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Bill Dahm knew he had a decision to make. He and his younger brother Mike were running Mike’s Express Car Wash and the business was having growing pains. The elder Dahm wanted help at the top.

New locations were being opened each year. Mike Dahm, the vice president, was needed to oversee Ohio operations, where he lived.

“I was leading the company and our operational excellence was just suffering,” CEO Bill Dahm says. “With our growth at the time, I had way too many direct reports. We were still making money but it was time to bring somebody in that could focus just on the operational excellence at the location level ? to free me up to work on growth issues, our vision and where we’re going with the company.

“So I had to make a decision ? it was one of the best ones I made,” Dahm says, “I brought in a top executive in our industry to be the COO. Boy, did that pay off because I was trying to wear too many hats.”

Dahm says he is convinced that the 650-employee company would not have the growth or the profitability today had he not been honest about the situation.

“I thought it was time for another top executive here that just spends time working with these area directors and making sure that we operate at a high level of expectation for our customers.”

With his COO, Dahm was able to ensure that the operations went smoothly and that he could concentrate on new ways to make customers highly satisfied. Here’s the formula Mike’s Express Car Wash uses for its 39 locations.

It starts with vision and mission statements. Each states the message and sets the stage:

“Here’s our vision: We will be the service industry leader by embracing innovation and providing opportunities for team members to reach their full potential while ensuring profitable growth,” Dahm says.

A mission statement takes the vision and puts it into action.

“We talk about it all the time,” Dahm says. “To create lifetime customers by delivering a clean, fast, friendly experience through engaged and valued team members.”

Finding employees that fit that definition takes some effort. To be an industry leader, you have to have the best people in the industry. If you don’t make excellent hiring decisions, you may end up trying to make something work that really isn’t workable.

“Sweat the details,” Dahm says. “Of every 100 applicants we consider, we just hire one.”

Do extensive behavioral interviewing, pre-employment assessments and check all references. Encourage applicants to apply online so that the recruiting department can easily look for red flags. When it comes to the actual hiring, don’t let local management have the final decision. Make that a function of middle management to ensure that no shortcuts were taken should less desirable candidates be hired to fill an opening quickly.

“Make sure that you have the discipline to only hire the people who truly enjoy working with customers,” he says.

Once the employee is hired, put in the time to properly train the person. If your company structure includes a central office with branch sites, provide for training at both locations.

“The worst thing you can do is have this great training and then they get to the branch level and don’t see the same examples of customer service and courtesy and smile and hustle,” Dahm says. “It has to be something you practice.”

Base bonuses on productivity. Performance reviews should be done on a regular basis to ensure that employees have genuine buy-in, and aren’t just going through the motions.

“If you don’t take care of that, the next thing you know, it spreads,” he says. “Our company culture has always been about believing that the people that wait on customers make or break your company.”

 

How to reach: Mike’s Express Car Wash, (888) 285-9274 or www.mikescarwash.com

 

In the loop

 

One of the challenges of running a company with multiple locations in different states is staying in touch, keeping everybody on the same page going for the same end zone. Bill Dahm, CEO of Mike’s Express Car Wash, and his team worked out a solution using a weekly video called In the Loop.

The company human resource department shoots the video, which features sections such as a positive comment from a customer, safety tips, employee promotions and other items designed to advance the company culture.

“The number one goal should be to inject your culture and what the company stands for to remind associates that what they’re doing is truly making a difference,” Dahm says.

He based this type of communication on similar ones used by the Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Disney Enterprises.

Employees view the 10-minute production either at their location or over the Internet on YouTube. Location managers keep track of who signs in. It’s the honor system, but the videos are well-received.

“I do believe there is a high percent of our people that watch it because we try to keep it fun,” Dahm says. “It’s just not another way to talk about things they don’t want to hear about. We try to keep it very complementary.”

 

How to reach: Mike’s Express Car Wash, (888) 285-9274 or www.mikescarwash.com

 

 

Published in Indianapolis

John Owens founded Cohesion Business Technology, a technology services firm, to provide organizations with high-impact business technology solutions to support their core business objectives. The president and CEO is always on the lookout for people who can help make his business a better one and continue the fast-pace growth Cohesion has seen in the past few years.

