Natalie Lightfoot, one of our seven expert retailer columnists, reveals how she handled being two staff members down.

I knew it was all going too smoothly. Earlier this year, two staff members who had been here for five years left within a month of each other. One was training to be a dentist, so she left a week before she started. The other I knew was coming, but didn’t know exactly when.

It’s difficult recruiting as a small shop and I’ve learned a lot about how best to advertise. We tried the job centre, but found we had loads of people applying. My postman hated me because I had so many letters and every one I opened was a waste of paper. I had some that just had the applicant’s name on it so they would qualify for their jobseeker’s allowance.

I was worried about advertising in the shop because I didn’t want to reject customers, but I did need them to be local and familiar with the area and the store. I advertised on Facebook and we got a good response. I’ve been using recruitment site Indeed too and would recommend it to anyone as it’s free and a great service.

I always do a phone interview where I ask about themselves, their circumstances and what they are looking for. You want them to be honest, so you have to be honest with them about what you expect.

After that I do a second interview face to face. I did 13 20-minute interviews. I had some people who just didn’t turn up, so expect gaps and don’t just book as many as you need.

My final piece of advice is don’t order the uniform or the name badge until they actually start. I’m now in a position where I find myself leaning favourably to anyone called John in the hope of getting some use out of it!

Staff are the most valuable tool. If your customers don’t like them, then they won’t come in. Your staff are how you are different to your competitors, so you need to make sure you get the right ones in place.