Randall Murphy
"We're always looking for good people." Almost every owner I talk with says the same thing, but looking and knowing how to look is the difference between a steady stream of unqualified candidates at your doorstep and successful recruiting endeavors.

Since the industry has made great advances in improving its image, I believe it's also time to trash the worn-out expression: "We're always looking for good people." It's time to start saying, "We only hire the best of the best." Mediocrity has no place in companies that wish to improve their image, gain more market share, and substantially increase their profits. Too many companies employ average performers and never realize that the only difference between great service providers and average service providers is how they provide their service.

While recruiting for plumbing, electrical, and HVAC technicians, we asked owners about their employee's earnings. The profile was generally - one or two guys are way at the top, most of the guys are floating somewhere in the middle, and a few, well, we just keep them around because we need the help; we're turning away work. Obviously, the one or two guys at the top are their "superstars."

If you had the chance to look into a "magic crystal ball" and see your company with two or even three times the number of superstars, how would your company look? Would it be the most successful company in your area? Would you not only have the all money you needed to live a great life, but also be able to give to charity? Would you be able to invest your time more wisely because you wouldn't be putting out fires? Since the divorce rates are high in the trades, would this improve your marriage and home life? If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, it's time to raise the bar and set new goals. To enjoy the success of reaching goals, it's important to first visualize the rewards of accomplished goals to instill an overwhelming drive to make them happen.

With more owners gaining advanced business knowledge, most are able to determine their breakeven point; however, few know the stats about how each truck performs separately. In sales, each salesperson generally works in a cubicle and each cubical has operating costs; therefore, each salesperson is responsible for generating a certain amount of revenue called "quotas" to guarantee profits. In sales, however, the operating costs for each cubical are low, but in the trades operating costs for each truck are high; insurance alone is crippling many businesses operating with low profit margins. Service trucks should be considered separate income generators and it's a simple task to track the numbers.

Simply divide your operating costs by the number of trucks and this number is what each truck must generate to breakeven. After running the numbers, if your company's performance profile is similar to that mentioned above, you might find the one or two top people generating impressive profits, the average people are somewhere between breaking even and low-level profits, and the few poor performers can actually be costing you money. Without running the numbers, a company is essentially running in the dark regarding employee performance and true profitability.

When a company reaches the heights of creating an impressive company, the rewards go beyond those mentioned earlier; the ability to attract top talent is the cherry on top. Take Microsoft Corp. for example. The best software engineers are beating down their doors to work for them. It's no secret Microsoft has more millionaire employees than any other company. If you were a programmer, wouldn't you want to work for them? The same goes for any industry. The best people migrate to a company that offers the best equipment, training, management, pay, benefits, hours, marketing strategies, business plan, and so on. This is an important point to make because when companies hire recruiters to find top people, they generally list the attributes they desire in their candidates. All too often, the list of qualities doesn't match the qualities of their company. This inspired me to quote: You can only attract top talent if you provide an environment they are attracted to. The bottom line is top people have two choices: they can either work for a company where they can build a career that provides security and longevity or they can work for themselves.

When professional recruiters, known as headhunters, work with clients to improve their companies, they create dream teams and this requires two steps of action: (1) bring in the superstars and (2) fine-tune the existing staff. When trimming staff to the best people, consider every position in the company. When recruiting in the contracting industry, it was alarming how many call takers I encountered that were untrained and rude. Studies show a first-time caller will decide within 20 seconds into a call if they will do business with that company. How a call is handled is crucial to the success of the company. It's common in this industry for call takers or "CSRs" to reside under the company's radar. Whenever I reach a CSR with a bad attitude, I think to myself, if the owner only knew how much this individual was stealing from the company.

I use the word "stealing" because they are robbing the company of service call revenues, advertising dollars, and the company's reputation. I prefer to use the word stealing instead of "poor performing employee" because stealing is taken care of immediately by either hiring the right person and/or implementing training; poor performers tend to get put on the backburner. With an issue as important as improving a company's frontline, this matter needs to be taken care of right away because it's keeping the company from moving forward.

Ray Kroc, the mastermind behind the success of McDonald's Corp., said, "You're only as good as the people you hire." He also said, " When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." The bottom line is, if a company isn't growing, it's on its way out of business. It doesn't matter who the company is or how big they are, the day they stop growing is the day they start losing money. Make hiring the best people your top priority because top people make top companies and your employees are the keys to unlock your company's future.

Randall Murphy is an author/professional recruiter and founder of Oryan Group, which specializes in recruitment, sales, and CSR training. For more information, visit www.oryangroup.org or call 800-274-8020.

Publication date: 07/24/2006