“For us, strong teams built with the right people are always the biggest challenge,” Owens says. “As a company and as a team being in the people business, we really have been focusing on trying to excel with making great hires and building great teams of people.”

That constant search for improvement has helped the 200-employee company see annual revenue of $20 million.

Smart Business spoke with Owens about how he keeps his company growing and prospering.

What have been factors behind your growth, and how do you keep up with it?

A majority of growth that we have had over the years has been organic growth and a lot of it comes off of client demand. As we begin to pick up new clients and new services, we expand our team based on those needs.

You should find great people when you can and expand the team to prepare for that growth. There is a lot of ramp up time and a lot of processes that need to be in place and a strong team is definitely going to help you achieve that goal. I don’t think you can get there without having the right people and the right management team in place. It is critical that you have the right team built in order to scale the company.

How do you attract the right people to your company?

It goes back to your core values. Look at those as the pillars of your company and what you look at to determine if someone is going to be a fit with your organization. They could be a very senior person with many years of experience or a junior-level person, if those core values aren’t there, then it’s just not going to work.

How do you adapt your growth to changes in your market?

A lot of it is doing research. You have to keep a pulse on the market. It’s critical to understand that what you did two or three years ago isn’t going to necessarily work. You’ve got to be open for change and be in touch with the market. That comes with experience. After you beat your head up against the wall so many times and the route that you’re taking becomes less and less effective, you learn that you have to be open to different options and flexible to different options that might not be ideal, but effective. We all want to have the winning idea or winning solution, but you become more experienced and more humbled and end up going with what works for you and what’s best for the business.

What are some mistakes businesses often make during growth?

There is more than one solution to a problem and having an open mind and being willing to hear a different perspective and different viewpoint to solve that problem is what I would recommend. An open mind is key. A lot of times you go at a problem with a solution and you’re kind of closed off to some other alternatives to that solution. I think utilizing your employees and your consultants to solve a problem, whether it’s a certain business process or technical problem, you need to reach out and hear all the different alternatives and solutions that the people who are actually out in the field and out doing can suggest.

What are some things that could hinder the growth of a company?

Cash flow is one of the big ones. I think you have to keep your eye on the cash flow and the revenue generated. Some of the non-tangibles are communication and culture. Culture is so huge and so often the culture is overlooked in how critical it is. I think that’s one thing that can really sneak up on you and have a negative impact is not having a strong culture.

HOW TO REACH: Cohesion Business Technology, (513) 587-7700 or www.cohesion.com

Published in Cincinnati

Historically, employers have learned about potential hires through applications, questionnaires, interviews, references and background checks.

That is changing, however, as more companies are beginning to use social media outlets to vet candidates. But while such sites can provide a lot of information about a candidate, it is important to understand the legal ramifications of researching a candidate online, says Jennifer Raymond, a partner with The Stolar Partnership.

“Employers are reporting that they’re making all sorts of employment-related decisions based on social media,” says Raymond. “But most employers don’t have targeted, written policies addressing what they’re doing with, and how they’re collecting, social media information.”

Smart Business spoke with Raymond about what is permissible when using social networking sites and credit checks to screen applicants, how to keep up to date with hiring practices and how to minimize legal risks.

What are the pros and cons of using social networking sites during the hiring process?

The pro is that you get information that you wouldn’t otherwise get from an interview or a resume. The con is that you get information you wouldn’t otherwise get from an interview or a resume.

You can find inaccuracies in a resume and information regarding a candidate’s judgment by screening social networking sites. But you also might learn information that is protected and wouldn’t normally be accessible to you as an employer, such as a person’s religious beliefs or someone’s health conditions.

You might also find information about someone who drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes. However, some states, such as Illinois, have laws protecting legal recreational activities, and you can’t make a hiring decision based on that type of information.

What steps should employers take to minimize the legal risks associated with using social networking sites to screen potential employees?

