Archive for the 'training' Category

2010 Starts Now!

This may come as a shock to my friends and clients in the home services industry but…next year is here, now!

Sure, I know, we are just finishing this year…and we deserve a break. Sorry, no break..not now; not when only the best prepared will grow in this economy. So, you just gotta ask yourself, will I or won’t I be on the winner list this time next year?

If you are committed to growing, you have your work cut out for you. Sure, it can be done…I have numerous clients and contacts who have grown significantly this year. But it wasn’t an accident or quirk of fate. It was the result of planning, training, lots of hands-on follow up, tracking and reacting on a daily basis. Nothing short of that works.

But you can grow.

Next, if you are one of those sad soles who feels you’ve paid your dues, suffered through this recession and are celebrating Ben Bernanke’s decision that “the recession is largely over”, guess again. Ben deals with banks. You deal with homeowners and small businesses. And, flash! The recession is NOT “largely over”. Only a politican or economist would say a thing like that. So, together, we wil l face another tough selling season. You have to be ready..that is, unless you are content to backslide…something I find unacceptable.

If you know my history, you know I helped a small, growing service company grow in the recession of the late 1980’s. We learned that it can be done. But it doesn’t just happen. To succeed in 2010, you will need to be 10% better at everything you do. You will need to hire 10% better, train a tad more effectively, lead, track, react and coach 10% more effectively. So, take my advice…strart next year now! Don’t get lazy. Forget about the flush years past…this is a business war we are in and not all will make it. Be on the winner’s list.

My schedule is filling faster than ever…and that is becsause smart managers are preparing now for tomorrow.

Food for thought.


New Administration, hard times, NOT business friendly

Like it or not, republican or democrat, the die is cast; there will be a measurable change in your business model, and soon.  My objective is not to sell you on a particular philosophy but to alert you to the inevitable.  With higher taxes on even small to mid-sized businesses and reduced discretionary spending, you owners and managers out there will now have to control costs more tightly.  If you don’t, the alternative will surely be less on the bottom line.

When growth comes, not from adding revenue and taking advantage of accompanying economies of scale but through budget crunching cost reductions, YOU WONT BE ADDING PEOPLE, will you. Soon, you will come to the realization that you are going to have to succeed with the people and equipment on hand.  And, if you are normal, this is a frightening concept.  

I’d like to suggest you think about the one thing that does make sense for the short-term future; get more productivity from the people you have!

I understand, asking today’s ‘gen y’ worker to do more is akin to blasphemy but…you gotta do what you gotta do.  The good news is, even workers who want more time off, more flexibility on the job and continuing benefits, even those folks will respond to greater recognition and an enhanced position on the team.

Think about it…the starting quarterback is injured. As he takes his seat on the bench, you look hopefully at the back up. You tell the back up; “This is your you can be somebody, you can help us win the game. And, when we win, YOU win.  More money, pride in knowing you are the best, maybe even a promotion to the staring team.” 

My point is, when you are in a pinch, if you understand how to impact human behavior, you can win every time.  So, you don’t  tell people times are tough, that the new congress has jacked your taxes and you will earn less money. You don’t say that because nobody but you cares! What you do say is this; “Team, I know everyone here is concerned about the economy, our jobs and our company future.  It’s natural to worry when all you see in the media is a growing unemployment number and businesses failing.  Well, we are not going to fail and YOU are not going to lose your jobs, period!  We’ve been handed a tough situation but, if we all pitch in, we will weather this storm…and we’ll do it by working together and working smart!

Having reassured your team, you explain that everyone, including you, the leader, will need to do more short-term but, when we win, everyone will share in the success. [Don’t say that unless you genuinely mean it]

What I’m suggesting is, in tough times, when you may even need to cut staff, you can still WIN with your core team. It requires “hands-on” coaching and an understanding that, if treated with a modicum of respect and shown they are important, no, vital to success, your people will work harder and do more to help your team win.

This is my consulting message to clients and I wanted to share it with you.  Thinks about your management style. Are you bossing or coaching?  Will your people go to battle for you becasuse they understand you will do the same for them? Or, are people simply cogs in a gear wheel?

Tough times require a refocused effort to create and maintain a positive workplace enviornment and it begins with letting your people know YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE!

A Leader’s Secret Weapon

  “Can’t talk…gotta go”. 

 “Hey, boss, hang on…I got a question”.

