Network to the right people
Another key to finding good talent is using your network contacts to point you in the right direction.
When you go out of town, you don’t know the landscape of the local tradespeople, and you are often looked at with a high degree of suspicion, Heifner says.
He’s noticed this same scenario in his home area.
“We’ve seen people come and go in Columbus, and they are an out-of-town company that came in here and did work and maybe they didn’t pay everybody or they left some work unfinished,” he says.
When Renier goes to a new city for a project, the estimators will pick the brains of the local Butler Building companies. Butler manufacturing has a large Butler Builder network throughout the U.S., and Renier still sells and erects these pre-engineered building systems, as one of about 700 builders across the U.S.
The company also talks to the area’s material suppliers. These are the businesses that supply the contractors who in turn work in Renier’s sites. The material suppliers know who pays their bills on time and has a good reputation.
“It’s like anything else; you have to check out their references,” Heifner says.
The best business lessons often sound like a broken record because you hear it all the time, but bring on good people, compensate them well, delegate authority and promote those who work hard.
“It’s a pretty simple equation,” he says. “It’s a people business, and that’s how I look at it.”
- Know your role, and delegate what’s not part of that.
- Be vigilant about a problem; recognize it requires more time and effort.
- Use your contacts to find talent in an unfamiliar environment.
The Heifner File:
Name: Bill Heifner
Title: Founder and president
Company: Renier Construction Co.
Born: Newcomerstown, Ohio
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Ohio University
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I worked in my father’s sporting goods, wallpaper and paint store in Newcomerstown, as a stock boy and clerk. My father was a great mentor to me.
Really in a small town, it was about customer service. He taught me the values of customer service and the importance of the person that walked into the front door of our little store — that was the person that was going to put food on the table that evening.
And it always stuck with me.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? One of my passions and pastimes is motorsports. I do a limited amount of amateur racing. I got into it late in life, but I have two racecars that I drive in a series that’s here in the Midwest.
If it doesn’t burn gasoline, I don’t have much time for it. Somebody asked me if I play golf, and I said, ‘Golf — no noise, no speed, no fun.’
If you could speak with anyone from the present or past, with whom would you want to speak with? Honestly, probably, Lee Iacocca, the former chairman of Chrysler. He got them back out of bankruptcy. I’ve read his books. Or, I’d want to meet Bob Lutz — either one of the two.
They were great visionaries. They were tremendous leaders; I wouldn’t say they were good managers. A lot of our work is automobile dealerships, and we’re pretty well tied into that industry.