Employers should have written policies governing the screening process that include, among other things, exactly which sites will be searched and who will be doing the searching. It’s critical to develop policies that include examples of what is, and what is not, permissible hiring criteria, acceptable conduct and appropriate information to consider in making hiring determinations. All personnel who will be participating in interviews or participating in hiring decisions should be trained on these policies.

These guidelines must be applied to every candidate. Employers may want to avoid sites such as Facebook because of the risk of finding protected information that a candidate might say was used impermissibly in making a hiring determination. Employers may wish to limit their search to professional sites such as LinkedIn, where they can verify resume information, as opposed to finding out personal, and possibly protected, information about candidates. And whoever is conducting the screening should never misrepresent his or her identity to gain unauthorized access to a candidate’s social networking information, such as by ‘friending’ the candidate or creating a fictitious profile.

Can an employer also reference a candidate’s credit report when making hiring decisions?

This area is in flux due to the downturn in the economy. It has become more of an issue because, for example, the credit score of someone who was laid off could have changed because of unemployment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a number of states have been cracking down on an employer’s use of credit reports to make hiring decisions. And while looking at a credit report itself is not discriminatory, it can have a disparate impact on specific categories of people that are protected, such as African-American or female candidates, who may have lower credit scores based on social circumstances.

Not only has the EEOC been increasing its enforcement, but four states have enacted laws to prohibit employers from using credit reports in making hiring decisions, except in certain situations. And Missouri is considering legislation that would curtail the use of credit screenings in hiring decisions. There is even federal legislation that’s been introduced that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act and prohibit the use of credit reports, except in certain situations. A good rule of thumb is that if the position requires the candidate to handle money or other financially sensitive information, or if it’s a managerial or executive level position that involves signatory power, then it may be permissible to look at credit report information and use it to make determinations. However, for rank-and-file employees, making decisions on the basis of credit information can be very risky. And it’s going to become even more risky as other states, and potentially the federal government, pass this type of legislation.

If a candidate claims discrimination during the hiring process, how can a company protect itself against a lawsuit?

You’re not going to be able to stop someone from suing you, but you can demonstrate to the courts that you have written policies, that you’ve trained supervisors and decision-makers to follow them and that you have a documented screening process for candidates. This preparation will go a long way toward defeating claims that may be brought by a disgruntled candidate who feels that he or she was treated unfairly.

How can employers make sure they stay up to date with legal hiring practices?

There are human resources publications and websites that post updated information, such as the EEOC and the Department of Labor. But the best way to stay up to date and protect your company is to conduct a regular audit of your written employment policies — including hiring policies — and use the services of a qualified employment lawyer who can make sure you are in compliance.

Jennifer Raymond is a partner with The Stolar Partnership. Reach her at (314) 231-2800 or jjr@stolarlaw.com.

Published in St. Louis

In the early ’90s, Neil Hoynes and some college buddies wanted to tour the country following the Grateful Dead. To do it, they needed money, and that discussion sparked what would become Ripple Junction, a manufacturer and licensee of apparel.

“We discussed different options to pay for it like veggie burritos, grilled cheese and then T-shirts came up,” says Hoynes, founder and president. “We figured that T-shirts would be best, and we did the math on it, and the goal was to sell 15 T-shirts at every show to pay our way around for the summer.”

They sold all 80 shirts they brought to that first show, and from there, the company took off. Today, Ripple Junction is a leader in its industry and employs more than 40 people.

Smart Business spoke to Hoynes about how he grew Ripple Junction from the ground up.

How do you find the niche that your company serves best?

You’ve got to be able to adapt, and you’ve got to be able to adjust quickly to things that aren’t working and change them. If you don’t feel like you’ve found your niche, you’ve got to keep trying new things.

Also, finding something that generates cash flow while you’re looking for that niche is really important. That cash will let you live on for another day so you can find that one thing that you’re going to do and do well.

What challenges did you face growing from an entrepreneurial business to the next level?