 “I said I gotta go…upset customer”.

Humm….sound familiar?  Boss can’t talk to employee, has customer issue to resolve. And, of course, as we’ve all been taught, THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST!  Or does he/she?

Take a closer look at how you really outght to run your business.  I have a slogan; I use it in all my triaining/consulting sessions. It goes like this: “CRM [Customer Relations Management] begins with ERM [Employee Relations Management].  Get my point?

I don’t care what business you are in, if you have customers, you need to focus on serving them in a special way.  If you don’t, in this economy, with choices galore, they will disapprear like the morning fog.

So, how do we successfully serve, retain and profit from our customer base? Through our people.

If you want happy customers, start by building a culture that includes and is based on happy people. “Can’t be done these days”, you say.  Wrong. It can is is being done…today.

Without a long explanation, suffice to say that a primary cause of business failure, is a preceding failure to focus on your key resouce, the human resource.  We work real hard on planning, figuring out how to execute, etc. But, when it comes to the people on whom we depend to make it happen, we spend little time and attention to ensure success. Period.

A moment on something I learned as a young, know-nothing econ student; The Pareto Principle. All who sell, or have ever sold anything, have heard of it.  Still, if the PP is unfamiliar, let me lay it out as concisely as possible.

In 1906, an Italian eonomist named Vilfredo Pareto, while studying the laws of distribution [how things are naturally spread out], discovered something important. Simply, that a majority [he figured about 80%] of the value of time spent and effort expended, came from a minority [he fiuured about 20%] of the things we do.  We get most of the return on our time and effort from a very few things we do during a typical day, week, month or year. Lately, this distribution principle has been termed, The Pareto Principle.

The lesson, to a young sales rep is, figure out who your highest potential customers are and spend you time with them. Don’t waste time on the masses that return little in payback for time invested.

The PP can be applied to management time in any business, as well. Ask do you spend your day….on things or on people?  Because people are tougher to deal with and control than things or tasks, we tend to gravitate to things we can control. Even familiar problems precede dealing with our people in terms of the percieved degree of difficulty and discomfort. So, for most managers/leaders, people come second.  The team comes second.

Now, that would be fine…except for one’s our people who enable us to succeed, to reach management and company objectives.  No doubt about it…as good old Vilfredo learned, you will get more bang from your time use and focus buck when you spend it on high payback activities that involve people!

What kind of activities? Oh, let’s start with recruiting, attracting the best in your business segment. Then, how about training them; ensuring they succeed, which, of course is hugely motivating to the worker, leading to greater productivity and lower staff turnover. And how about follow up coaching; reinforcing learning to form strong productive habits? Am I getting through?

Stop focusing on things, spend your time with your people and the investment will be returned 10 fold.

Smart managers and leaders know the secret to success…the secret weapon; the Pareto Principle.

Coaching Required for “Gen Y” Workers

Coaches Win – Bosses Lose!  It’s really as simple as that.  Try to “boss” today’s workers and you might as well hang out the white flag of surrender because it just doesn’t work.

Do you know there are almost 40 million “millineals” out there?  If you are a manager, or are involved in staffing, that fact alone should get your attention.  And, the “millineals” or “generation y” workers tend to think differently about work.

Basically, younger workers [between 18 and 26], today’s “millineals”, with more career choices, are pickier about where they work and why.  Even in a recessionary economy, workers have more career destination options than only a few years ago.  In our service economy, people are typically the key factor in determining a companies success or failure.  And workers make career decisions based on this premise; I will take a job if it looks good, but I will only keep it if it feels good.  And it had better feel good fast! Now that is changed thinking.

So, what’s new?  How have expanded career options impacted worker thinking? Here’s a starter list:

  • I no longer work to live, I live to work, my way.
  • I don’t take a job to make my company a success, I work to get what I want from the company.
  • I want maximum flexibility with a minimum of rules, procedures and boundries.
  • I’m convinced my lack of experience simply makes it easier for me to see the world objecivley and that “old time” managers are jaded by the screwed up life they’ve lived.
  • I want money, and I want benefits, and I want them day one on the job.
  • I expect a complete training program with lots of “hands-on” follow up on the job.
  • I demand respect … before I’ve earned it.
  • I want my opinions included in the decision making process…whether or not I have an intelligent idea.
  • I want to be taught, not told
  • I want you to sell me, not tell me.

