meeting for some positivity before maybe speaking to the boss directly and addressing the situation.   

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here: If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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