The first thing is policies. When you’re a small company, you don’t have a lot of them. You try to balance policies and procedures without having too many of them because you don’t want to become bureaucratic. You also need to have standard operating procedures for everybody who’s doing any repetitive task or any sort of job. That’s the kind of stuff you have to get ironed out, and you’ve got to have a way to do it that everybody knows how to do.

It’s also determining specializations. As you grow, you’re going to need to start hiring specific individuals to take ownership of what you identify as a key success. If it’s a key success factor, there has to be somebody that owns it so they can really drive it forward. When somebody’s in charge of something and it’s not a natural part of their job, if it’s a small thing, that’s OK. If it’s a big thing and it’s crucial to your company’s success, you’ve got to have somebody that owns that and can drive on that.

How do you plan and hire for growth?

As you grow you start seeing the gaps that just kind of naturally present themselves. You start realizing that this isn’t happening, this isn’t getting done and you ask yourself, ‘Can we get this done with the people we have?’ When you’re growing, the answer is usually no.

You have to go out and hire somebody to do that specific thing. The quicker you can identify that gap and fill it, the better off you are.

More important than the timing is making sure it’s the right person. We’ve done the snap-hire before and it almost never works out. It’s better to be thorough and find the right person who is comfortable in your environment and also you’re comfortable with them. You spend more time upfront, but then a year later, you’re not filling the position again.

How do you find new hires and areas where your company can grow?

You have to hire people that round you out. You don’t want a bunch of people that have the same skill sets. I’m always trying to hire people that can shore up my short-comings or shore up someone else’s short-comings. You have to look to find that person that will complement other skill sets.

That’s my big thing is trying to chart the strategy of where we’re going looking at what our business is right now and then identifying how we are going to keep growing.

You look at who you’re selling to now and then look at that customer and find out what their needs are. Find out if there is an opportunity for a new product that nobody’s selling them or if there’s a new way to do things. Then try to put the pieces together and create a great product for them.

HOW TO REACH: Ripple Junction, (513) 559-3900 or www.ripplejunction.com

Published in Cincinnati

Rose International has come a long way from its early days in 1993 when corporate headquarters were housed in the basement of Himanshu Bhatia and her husband’s home in Chesterfield.

“It was just me and him,” Bhatia says. “Starting yourself, you have to do everything and you have to do all the functions. Cold calling, selling, interviewing, bookkeeping and management — everything is on your own shoulders.”

Flash forward 18 years and Bhatia leads a 5,000-employee business that specializes in consulting and IT professional services with offices across the country and around the world. It’s a completely different world as she now has clients that include AT&T, Chevron, Verizon and the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

But the principles of relentlessly pursuing growth and always providing opportunity to employees have remained the same through it all.

“The main thing is sharing the vision with all your people and then treating customers and employees both in an equally important way,” says Bhatia, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “If you offer the right opportunity, provide Rose to be a ladder for success for all the people coming in, if they see it as a place where they can grow as individuals and improve their careers, whether it’s the financial returns or their own personal satisfaction and growth, I think that’s very important.”

It hasn’t always been easy and Bhatia vividly remembers challenges such as the buildup to Y2K in 1999 and 2000, which turned out to be much ado about nothing. She remembers the bursting of the dot com bubble and the financial meltdown of just a few years back.

The key is sticking to what you believe in and never losing sight of your goals. Here are some of the principles that Bhatia has followed to help Rose International serve as a great opportunity for her employees to grow and prosper.

Deal with it

Do you ever feel stress in trying to lead your business? If you do, perhaps you need to see what Bhatia has to say. Because she doesn’t believe in it. Ever.

“I don’t think there is a reason for stress,” Bhatia says. “It’s just a matter of managing issues on a daily basis and dealing with it. As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow. So you cannot have outbursts like that. It would be totally irresponsible as a leader to do that. If you handle things in a calm manner, you’re encouraging that kind of culture in your company.”

It’s not Bhatia lives in a bubble or wears rose-colored glasses to work each day. She experiences challenges and hurdles at Rose International, just like the leader of any other business does.

Take the regular power outages that crop up at her company’s offices in New Dehli, India.