I could go on…but won’t.  The point is, if you are in a position of hiring, training or leading people in today’s workplace, you’d better learn to be a coach vs. a boss! You’d better understand that the way to keep your winners is to teach them how to succeed, and begin day one!  If you stake your management success on a building great plan and simply make assignments, without concern for worker motivation to hit your goals, you’ll come up short every time.

Houston, we have a problem; many of today’s managers haven’t lived in this “new world” of people management. They have not been coached, they have been bossed. They are the survivors of an outdated management culture. And many sturggle mightly to lead effectively.  They simply don’t have the requisite skills.

Back in the 20th century, lots of research was done on people, and their attitudes about working.  Most managers fell into a style described as “Theory X”.  These folks believe in work, period. Hard work built America. It’s the task that’s important, not the person doing it. People, they believed, don’t really want to work but will do so if, and only if pushed, prodded and threatened.  No surprise, this thinking came from the hardships of the great depression. During the 30s and 40s, the period before WWll, people took any job they could find.  Of course, many hated what they did each day but working  put food on the table. 

Things are different today. Even in our recessionary economy, workers have more choices. So far, putting food on the table has not been an issue; not for most. Today, gen y workers struggle with decisions like which laptop to buy or where they’ll sit at the critically important concert this weekend. They want to spend more time on themselves, less at work.  Fewer hours, more flexibility, that is ther objective.  They want choices, and they want them now.

So, in view of this undeniable paradigm shift, will you lead effectively? Will you be able to accomplish your business goals through people? Or, will you sit back and complain about how nobody wants to work anymore. Your choice.

These days, I spend most of my time helping managers cope with the unavoidable requirement to learn leadership skills, to impact behavior.  Anyone, I believe, can learn to lead, and must.

Building new human interaction or coaching skills requires ongoing management learning.    Take a close look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you are prepared to win with people.

A few questions for you:

1. Are you a coach or boss? Do you understand the difference?

2. Is employee turnover an issue in your business?

3. Are you attracting enough of the right people?

4. Do you prioritize tasks or people?

5. When performance is unsatisfactory, do you know how to change it?

6. Do your team members respect or resent you?

7. Do you inspire your team to achieve, to be the best they can be?

8. Bottom line, are you living in the management past?

In Tough Times, Smart Businesses Focus on Differentiation

I do lots of presentations on serving the customer.  And each time I begin, I see the faces up front, doubting, hoping, wondering “What is there about customer service that hasn’t been said, and said, and said again?”  “Please, don’t tell me to do what we all know I cannot do…make them love me!”

So, I ease into the topic.  “Why” I ask, “do you suppose customers fire us?” I get blank stares.  Savvy managers know it’s typically not anything we’ve done to the customer…it’s the total impact of the customer experience that deals the death blow.  I forge ahead.

“To understand why we are fired by our valued customers, we must look at how they became customers in the first place!”  I talk about how customers are sold; how we set expectations.  And I do that because that is the starting point for developing a serious reputation for service excellence.

Now, I’m a consultant working mostly in the home services industry…landscaping, lawn care, pest control, etc.  So, my clients typically don’t interact with customers face to face that often…unless of course, there is trouble. Then, half of them cancel service without ever letting us know of their dissatisfaction! Wow! What’s a service company to do? Is there a process that will translate into customer loyalty?  Briefly…sure.

This is a big topic.  For purposes of this post, I simply want to expose the topic and see what interest there is in exploring the process for building what I refer to as E-Service or, defined my way, E for excellence in service.

What is E-Service? My defininition is ‘doing whatever it takes to make each customer feel special.’  That’s it.  Not complicated but not easy either.

Is it possible? Yep, I work with businesses doing it every day.  How do they make it happen? Again, not complicated…but not easy either.  They go about the work of creating a true CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE.  It can and does happen. I see it, so, I know it’s real.
What are the requirements? First, and most vital to success, is a top down recognition that, without a reputation for service excellence in today’s service industry, you have one and only one thing to offer….price. And, as we all know, when you sell with price, you lose customers the same way…to the first ‘low baller’ who comes along and undercuts you.

It is possible to differentiate with service. This sort of differentiation is not new. Nordstroms and Southwest Airlines, each a representative of the high and low end products in their respective industries, have done it for decades.  So, it can be done.

