Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We are hiring-- It is always a Crap Shoot!

  A business owner that I was talking with this week told me the title of this blog post!  Her business is in the food service industry and the additional staffer will be a lower level service employee.  She went on to tell me that although they have done this many times, hiring remains a "Crap Shoot".
   As I sat and thought about what she had said, I wondered why hiring remains a "Crap Shoot" with many business owners?   After all, they know what they need and want, what skill sets are required and how the applicant will be able to fulfill those duties, right?  Well, no, not exactly.  Although I don't know this particular business owner real well, I know her well enough to understand that she knows what she is looking for in a new employee.
   I talked with a non profit director last week and asked about a particular new employee.  He told me that he had to  let the new employee go! Wow, this individual called me when she came to town, we had lunch and she left me with an impressive vitae and experiential background.  Interestingly, this individual sought to find a position where she could use her extensive skill set.  I asked what happened.  What the executive director then told me was quite surprising.  Here is what he said.  The employee was given an open position and began work, doing quite well.  However, after a short time, she insisted on staying past closing time, wanting to know lots of security information that she did not have a "Need to Know".  Her persistent desire to have information that she did not have a need to know caused some concern.  One of the non profit board members had some background checking experience and ran a background check and found some "clinks" that were negative.  In fact, the "clinks" were significant enough that the employee was terminated during the probationary period.
    Although the business owner in the food service industry and the non-profit director both needed an employee, many of the same hiring characteristics should be exactly the same!  Although it costs to do a background check, it is probably money well spent-- at least it identifies possible deficiencies that may not have been acknowledged during the job interview process.
   Reference checks of applicant background are always a good idea.  Although I have been "bitten" a couple of times on reference checks, I always do them.  Let me explain my use of the word "bitten" as used here.  In one particular instance, I did check the background of the job applicant.  The reference check came back glowing-- however-- what I actually learned was no more than what most reference checks tell you-- the applicant worked at such a job for a period of time and left for any variety of reasons.  To say anything else could cause consequential legal action if one was to possibly libel or speak falsely of an individual.
   How do you take out the "Crap Shooting" factor in hiring?  In all honesty, you don't.  No matter how much checking, skill/personality tests and other purported measurement tools one may use, there is always a factor of "luck" involved in hiring.  With the food service owner, she has been in business long enough to have a good "gut level" feeling for many folks.  I think that is probably the best that can be done.  If you feel good about the individual when you interview the applicant, the law of averages usually applies and the applicant turns out to be satisfactory.
   We do recommend that you have a rich set of questions that you ask each and every applicant for any position with your firm, organization or entity.  The questions should be the same for all levels of employees, however, you may have additional questions for management or more senior executives.  Today, many employers are reviewing social media sites, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin to see what is posted about the job applicant.  If you are not doing that, you may wish to consider doing that.  Although not a fool proof test to identify an individual for your organization, you may be able to identify some characteristics that may be positive or negative for your firm.
   Take time to get the right individual for an open position.  Our many years of  consulting experience strongly suggest that it is much better to run one individual short and everyone have to work harder, than have a mis placed employee who causes all kinds of challenges and trouble.  Employee management is tough today, take your time to find the right employee for your organization.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Standards are Too High, I Can Go To Another Place And Do a Good Job

   The title was what a business owner told me yesterday when his key manager elected to leave her position with his firm!  The owner was not totally surprised, he had become more demanding of his manager in the past several months.  Not that he ever was ugly or difficult, however, he has high expectations and expected the manager to reach and exceed those expectations.
    Interestingly, the manager left a $43,000 year job to go to _____________________ Nothing!  She has been out of work for 3 months after moving to Los Angeles with her boyfriend.  The business owner told me that she had emailed a couple of times wondering if any of job application submissions had called and checked her references.  Even more interesting was the fact that business owner told me that only one firm did contact him, and then the position was only a $15/hour job, in California!  I read that as a substantial pay cut because she could not adhere to her bosses standards.
   Standards are the bar that you set as the owner of the business.  There is nothing wrong with high standards-- in fact, you should set high standards for all of your employees.  The truth is that the business is your's-- nobody else's!  What happens in the business is a direct reflection upon you-- and only you!
    In today's turbulent, anything goes society, standards are something that many folks find totally foreign.  In this case, the manager was in her late 20's, had been in the industry several years and was a great employee and initially, was a good manager.  However, the longer she was in management, given greater responsibility and held accountable for the performance of her subordinates, the more difficult  it became.  The owner, understandably more frustrated each month, decided to "tighten the screws".  His intent was not to have the employee quit, however, that was the end result.
   How do you prevent this from happening at your firm?  First is to clearly identify the standards and performance expectations prior to commencing employment.  Develop and publish clear, written expectations of each employee and each position in your firm.  This seems tough and difficult-- there is some work involved here, however, in the end, the process is well worth it.
   Review the expectations and standards with a prospective employee before you extend a hire offer.  Be real clear about what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate.  This is totally "black and white".  If the applicant has hesitancy or doubt about being able to fulfill the standards, it is better identified in the hiring process than after becoming an employee!  There will be more work on your part to have to review the standards however, the exception is that those employees that you ultimately hire will clearly understand the expectations on day 1.
    Setting the bar high is a good thing.  The higher the bar is set, the fewer people will be able to jump over it, however, those that do will normally turn out to be your best employees.  Additionally, a high bar allows folks to brag that they were able to achieve and exceed your expectations and standards.  This is a good thing!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Social Media, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter-- BE CAREFUL!