“The power goes for many hours and people aren’t able to log into the system,” Bhatia says.

Sounds like a big problem, right? Bhatia doesn’t sweat it.

“That’s the cost of doing business in India,” Bhatia says. “We handle issues on a daily basis. We have issues there where market wages are changing on a rapid basis. There are different issues there. Are we able to catch each one of them in an instant? No. We do our best.”

You can drive yourself crazy if you worry about every last thing that is happening in your business. But in the process, you’ll set a bad example for your people and create a sense of panic in your organization.

“If you want to grow your company, you cannot be everywhere all the time,” Bhatia says. “You have to put the right incentives and the right leadership, management and team structure in place. As big as we are now, we have all the processes and functions defined and delegated.”

If you’ve done a good job assigning responsibilities and putting good people in place to handle their job function, you should be able to handle problems that come up relatively smoothly. When you do need to step in, don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. Your goal should be to get to the root of the problem.

“It’s getting all the parties involved and having an open and calm discussion,” Bhatia says. “It’s really getting to the cause of the issue rather than the result.”

Now certainly, the challenge increases when Bhatia has a problem in New Dehli and she’s in St. Louis, literally on the other side of the world. But Bhatia says she takes the same approach to a problem there as she would at the corporate office.

“In today’s day and age with Internet and e-mail, I don’t know if it’s as much of a problem being connected with people in different cities and locations,” Bhatia says. “At a work level, you are always sharing information.”

And it’s that information that can be the key to maintaining connectivity, no matter the physical distance.

“The teams have their own sense of achievement and celebration and all that, but it’s definitely shared,” Bhatia says.

Get good people

You need to know what you’re looking for when you decide to hire new employees. Everybody wants to hire a good person who will blossom into a great contributor and take your company to the next level.

The truth is some of the clues to making a good hire are not that hard to decipher.

“People that have changed jobs many times, I would not pick those,” Bhatia says. “There obviously isn’t that much patience in that individual to try to make it work. That’s one trait. Look at the depth of experience within the company. If they’ve been able to grow into positions of more responsibility and take on additional responsibilities, that’s a very good sign. That’s a good trait to look for.”

These are things that can be easily gleaned from a resume. But that’s obviously only one part of the process. The questions you ask during the interview can also be revealing.

“Where do they see themselves in five years?” Bhatia says. “Then you know what kind of career ambition they have. What kind of growth do they anticipate for themselves? Does that align with what you have to offer?”

This gets into another important and sometimes overlooked aspect of the hiring process. You can’t just dwell on the opportunity you’re looking to slot this person into and how they will fit into your plans and make your company better.

“It has to be a good match for them to be happy here, as well,” Bhatia says. “It’s not just that we’re getting a good person. Will they be happy here? That’s important. If you hire them and they are not happy and you are, they are going to leave.”

The key to solving this potential hiccup is looking beyond the immediate need that you’re hiring for. If you have an immediate need, you want to make that a priority. But you should also begin thinking about where else this person might fit in your company.

“It really creates a lot of opportunity for our own employees because we don’t hire from the outside for senior positions,” Bhatia says. “We grow our people and if we see talent within, we promote from within for senior positions. That’s very exciting for our people.”

That’s where finding a good match becomes important. If you identify someone who is looking for growth opportunities, and you have growth opportunities to provide, chances are it will be a good fit.

“The growth is very exciting for all our employees because we promote from within so everybody is excited equally, whether they are in any of our 18 offices around the world,” Bhatia says. “They are equally excited about growth. Through all the discussions and meetings, it’s contagious. Believe it or not, people do get that energy.”

Don’t stop growing

Do you struggle to maintain energy and excitement in your work force? Maybe it’s because all you talk about is how tough it is out there and offer excuses as to why your business can’t compete in today’s market.

“Just wanting growth and not doing anything about it is not going to bring growth to your company,” Bhatia says. “I see a lot of companies and entrepreneurs that get to a comfort level and they don’t want to grow any further because it’s beyond their comfort zone. They don’t want to take any risks beyond their local market or put in the investment for future growth. Any time you want to grow, you have to invest heavily into it for the growth to come.”