In hard economic times…like the ones we face today and will in 2009, I believe it’s worth looking at creating added value through E-Service.  As I said, it involves and requires a paradigm shift for most organizations. Still, it can and is being done.  Some of initial moves are bullet pointed below.

  • Recognition that selling price leads to low quality sales and no customer loyalty.
  • Setting reasonable expectations is a must in the marketing-sales message.
  • The sales process must provide continuity with the marketing message and brand reputation.
  • Service delivery must mirror expectations set.
  • The E-Service company will subscribe to the philosophy that “If you see a problem, you own the problem.”
  • Service delivery and satisfaction levels are closely monitored. Results drive business tactics.
  • Employees are trained and cross trained to appreciate all team functions.
  • Communications skills are an absolute….and using them is NOT an option.
  • Customer ‘touch points’ are maximize and a personal, almost intimate relationship developed.
  • E-Service companies establish customer focused lines of authority and a reasonable escalation policy for problem-complaint resolution.
  • E-Service companies have a well thought out ‘service recovery’ process, ensuring that quick problem resolution resulting in complete customer satisfaction and brand strengthening.

These are a few of the skeletal fundamentals that are basic to the E-Service philosophy.  If you are interested, let me know it with a comment below.

Training On The Job

The busier you are, the tougher to schedule pure ‘training time’.  For years, I’ve encouraged the use of ‘small bite’ training in the form of Monday morning meetings or, as they are known in landscaping, ‘tail gate’ sessions. 


To really change behavior, your training technique must be more than effective in the classroom; it must easy to use on the job.  Recently, working in the field with a new hire, I was reminded of the necessity to ‘teach not tell’.  As I attempted to explain what seemed like a simple task, I recognized the unmistakable stare of a new employee who had no experience and didn’t really get my message.  In a hurry, I repeated the message… “Just do it the way I told you to,” I repeated.  For the second time, the new person failed to properly perform the task.  While it might seem obvious, I realized that I had forgotten a cardinal training rule… “Teach don’t tell”.  I had not taken time to DEMONSTRATE the expected performance and relied on words to communicate.


Every now and again, I have to remind myself that we are visual learners.  Experts have shown that as much as 85% of our knowledge is gained visually, while only about seven or eight percent comes through the spoken word.  In sales training sessions, I have often taught learners that “words create pictures” and that communicating on the phone requires the effective use of language and speaking skills.  But there is no question that SHOWING BEATS TELLING every time.


Here is a simple process you can use to train effectively; I call it the “AC/DC” process. 

  1. ACTIVITY performed.  Assuming the trainee has received proper advance instruction, have the trainee perform the task or “activity”.
  1. CRITIQUE.  Observe the action, reinforce proper procedure, identify any changes needed.
  2. DEMONSTRATE.  Perform the proper procedure for the trainee.  Show, don’t just tell!
  1. CRITIQUE.  Again, observe and critique.  Be sure you reinforce proper procedures…explain and demonstrate any corrections indicated.


That’s it…AC/DC!  A training/coaching process that’s easy to remember, easy to use.


Just a note about the critique: It’s important to let the trainee know what he/she is doing right!  If you are talking only about what it wrong, the message is “you are a loser”.  Complimenting satisfactory performance is important to keep the message positive.  Remember, when a trainee feels they are making steady progress, they will be motivated to continue learning.  That, of course, is the objective.


Finally, readers may know by now that my view of the trainer’s responsibility is that we trainer’s are responsible to not only teach job skills but to help ensure that employees are willing and able to execute what they have learned…and do so consistently. In a later post, we’ll explore training techniques that will help get your crew through the busiest months of your business season.  But why wait?  Start thinking now about the need to plan and show your concern for the physical and emotional condition of your team members.









Hiring Heroes – A must in the service business!

Please…not another one of those articles on people!  I read them, I think about the ideas but nothing ever seems to change.  Year after year we struggle to ‘fill the chairs’, to maintain a staff of motivated, productive and loyal…yes loyal employees.  And year after year we watch the almost constant ‘churn’ of employees.  Often, when we lose employees, we don’t know why…but we should.  And we should understand that the high turnover in our green industry IS NOT a given.  Better still, if we apply a few proven strategies and activities, we can hire what I call “heroes”.


