When Booktopia started as an Australian online bookseller in 2004, it encountered a problem recruiting the people it needed to run its IT systems.
Booktopia directors Simon Nash, Steven Traurig and Tony Nash (Credit: Booktopia)
The problem, according to company director Steven Traurig, was that the systems the company had chosen to implement weren't the most popular, so there weren't so many people available to operate those systems.
"We had fairly specific skills we were trying to fill in the IT space," he said.
One example was the Java enterprise platform Spring. There were some people around who had the necessary skills, according to Traurig, but because the platform is popular in banks in large enterprises, those people often weren't the kind of people he was looking for.
"We're a small online retailer," he said. "The responsibilities we demand of our programmers are often different to responsibilities in larger teams."
Those programmers that were used to working in larger teams expected to receive requests and carry them out, he said. What Booktopia needs are employees who are willing to become more embedded in the business.
"They definitely need initiative," he said.
Booktopia even sends its employees to go and work in the warehouse, so they understand how the business functions, he said.
The company recruited for a long time when it started, and has been continually looking for employees ever since, according to Traurig.
When the company wasn't finding the people it wanted, it turned to recruiter 3W, which was able to expand Booktopia's search to the Philippines.
The company now has five of the 45 people working for Booktopia set up there, contracted to 3W and housed in a 3W office.
Traurig said that despite the paperwork saying otherwise, he considers those five as his employees.
"For all intents and purposes, they are — it's only by contract that they're not."
He said that Booktopia was in frequent contact with the hires via "essentially" local phone numbers. As soon as the company engages someone, they also fly to Australia for training. They then come back every six months for face-to-face meetings. The company also has a say in when the employees go on leave.
Traurig stressed that cost wasn't the main reason for hiring people overseas, but, rather, the lost opportunities by not being able to find the right people in Australia.
Booktopia has shipped 750,000 books this year.