Rose International operates largely on an IT system that was conceived in the company’s earliest days. It has continued to grow and improve over the years and that effort to keep making it better is part of what drives Bhatia and her employees.

“As we’ve grown, we keep developing it,” Bhatia says. “It’s quite a complex system, but it’s absolutely essential to our growth.”

You need to constantly have goals out there for your employees to pursue. It builds loyalty, motivation and excitement to keep them reaching further ahead.

“The personal growth of an individual has to be tied to the company’s success,” Bhatia says. “Once that connection is there, if the company does well, everybody in the company does well at a personal level. Once that is tied and that connection is there, people pay attention because it means their bottom line.”

So as you offer excuses about why your company can’t grow beyond where it’s at now, you deal one more blow to employee drive and enthusiasm. It’s also a message that you’re sending to your customers.

“As far as clients go, it’s very important to give them value and if they are trusting you and giving you the contract, it’s important that you fulfill and perform beyond expectations,” Bhatia says. “They want to see us handle more and more and help them in areas that they envision doing. Since they are familiar with us, they would rather do that next leap with us than with another outside company. It’s just good overall for us and everybody involved.

“Invest your profits back in the company to support growth. Hire the right individuals and research the market you want to grow into.”

Keep an eye on what’s happening in your market and share your findings with your people. Show them that you’re excited about where your business can go and that you’re excited to have your people go along for the ride.

“Keep up with the latest market trends to be able to streamline your own efforts in a way that is most progressive for you and your team,” Bhatia says. “Know the next trend that might be coming into your industry and keep up with it so you’re not caught flat-footed. … If you want to do it, I’m sure companies would find a way to do it.”

How to reach: Rose International, (636) 812-4000 or www.roseint.com

The Bhatia File

Himanshu Bhatia, Co-founder and CEO, Rose International

Born: New Dehli, India.

Education: School of Planning and Architecture, New Dehli, India; Master’s in information systems, University of Missouri-St. Louis.

What was your very first job?

I worked as an architect in New Dehli. I was 22. In India, people don’t do jobs until you’ve graduated. In IT, we’re building software systems, and it has different components that come together including the databases and the programs. In architecture, your building is actually a building, so there are many components that go toward that. You’re working with a development process that is essentially the same.

What is one of your biggest personal goals?

Having Rose be a truly global, large company with tens of thousands of employees.

What were you interested in when you were growing up?

I was interested in business and I was fascinated by the information and technology revolution. This isn’t college I’m talking about, because we had one computer for the whole college. Coming to the U.S. and going into that field was exciting.

Bhatia on growth: There are very small businesses that in their own way are successful at a small size. But in our industry and our space and our markets, where things are changing on a regular basis, it’s very important to be a certain size and to be bigger and be there for the next change and market that might come.

Published in St. Louis

As we are coming out of this recession, companies are hiring again and staffing specialists can utilize their databases of qualified candidates to assist companies with filling critical openings with great candidates more quickly.

“The fact that companies are starting to hire again is a positive indicator for professionals, as well as companies,” says Andrew Devore, managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. “For professionals, it gives them the opportunity to explore positions they wouldn’t have considered a couple of months or even a year ago. For companies, they can now look internally and externally for growth. Many companies have the financial resources to start growing their operations by adding new talent. They can add the professionals necessary to take them from where they are today to where they want to be down the road.”

Smart Business spoke with Devore about why a staffing firm might be the right solution for your company’s hiring needs.

Why should companies consider delegating their hiring to an outside staffing firm?

You can narrow this down to saving time, money and effort. Staffing professionals know who the ‘A’ candidates are in the market right now, and can best match them to the needs of a company. Through their day-to-day interactions with professionals, recruiters constantly have a pulse of who’s available and what opportunity will motivate them to make a change. Delegating your hiring can save the internal recruiter or internal HR department time and money because a staffing firm will already have a list of candidates. The firm can quickly identify a list through its own database and research, which helps the company get into the interview process quickly rather than going through countless resumes that came in through job boards.