This article will discuss the people challenge from a positive perspective.  You won’t find rhetoric letting you off the hook or buying into the common belief that hiring great employees is a lost cause.  If that is your mindset this will not be a reassuring read.  But if you, like I, have experienced the excitement of hiring someone who actually turns out to be a “hero” in your organization, you will be motivated to learn all you can about who these “heroes” are, how to attract more of them and keep them on your team.


Let’s begin by clarifying the meaning of “hero”.  Webster’s definition of a “hero” includes the following, “the principal character in an event”, “exhibiting marked courage”, “a person admired for his/her qualities”.  Know anyone who fits the bill?  I do and I’m betting you do too.


My point is simply this; some of us are succeeding in hiring these special people today.  All is not lost.  In our search to build strong work teams, we don’t have to settle for “the best of the worst” or “ the worst of the best”.  We can hire “heroes”.


Key question, are “heroes” born or developed in our organizations?  No question in my mind, they are not born…they, like successful leaders, develop and grow over time.  Must a “hero” have certain characteristics, like a strong work ethic, honesty, desire and the willingness to discipline him or herself to meet objectives?  Of course.  But do “heroes” come gift wrapped and ready to go? Not in my experience.


Where are these people?  How do we spot them?


“If heroes were reptiles, we’d all be ‘snake bit’”!


What would you give for a real “hero” to walk through your door?  About anything, right?  Don’t look now but it may already have happened.


Heroes are all around us.  Before you spend all your time on a search and locate strategy, look carefully at your own organization.  Heroes tend to stick out…but you need to be looking or you may assume your potential “hero” is just another employee. 


A potential hero is someone who:


  • Is more interested in tomorrow’s opportunity than today’s paycheck.
  • Is hard at work when you least expect it.
  • Is a “finisher”, driven to succeed.
  • Asks lots of questions.
  • Makes suggestions and focuses on solutions rather than problems.
  • Volunteers when not required.
  • Places a high priority on team success…along with personal gain.
  • Has the self-confidence ask for help rather than failing quietly.
  • Is honest with a clear sense of ethics.
  • Most of all, believes what you believes, sharing your values and philosophies.


Remember, you may have a “hero” in the making…not yet fully developed but with the potential to become great.  Look first at your team.  Have a conversation with those who show you the most and determine the extent to which you can mold and build such people.  A “hero” will jump at the opportunity; taking the lead if you provide direction and help them focus their energy.


To attract the very best become a “people magnet”


If you expect to attract “heroes”, your recruiting plan [and you do need a plan] must be aimed at the kind of people who share your company values and objectives.  Typically, I don’t find these folks in the classifieds.


Here is my recruiting sequence:

  1. Define your company.  I’m talking about your goals [or mission] and how you’ll reach them.  If you doubt the importance of this step, you’ve not successfully interviewed “heroes” because they will want this information.
  2. Establish a strong local company image.  If yours is a small company, celebrate that fact.  Many great candidates don’t feel comfortable in the corporate world.  Sell your opportunity and work environment.  Get the message out that you and your team are the kinds of people with whom the very best will want to become associated.  Do this by sponsoring events that promote community good.  Be an active member of the BBB and service organizations.  Consider sponsoring a sports team.  Work with  high school service clubs.  Do all you can to see that your image is widely known and that it sends one clear message…”IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A CAREER YOU NEED TO JOIN OUR TEAM”.  This has worked for others; it will work for you because few hiring managers will take the time to follow this strategy.  Invest the time up front.  It will pay off in the end.


The result of a concentrated community outreach campaign will be to “magnetize” your company.  Before you know it, the phone will ring.  I see it every day, people searching for a place to work that they are convinced will provide a positive, rewarding work environment.  Let people know yours is that company and your recruiting will improve immediately.



  1. Focus your recruiting effort where you believe the best people in your area will see your message.  If you want an sales rep, run a classified ad for a sales rep. Skip the generic ads. If you want a route driver, focus on that specific job.  But if you simply want a growth oriented, driven individual, go a different route.  Look in places these people can be found.  I’ve had success in community colleges.  Often, people with some higher education go there to restart careers.  These folks attend night classes and work hard to get it done.  That is what you want.  Make teachers your recruiters.  Take the professor to lunch.  Ask how you can help support their program.  Let them know exactly the kind of person you seek.   If you help them, forming a strong relationship, your support will be returned in kind.  This is a guarantee.  It does take some time and money but so does often-fruitless advertising in newspapers that can charge over $1,000 for an ad in the Sunday edition.  Put your money and effort where it will yield perhaps fewer people but more high potential candidates.


