February 24, 2015

Quick, What is the Single Hardest Thing for an Owner/Manager to Do?

By Paul Bieber

1. Accurately estimating jobs so the firm makes money.
2. Managing cash flow.
3. Hiring employees.
4. Having an accident-free year.
5. Picking the winner of the 2015 World Series.

Here’s a hint. On number 5, I’m pulling for the NY Mets.

Now for the rest. May I have the envelope please? What? There is no envelope? I’ll have to go on my own history. The hardest thing in running our glass fabrication business was:

3. Hiring employees.

Actually, let’s call that “hiring the right employees.” Here are two examples at each end of the spectrum. Google has an employee turnover of 4 percent and gets thousands of resumes for every job posted. They take their time; a candidate goes through five or six interviews spaced over a month, some in-person and some via Skype. They spend about a year’s salary of the job in all the supervisory time and effort that go into hiring. 

On the other hand, there is the glass shop that places a help wanted saying ‘apply in person’ and hires the first guy who can read a tape measure and knows which end of a glass cutter to use. They spend peanuts on the job search but have a 50-percent turnover rate and higher unemployment… and sometimes worker comp costs.

Does the average glass shop or fabricator need to do the full Google? No. I do recommend that there be at least two interviews; the first with your Human Resources person or the owner, or whomever you specify. The second should be with the department supervisor where the employee will work. This second interview is the key one. Does the supervisor feel the employee will fit your culture and company work ethic? This is also the time to ask the applicant to spend a half-hour in the shop and see what his skills are. Can he cut a piece of glass accurately? Does he appear comfortable with your procedures on safety? Does he look physically fit to do the job? Does he walk with a steady gait, and can he lift the piece of glass he just cut?

Can he operate a chop saw and cut a piece of aluminum to an exact 45 degree miter? Can he drill two holes correctly?

I would also ask the department supervisor to have lunch with him, whether in the company break room or at a local restaurant. See if he has proper manners with the wait staff. This is how he would react with your customers! 

If he passes these two steps, go ahead and check his references. If these check out, the next step is a “conditional offer of employment.” Then he goes for a drug test and a physical. If you don’t do these two things for a man in the shop, you are doomed to failure in controlling comp and future hiring costs. A drug test is about $50-60, and a work physical is around $200. This is small change compared to the cost of hiring a guy with a bad back. 

To me, the single most important hiring point is: Does the applicant fit your culture? Every company is unique. You want folks who will blend in and be a part of your team. No loose cannons. Yes, you need individuals who can think and grow, but they need to do that within the concept you have established for your company.

Now, hiring an office person or sales person or an executive is very different. We’ll do into that in another blog.

The weather forecast in my area is a high of minus-9 and a low of minus-20, so I’m off to my den with a fireplace.