Job dealer Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008
Francis L. Price’s business perspective can be traced back to a pushcart in inner-city Kingston, Jamaica, where his mother supported the family by selling a strawberry gelatin extract to workers digging trenches.

Despite his success, Price — who now serves as president and CEO of Q3 Industries Inc., an engineered products manufacturer and supplier — has not forgotten where he came from. He actively recruits potential employees from inner-city communities while striving for diversity among his approximately 285 employees at Q3, which posted 2006 revenue of $75 million.

Smart Business spoke with Price about how to serve inner-city communities as well as your own company by stressing diversity in the workplace.

Hire a diverse staff. Many of our inner-city communities, what they need are jobs more than anything else.

When you bring good jobs to the community, you can see hope grow and hopelessness disappear. You become a real important player when you can hire and employ people on a consistent basis.

If you want to ensure that in the interviewing process you get a diverse group of people, then you make sure the sources are pretty (diverse.)

Your marketplace clearly is diverse. If you make sure your workplace is diverse, you have a better chance of having people who understand your market, understand who you’re trying to sell to, who you’re trying to design products for.

From design to manufacturing to financing, if you are sensitive to your general market, you tend to win.

Tease out sensitive issues. I have a special part of my meeting that I call two rumors and a question.

You’re sometimes in a plant full of people, and nobody wants to talk, or they might have some controversial issue, and no one wants to discuss it. If no one asks me a question, I make up a rumor myself and posit the rumor and try to explain it.

I say, ‘Any questions?’ People would ask the easy questions, but no one would want to ask you something like, ‘Is it true that you’re going to do mandatory drug testing?’

I’ll say, ‘OK, there are no questions. Let’s go to two rumors and a question. Rumor No. 1: Q3 is going to go to mandatory drug testing. That’s a rumor I heard this morning.’

Well, whether I heard it or not, I use the session to discuss something I think is topical. Sometimes, I actually have a rumor where somebody would write me an anonymous letter or something.

It’s a way of what psychologists generally refer to as ‘draining the metaphorical swamp.’ If you don’t discuss sensitive issues, then you can’t assume that they don’t exist. They still exist, and they become cancerous to an organization.

Using the plant meeting to throw out controversial or sensitive topics is a way of at least saying to folks that we’re very open, we’re willing to talk, and we’re willing to share information. If you don’t do that, you’ve got to understand that it doesn’t mean that issues don’t exist. It just means that they’re covered.

Put your values in the structure of the compensation plan. Compensation plans are a very big way of reinforcing the things that you believe in.

If you, for instance, say you want to support education and you want to have an educated work force, then one of the things that you would obviously do is put in tuition reimbursement programs, and you would probably put in salary benefits for people who might have completed degree programs or certificate programs.

That is a very powerful communication method of having folks understand what you think and what you value. Those kinds of value-oriented practices communicate as loudly as anything else that you can do, that you want an educated work force, that you want a healthy work force, and you’re willing to spend money on it.

The most immediate benefit is turnover reduction. These kinds of systems (in which) you take care of people through health care, different kind of benefit programs and education programs — it’s a way of telling folks that you care and you value them. As a result, you tend to reduce turnover, and you get the better people that would want to work for you.

Folks develop mastery in their particular practice the longer they stay there. If you can keep them in continuous employment, then continuous improvement is a much better probability.

Live your vision. People talk about their vision and their messages, but it can get destroyed and get corrupted very easily by the work world.

You have to be willing to live it, and you do everything in your power to make it come to life.

I myself spend a lot of time talking to kids around the world wherever I go. I go back to my old high school in Jamaica, and I helped fund scholarships there. I go back to my university and help them.

Just try to stay involved with the work itself and with the people, and talk about things you value. Believe, and it will come to pass if you live it.

HOW TO REACH: Q3 Industries Inc., (800) 770-0195 or www.q3inds.com