  I met with a colleague the other day who had just returned from a national meeting in San Antonio, Texas where the various facets of social media were discussed.  She was telling me about how the various social media platforms were serving as new advertising mediums.  One of the key factors that she cited was the use of many social media web sites to "check out" a perspective employee that  may have applied for a position with your firm.
  The issue of reviewing the social media web site was to ascertain what type of an individual a perspective employee may be if he/she is actually offered a job.  Now, you can argue that might be patently unfair, however, who ever said that anything was fair?  Who ever said that that a prospective employer cannot verify or check out the background of a job applicant however they deem probable?  The answer is no one ever said that.  My point in this discussion is that with social media sites being as popular as they are, you may wish to be very careful about what you might post.  Those posts may haunt you later in your career search.
   Having a wide variety of silly pictures on your social media site may be fun and exciting, however, it also may cause you to have difficulty with gaining a new job.  I am aware of an individual who is now engaged to be married, however, a review of his social media site shows him with many "girl friends" from the past.  OK, you say, no big deal.  OK, no big deal-- perhaps.  My point in this is that you don't know what a perspective employer may think.
   I was telling this story to a group that  I spoke with the other day and one of the participants said that his human resources director always checks several social media sites whenever they have a job applicant.  He shared with the group that in several instances, the firm has elected NOT to hire the applicant because of something that was either posted or pictured on the applicant's social media site.
   Finding jobs in these turbulent times is tough enough without having to worry about what may be posted on your social media web site!  Be careful of what kinds of material you post on there-- although it may draw many laughs today, it may also be the downfall in finding the job that you really desired and were ostensibly well qualified to fill.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

All you want is a lube, oil, filter, right?

     My neighbor took his Jeep Cherokee to a "Quickie Lube" facility last week for an oil change.  I had told him about my previous experience the week earlier with the dealer so I said that I wanted to "tag along" and see how the folks at the "Quickie Lube" handled matters.
     When we arrived in the service lane, a young technician came out.  He asked my neighbor,"You been here before, right?"
     "Yes", said my neighbor.  "OK, pull it up, I'll drive it in" said the technician.
     We got out and watched as the Jeep was pulled into the service bay.  The service team rapidly drained the oil while technicians above opened the hood and took out the air cleaner.
     "You need a new air cleaner filter" said the technician to my neighbor.  "There was a lot of dust and dirt that came out when I removed it" said the technician.
     My neighbor said that the filter was fine, go ahead and put it back in!  I probably would have replaced the filter, however, the neighbor did not have the service records handy when he had last replaced it.  Well, OK, it is his Jeep, not mine!
     As I watched this whole process unfold, I was amazed at the number of lost service opportunities that were not addressed.  When the Jeep was finally ready to go, the technician came in and told my neighbor how much the bill was.  I asked what the condition was of the surpertine fan  belt.  The technician said, "No problems were found".
     I asked my neighbor when the last time was when the belt was changed.  I know from past experience that the belt should be changed at 5 years or 100,000 miles, which ever come first.  I also knew that the Jeep was older than 5 years and had over 100,000 miles on it.
     When the technician said the belt was fine, I knew that he had not thoroughly checked it because I was watching him through the whole process.  Now, granted, we were separated by a window in the customer service area, however, I watched the entire process transpire.
     Here was another sales opportunity that was missed.  Now, replacing a serpentine belt has its own challenges, however, the profit potential is quite significant.  Did the technician not want to earn more profit, was he not properly incented or did he not know how to do the work?  These are all questions I wondered about as I watched the process.  However, if I was the store owner, I would want to insure that each technician was properly cross trained to be able to do all of these tasks.
     Are your technicians cross trained to do all tasks in your business?  Do your technicians/sales people check everything possible to increase customer satisfaction as well provide greater profit potential for your business?  If not, here are some opportunities that are worth consideration.
     Customer service is something that I blog about frequently.  Why?  Well, it is very important to have good customer service.  Professional customer service will allow for greater customer satisfaction as well as increased business profits.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Car Dealership-- Part 2

