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7:00pm EDT January 26, 2010

With about 2,000 employees, Vince Ruffolo has a large amount of employees to choose from for a promotion. The co-founder, chairman and CEO of A&R Security Services Inc. looks for employees who work hard and who are willing to go the extra mile for the security company, which posted more than $45 million in 2008 revenue.

“He or she is not a manager, but anytime you ask them to do something … the person is always willing to work and always willing to help the company out,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Ruffolo about how to be a good leader and choose the best managers.

Q. What are the keys to being a good leader?

You have to be pretty good in picking people out. In other words, picking out the people that are eventually going to manage for you.

Myself and another guy started this business in 1967. We managed no one but ourselves. It’s easy to manage yourself. But, when you start hiring people, it’s a different story. You’ve got to treat everyone with respect. When it comes down to picking out those people that are going to be your managers — I want to tell you, I’ve picked out winners and I’ve picked out some losers. Especially, that goes for sales.

But, for the most part, I’ve picked out winners. I guess what you need to do to be a good businessman and to be a good leader, you’ve got to realize that when you have made a mistake with a person in a management position, and you promoted somebody beyond his or her capabilities, you have to part company.

That is probably one of the biggest obstacles is keeping somebody on a job and you know they are just not able to do it. You are just hoping they’ll change and you are just hoping that it’s going to work out, and, in the end, it doesn’t work out and you are not doing that person a favor. You are certainly not doing anything for your business or anything for your company.

Q. How long do you give someone before letting him or her go?

I think it depends on how bad they are performing, but I would say a year. I’ve kept people on longer than that thinking they’d change and they didn’t. … Again, it depends on how badly they are screwing up. Sometimes it’s real clear-cut, and that is the easy decision.

Q. Would you demote someone before letting him or her go?

We certainly have reassigned people in many instances, and, of course, we have many different jobs here as a business group that we we’re able to do that. Some businesses you don’t have that luxury.

In many cases, we were able to take somebody who wasn’t really making it as a manager and find a job somewhere else in the company that was somewhat comparable in wages, etc. and the benefits were, of course, the same, and reassign them. That has worked many times, but sometimes you can’t do it.

Another thing that is important is when you do have a problem with somebody … and this doesn’t just apply to managers, when you criticize somebody you want to do it in a constructive way. I know this is all basic, but, believe it or not, I’ve seen owners of companies and managers that don’t understand this. You can’t tear a person down. It has to be constructive criticism that when he or she comes away from that meeting, they come away with a feeling that you still have confidence that they are going to be able to change and come around to your way of thinking.

Q. How do you handle a situation where someone makes a mistake?

You certainly don’t want to dress them down. You have the problem. They did whatever it was wrong. You go through it and (say), ‘In retrospect, Bob, what do you think you should have done? How do you think you should have handled this?’ The end of the meeting should always be on a positive note — ‘Look, I have a lot of confidence in you. You wouldn’t have this job if we didn’t. You do a lot of good things here. I know you are going to be able to turn this around,’ and end it on a positive note.

Q. What overall advice would you have to hire and promote effectively?

One of the things is, watch out that you don’t pick out people that maybe have the same personality that you do — in other words, you like them on a personal level. So, you have three people in front of you and, say, you like fishing and this person likes fishing.

You better really look long and hard at your experience with them, if they are working for you.

But, if it’s a candidate, look long and hard at that resume. Make sure that you are contacting as many of the previous employers as possible and watch out that you don’t pick somebody out that you kind of like personally, but you pass over somebody that might have been better for the job.

I’ve been doing this going on 43 years, but that’s one of the things that I found that I had to watch myself — picking out somebody that I personally like. In reality and in retrospect, I would have been better off with the other person.

How to reach: A&R Security Services Inc., (708) 389-3830 or