Never stop recruiting.  Even when you are “staffed up”, maintain a list of people to contact if you encounter unexpected turnover.


Your very best employees can help.  Let them know that you need more people with the very same high level of dedication they demonstrate, and that you are willing to provide great incentives for their recruiting efforts.  Finding a potential “hero” is near priceless, so don’t be stingy. If it’s cost you $1,000, you will have spent the money wisely.


Do you use the internet to recruit?  If you think this tool is only for large companies, think again.  The potential “heroes” you want live on the cutting edge and will see you job ad on “monster” or one of the other great sites.  And, internet recruiting ads are MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE than a multi-ad newspaper plan.  For about $300, your job opportunity will be seen by literally thousands for weeks.  Use this tool.


Improve your interviewing effectiveness



The interviewing process should begin before the candidate walks through your front door.  Take my advice and be sure what they find is what they seek. 


This is a “biggie” folks.  Oh how many times I’ve traveled excitedly to visit a service branch in peak hiring season…only to be dismayed and disappointed on arrival to find the operation in, shall we say, less that professionally spit shined condition.  A potential “hero” will expect a professional operation and won’t often settle for less.


I recall on one occasion, standing in a lawn service branch awaiting an expected candidate the manager was to interview.  As I stood there peering out the dirty, smudged window, I saw what had to be our your man drive up.  He approached, slowed down, leaned over to “eyeball” the place, paused…then drove away.  Another candidate lost…without an interview!  Shameful.  And do you know the worst part?  The manager A. didn’t see him and B. never knew he’d lost the recruiting battle again.  Think about this…as I asked the local manager to do; if a “hero”, the ideal candidate had been in that car, would he have driven away?  I say, yes.  More disturbing, what kind of candidate would have parked his car, made his way past the pile of cigarette butts by the front door and come in?  I think we all know the answer.


Don’t lose “heroes” before you have a chance to interview them!


How does your interviewing process stack up?  If the answer is anything but “great”…now is the time to make needed improvements.  Follow these rules to ensure the “heroes” find what the seek:

  1. Provide neat, clean and convenient candidate parking
  2. Post the interview schedule in the front office.
  3. Appoint a candidate “greeter” to welcome candidates, offering them a beverage and up-front paperwork before the interview.
  4. Keep the office area and restrooms clean and neat.
  5. Confirm that the staff a candidate may encounter is aware of the interview and looking his/her best for the work being done.


Conduct a professional interview


This article does not provide space to lay out a complete interview process.  For my purposes today, suffice to say that if you do not know how to interview, you will lose “heroes”.  A hero will know about your business. and may ask questions that even you cannot answer.  Talk about embarrassing…but I’ve seen it happen!  So, be prepared for the smart, probing candidate…the person who wants to know just as much about your business and the opportunity to grow as you do about him or her.  The future “hero” will give you a challenging interview.  Be prepared.  Have your business metrics, growth projections and strategies well in mind and ready for discussion.  Be ready to explain how you differentiate your business from the competition.  You cannot expect to hire a “hero” without communicating why he/she should want to play on your team and the place to build a rewarding career.


The interview should be held in privacy with no interruptions. 


Get the clutter off your desk.  The focus should be on the candidate’s employment application, which you should have read in advance.


Have four or five probing questions have been pre-written [to keep you on track and ensure that you learn as much about the candidates past experience as possible].  Your questions should probe past experience to learn what the candidate has done to demonstrate he/she has the personal qualities and skills necessary to help you succeed in a reasonable amount of time.  


Now comes the controversial part.  Who exactly are we trying to hire?  Is this “hero” the most skilled and prepared to add value today?  Is it smarter to “hire athletes” who require more time to become productive but who will learn to play more than one position in the future?  Not a simple answer.  It depends on what you want the employee to do and, importantly, whether or not you expect the new hire to grow into greater responsibility.  You must define, for your operation, what your true “hero” is.  And remember, you will need more than one type of employee.  Some people are simply not growth oriented.  Does this mean they are not valuable?  No. You simply need to define how many of each you need and hire accordingly.


Writing from my 20 plus years in recruiting, hiring, training and managing people in the green industry, I can tell you I’ll go for the athlete who wants to play on my team every time.  Years ago, a crusty old manager looked at me in a hiring discussion and said  “Bill…guys in this business have to things…big thighs and big mouths…and we’re better off hiring the ones with big thighs”.  I got his point.  Now he’s gone and the business we both worked for is gone too!  Think about your needs. 


