Hiring and retaining quality employees is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in growing a field service business. Younger businesses, frequently just one or two people, don’t know when to take the leap and bring on extra help. But even more established businesses can struggle to find the right hires or to keep them.
We asked our pros what they’ve learned from running their own businesses. Here’s what they told us.
Hiring Timeline: When is the Right Time to Hire Someone?
1. After you’ve run the numbers and know how much an employee will truly cost.
Before hiring your first employee, put together an operational cost assessment. Determine how much money you need to spend to get them on board. For example, if we bring on a new tech, but we have zero fleet available, it will cost us $38K to put them into a vehicle which we need to recoup in revenue from that tech within 35 days.
Expect to factor time to onboard, technical tools, uniform, coverage, licenses, benefits, payroll, associate fees, team training into dollar amounts. Many people have a misconception that if they hire someone, they are automatically making money. If you don't get them onboarded quickly, you are actually losing money. That's the reason onboarding is such an important process.
Irum Jones, Owner of Electrician on Call, Dallas, TX
2. Estimate how much your business can grow when you’re able to focus on sales, marketing, and making it more efficient.
We hired way too late the first time. We are a carpet cleaning company, and for part of the year, it’s traditionally painfully slow. We were always concerned about how we could possibly keep a guy on our payroll during those slow times.
What we did not factor in was how much value we could add to the business by not working a truck everyday. The business has exploded since I removed myself from the production of services and focus on selling and improving my business. We grew 100% in 2018, and year-to-date, we are up 150%. All the growth dates back to that one decision to hire labor and for me to become the CEO.
The stumbling blocks occur often because of the business owner’s own fear. Anytime we spend resources on something for our business it is a risk, but no risk means no growth. It’s supposed to be scary and uncomfortable.
Chris Wheeler, CEO of Deep South Carpet Cleaners Blairsville, Georgia
How to Find the Right Candidate?
3. Referrals from friends and employees are frequently the best way to find quality candidates.
Finding the right people has been the biggest challenge. I’ve tried Monster, newspaper ads, putting a sign in our front office lawn, and after all of that, referrals from friends and other employees have gotten us the best fits.
Also, this may sound ridiculous but, my dog (I had an Akita) sat in on job interviews. She was dead on with the couple people that she did not like. We unfortunately hired one of the guys against the Akita’s judgement. That was a bad move.
Miranda Brush, Co-Owner of Steam Green, Inc Peoria, IL
4. Use the interview as an opportunity to gage whether the candidate will fit into your company culture.
People can put whatever they want on paper. It’s when you take them by surprise that you really start to get to the heart of who they are. For example, we’re a really fun-loving, goofy, but hard working bunch of people, and we want people who don’t take themselves too seriously. During my interview process I ask a lot of emotionally-intelligent, work-related questions, but I throw in random quirky psychological questions, as well.
If you were given an elephant and you couldn’t sell it or give it away what do you with it? This tells me if they can think on their feet and what motivates them.
If you leave this interview and win a million dollars, what happens next? Are they motivated only by money or are they looking for something more.
How do you describe the color red to a blind person? This demonstrates how well they may communicate with someone who doesn’t understand things the way they do (like a customer).
Describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How much detail do they give me... is it too much or too little? Again, this helps me get a better idea of their communication skills and their attention to detail.
My personal favorite, before I even get into the actual questions, I give them a ball of play dough and tell them to make something while we go through the questions. This demonstrates multi-tasking, creativity, and just how seriously they take themselves. I have a great time watching the people I’m interviewing, and it gives me a much better picture of this potential employee and how they would fit into our culture.
Natalie Fox, Director of Administration at The Electric Way, Colorado Springs, CO
How To Keep Employees From Leaving?
5. Offer the most competitive rates and benefits you can afford.
“It’s difficult to find morale, trainable, trustworthy and honest help. When you find them, hire them on the spot. I’ve found three so far in our 10 years of business. I spend several months training them on what is needed and expected. I recommend hiring them at the most you can afford, then give them a raise after training. Make it difficult for them to leave. Reward them for everything positive, and they will never leave. Great people make your business run so smoothly.”
Blake McCormick, Owner of Made New Again, Dickinson, TX
Like Chris Wheeler found, attracting and hiring hardworking and knowledgeable employees enables you to focus on growth. According to our pro’s, a good hiring strategy involves:
Understanding what it will truly cost to onboard a new employee.
Using that extra time to work on your overall business efficiency.
Asking friends and other employees for referrals.
Looking for someone who fits the culture and values of your company.
And keeping a good employee happy with raises and rewards.
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