What can a staffing agency add to the hiring process?

Recruiters have a pulse on what’s going on in the marketplace or within their niche. That is why they are truly subject matter experts in their industry. Many recruiters refer to it as The DIG model — discipline, industry and geography. Also, recruiters look beyond the resume. Often, companies will look at a resume and think a person isn’t a good fit. Staffing specialists understand that many professionals will use bullet points and provide general information in their resumes, so they look for their achievements and the potential benefits they will provide a company. A staffing specialist will ask the qualifying questions to gain a better understanding of what a professional’s daily tasks consist of and their real-life work experience so they can provide a company with a very thorough summary of that candidate’s background that complements their resume.

What should a company look for in a staffing firm?

Companies may consider a recruiter who is specialized in a particular niche, (i.e., manufacturing or IT), or by a certain position (engineer, sales, etc.). It is important for a company to understand how the recruiter conducts their search either through direct recruitment (phone or in-person) or via job board postings. Finally, the company could also consider other ancillary services provided by the recruiter such as background checks, education verification and reference checks.

What criteria should a company consider when selecting a professional staffing firm?

A company should look for a track record of success and ask a lot of questions. For example, ask questions such as: What experience does the recruiter or agency have in placing that particular type of opening? What have they done to successfully fill those positions? How fast have they filled them? What type of companies have they filled those positions for? How do they qualify their candidates?

Another criterion is how recruiters develop relationships with companies. For some companies, this may be their first experience working with a staffing specialist. It is important that they are comfortable with the process and their level of involvement. For example, some staffing specialists will meet with the hiring authority and the internal HR department, very similar to how a company would interview a candidate.

How can a company quantify a track record?

Some companies will send out a proposal or request for information, especially larger organizations. For smaller organizations, they may ask for references. Also, companies may ask for a list of hiring managers the staffing firm has placed candidates with.

How does a staffing firm differentiate great candidates from good candidates?

Staffing specialists look at the whole picture: credentials, real work experience, achievements and potential benefits. For example, if you are looking for a software developer, the recruiter can provide examples of some sample scripts or codes the candidate has written. When qualifying ‘A’ candidates from ‘B’ candidates, it often comes down to how engaged they are with the recruiter and how much information is provided. Have they provided the examples necessary to differentiate them from other candidates?

Staffing specialists look at certifications, degrees, and education. For some companies, a college GPA can make a big difference as they evaluate candidates. Companies often look for applicants with a particular certification, and where that certification was earned.

A staffing specialist can ensure that a candidate is reference-checkable by making sure a direct or previous supervisor can be contacted during the interview process. Timing is everything. The sooner a recruiter can get the candidates into the process and provide the hiring authority with as much information as needed, the sooner the recruiter can solve the problem or alleviate some pain for them.

Andrew Devore is managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. Reach him at adevore@skodaminotti.com or (440) 449-6800.

Published in Cleveland

Thousands of would-be retirees, their retirement accounts depleted, remain in the ranks of the employed. At the same time, another graduating class enters the job market every year. These two factors are creating a clash of the generations, and managing a multigenerational work force continues to get more and more challenging for business leaders and managers.

Most companies and managers are doing their very best to remain strong and deliver on expectations through the recession. But this becomes extremely difficult when, for the first time in history, the work force comprises four distinct generations: traditionalists, boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials.

Each group has strong assets that managers can tap into in order to make their businesses more effective and successful. For example, traditionalists and boomers tend to bring drive, determination, and vast amounts of knowledge and experience to any company that they work for. Boomers, however, tend to be less team-oriented than millennials. Boomers are also used to acquiring information and more inclined to keeping it to themselves because they feel like knowledge is power. But the problem is if they can’t effectively communicate with and train younger generations, their employers will lose profitable knowledge. Millennials, after all, must be effectively trained. Because Xers tend to be fundamentally independent, they are often free thinkers and can be a valuable source of fresh ideas to revamp your organization. You should always ask for their input. And the millennials usually thrive in team environments and typically are not shy about putting in their two cents about anything you may ask them about or want an opinion on. They are also a fountain of fresh ideas. Additionally, they tend to be highly productive and excellent multitaskers.