In today’s multi-task work environment, we need people who have brains and the desire to be part of a strong team. That is why the hiring process must begin by establishing your company as “the place to be” for the best people.


One last point on the interview process; if a potential “hero” is sitting in front of you, I believe you will know it and should make at least a conditional offer [pending driver’s license check and drug test, if applicable].  Making the offer is fun!  For me, it’s a simple summary.  “John, I believe we have a great fit and that you have what we need.  How do you feel”?  If he agrees, I tell him that, pending any necessary checks, I’d like to make him an offer.  I understand many of you insist on second interviews and that is fine.  But I have never gone through a second interview and felt more positive about a real great candidate than during the initial conversation.  And I have never conducted a second interview that removed any significant negatives.  That being the case, and knowing that every great candidate will get great offers, when the chemistry is right, I want to come as close as possible to closing the deal. 


On-boarding and training to keep “heroes” on your team


With the right hiring decision behind you, the real fun begins.  You absolutely must ensure a positive start up process.  And it should be filled with lots of early successes!  I firmly believe that, with an organized post-hire on boarding and training program [which must include in-field management follow up] a bright, motivated man or woman, almost regardless of present job skills, is your best entry-level hire.  Smart, motivated people can and will learn quickly.  Note: when I say I’ll hire the motivated, driven person and teach them the business, I am talking about filling lower level positions.  When hiring managers, I’ve learned that the opposite is true.  At the management level, the requirements are more specific and demanding.  I don’t want someone from outside our industry.  The learning curve is too steep and the time available always to brief to bridge the gap.  While you wait to see whether or not they learn and like your business, the process is costing you time and money!


I will avoid hiring a group of “buddies” from a competitor just because they may not require entry-level skill training.  As every one of you already knows, each time we “hire the competition”, we bring into our organization, the bad habits of others.  Unless your business standards are sub-standard [in which case you need not bother looking for “heroes”] you want to hire people who will learn the business your way and execute according to your philosophies and standards.  The only competitor I am really interested in is one I have seen in action and who seeks a more professional working environment.  The new hire MUST BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE to become your “hero”.


For new hires, D-day is day one!


Training must begin day one.  The first day on the job is the day each new hire begins to decide [D-day] whether or not he or she has made the right decision.  We often overlook the fact that our new hires evaluate us just as seriously and deeply as we evaluate them.  Occasionally, when we fail to clearly communicate our expectations and what the job requires, new hires quit before they have even completed training!   


Above, I mentioned manager follow up in the field.  Most training includes at least some classroom work.  Manuals, pesticide applicator quiz prep and probably some video education.  And until the snow melts [in the north] most of us do try to provide decent functional training.  But in season…all bets are off.  New hires, even potential “heroes” are thrown in a truck with a veteran and taught…well; sometimes it’s tough to tell what they are taught.  That is why management coaching in the filed is vital.  It is a critical step we often omit…because we are too busy.  Bad mistake.  Don’t make it.  Coach on the job, confirm an understanding of not only how to do the job right the first time but why you want it done your way.  New hires must believe in your system vs. simply the fastest system or eventually they will begin to slip and quality will drop.  So, get out in the field to reinforce training and be sure these four things happen:


1. The new hire and potential “hero” enjoyed the training process and felt it’s content made good sense to him or her.

2. The new hire understood the training content and retained the most important parts.

3. The new hires behavior has been verified and your best practices have been confirmed as standard operating procedure.

4. As a result of training and behavioral change, the new hire has performed successfully.



Number 1 you accomplish with a training evaluation process…written, verbal or both.


Number 2 you confirm with a test…written, verbal or both


Number 3 and 4 you must observe on the job in the field. 


This process will help your new hire succeed, which, of course, is the first step in creating the motivating atmosphere required to develop “heroes”.


So, you and I can hire “heroes”.  Who are they, where are they, how to attract, hire and develop them?  Not a simple challenge.  But nothing you do is more important to the success of your business.


I truly believe that, without these outstanding people, those who consistently go the extra mile for your team and for themselves, your success will be limited. 


You can “build” heroes.  They will lead your team.  Take the first step today.  Remember, no resource in your arsenal is as vitally important to your company’s success as the human resource.