     My last post described my initial visit to the car dealership when I was out of town last week.  I discussed how I was treated by the service adviser and how she could not recognize great customer service.  There is more-- here is the "Rest of the Story".
      I talked with the salesman for probably an hour.  The service adviser came to the salesman's office and saw that I was sitting there, looking at new cars.  She astutely figured that perhaps I might buy a new car so she came up and said, "I will have your car washed for you!"  Ummmm, interesting.  I said, "Sure, go ahead!"
      About 20 minutes later, the salesman was telling me what great service the dealership had and how happy I was going to be with the work done today on my car.  I figured OK, it is just another car salesman talking.  The car was delivered back to the service advisor's area, however, this time the bugs on the grill had gotten a bath, however, were not yet removed!  I asked if this is how they wash cars at this dealership?  The salesman was highly embarrassed and called the service adviser over to see if this was how they return "washed" cars.
     Well, you can guess where we go now!  I heard a long litany of reasons why the car was still dirty, however, it seemed like the service advisor was more into reasons than fixing the problem.  The salesman called a lot attendant and asked that the car be "rewashed" and insure that the final product was indeed something that they would be proud to deliver!
     With the high power under carriage water jets, a "front end shield" had been blown off.  I was aware that this shield had been broken many miles ago and had used the famous duct tape to fix it.  I pointed this out to the salesman-- identifying a wonderful sales opportunity that had been left unaddressed.  Again, you know what happens here!
     The service manager comes running, literally and figuratively to try and help.  He said that he would check to see if they had the proper part in stock.  If they did, did I want it installed.  I said tell me the price first.  A few minutes elapsed and the service manager came back and said, Yes, indeed, they had the correct part.  He told me the price and I said, Sure, go ahead and fix it!!  The service manager smiled and was happy to receive the order to fix the car.
     Now, does this happen at your business?  Don't think about the car dealership, think about your business.  How many unmet service or product needs go unfulfilled because either no one asked the client or failed to see that a sales opportunity was there for the asking?  Do you encourage your staff to find new sales opportunities with your current client base?
     Recall my story above.  I knew that the shield was damaged, however, I did not think that it was serious enough to warrant any undue concern on my part.  Yes, I wanted it fixed and when the service manager told me he had the part in stock and the mechanic had the time to fix it, why not get it fixed?  After all, it was damaged.
     In every encounter you have with a client, always see if there some additional value you can provide, not in a negative or "high pressure" way, but sincerely see if there is something else the client may need that you can provide.  I think that you will find that the answer is always YES, there is always something else you can provide.  Becoming aware of these sales opportunities allows for greater store profitability as well as increased customer satisfaction.

Monday, October 11, 2010

We don't open until 7:30-- you will have to wait!

     I was out of town last week in a very pretty part of the United States.  The town which I stayed is a very popular tourist destination and has an abundance of recreation opportunities in which to participate.
     I took my car to the dealer for service.  I normally use the dealer for service-- it costs more, however, the dealer has all of the special tools and equipment needed if necessary.  Usually, the dealer staff is better trained and equipped to handle most any mechanical challenge that a car can present-- at least I think so!  I know that this is an area of contention with many folks!
     The dealer's location was easily found from the interstate.  I drove up to the service department.  The big overhead doors were not open all the way, however, they were open.  I parked the car and walked in to see the service adviser.  She said, "We don't open until 7:30 am, you will have to wait!"  Well, I was there for service and guess that I did not have any other option!  So------ I waited!  I visited with the service adviser-- she was clear that she was "Busy", not sure what that meant, she moved paper from the left side of her desk to the right, not sure how that made her busy, however, that was her story.
      At approximately 7:26 am, the service adviser said, "Well, I guess that I can take you now!"
      OK, let's rumble!  I filled out my name, address, phone number and told her what services I was seeking.  The truth was that all I needed was an oil change with a new oil filter, along with a chassis lubrication.
       I asked if the car would be brought back washed.  The service advisor said, "No, we'll give you a token to go down the street and run it through when we are finished with it!"  UMMMMMMMMM, not what I had expected at a luxury car dealership, however, this dealership may do things differently!
       I walked into the showroom and asked to speak with a salesperson.  The receptionist said that no sales people would be in until 8:30, it was probably 7:45 when I walked in!  I was amazed by this, however, there was nothing I could do.
       A few minutes later, a salesman approached me and asked if I was the customer that wanted to talk to a salesman.  I said Yes, I was interested in some of the new vehicles that the dealer sold.  Well, things moved into high gear!  I was clear that I was not going to buy a car that day, I was just interested in visiting about new cars.  The salesman fully understood that-- he proceeded to show me some new cars.
       As we visited, I wondered how this dealership ranked on customer service.  The salesman told me that service was always ranked low, however, everything else was ranked OK.  Well, I can understand how service was ranked low.
       Think about your business.  Are you  ready when the customer arrives, even if it is earlier than when you open?  Perhaps if you have lots of early arriving customers, you may wish to adjust your operating hours to accommodate a wider variety of clients.  Do you greet your customers with a positive greeting, instead of "You'll have to wait?"
        Do you insure that the customer is valued as a real customer whose business is helping pay the bills?  If not, remember, there are lots of places your customer can go and buy the product or service which you are selling.  Never forget who writes the check at the end of the pay period.  The customer is key in any business-- never forget that and don't ever let your staff forget that either.
       In our next post, we'll share more about the car dealership!