Right now, millennials are a hot commodity on the job market, mainly because they are cheap hires. After all, older Xers and boomers are looking for higher wages and the corner office, and sometimes executives mistakenly think it makes sense to lay them off and replace them with cheaper labor.

Yet this strategy creates a problem. It might seem like replacing older employees with lower-paid millennials makes financial sense, but it really doesn’t if you stop and think about the true implications of doing something like this. If there are no boomers and Xers around to train the millennials, the company will suffer. Untrained millennials may take hours to complete tasks that a trained boomer could complete in five minutes, so this would actually increase a company’s cost of doing business.

It’s important to make sure you’re maintaining a good generational mix and facilitating communication and knowledge transfer across generations. It can only help your bottom line.

Consider these three tips for managing today’s multigenerational work force:

1. When you are trying to get a point across, always keep your audience in mind. If you can understand generational differences, then you can tailor your communication to speak powerfully to your targeted demographic.

2. Abandon “one-size-fits-all” thinking. Different generations are motivated by different things. Accordingly, you should use a range of recruiting and incentive strategies to make sure your company appeals to all four generations instead of just one or two.

3. To make sure incoming employees are properly trained, allow them to choose their own training methods, as they each have different preferences. Whereas a boomer may learn best by attending a live class, a millennial may prefer to take a webinar instead. Allow your employees to choose the training methods that work best for them, and in doing so, they’ll respond better to the training and be more effective in the organization.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is CEO of Optîmance Workforce Strategies, founder of Gen InsYght and author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” Contact her at sherri@geninsyght.com.

Published in Dallas

Chris Ryan, president of Geo-Solutions Inc. has been experiencing a problem all businesses would like to have. His soil and groundwater construction solutions company has been experiencing rapid growth. Growth is what every business wants to achieve, but with growth comes a lot of added responsibilities.

“We have experienced some very rapid growth,” says Ryan whose company saw revenue of $18 million in 2010. “The biggest [challenge] has been trying to manage growth and get personnel into the company.”

The company’s rapid expansion over the past few years has kept Ryan looking for ways to continue the success.

Smart Business spoke to Ryan about how he manages to keep up with the growth his company has seen.

How do you plan for growth?

You have to take stock of your resources in every level that you need to achieve the types of work that you’re planning to do. You have to determine where your weaknesses are and fill those weaknesses before you try and do the work.

You have to have good communication within your company and with your senior people. You have to determine what your needs are and plan ahead before you’re in a crunch of having to do something.

How do you grow within a niche market?

We’ve set our vision in a certain niche market, which is the treatment of soil and groundwater. Anything that’s in that niche, we will take on.

Your niche has to match the expertise of the key people in your company. Anybody who is looking to get into a business or grow a business needs to determine what it is that distinguishes them from the majority of the competition. That will improve your chances of making a dent in the marketplace.

The businesses that do well in our market are the ones that identify what they’re good at and perform it well and gain reputations to get people to come back over and over again.

Do you hire before you grow in anticipation of it or after growth?

The first scenario is obviously preferable that you’ve planned properly and you’re prepared. We have done a certain amount of that and I have certainly experienced the second scenario where you’re completely out of people, and it’s really not a good situation. Everybody becomes busy, that’s for sure.

We had that situation a few years ago and what really scared me was if anybody had any major issue like an illness to themselves or their family or anything that would put somebody out of the mix for an extended period of time, it would have been a disaster for us.

How do you prepare yourself or guard against that?

You have to try and foresee what is happening in your marketplace. You have to make some kind of judgment as to what the level of business will be.

What do you look for when you’re hiring people?

You have to find what’s important in terms of skills and education for the person you’re trying to hire. Then you have to try and find a person that matches those requirements. With companies like ours and others that are in a niche market, all those similar companies are competing for the same people.

How do you attract those people and beat the competition?

The best way is to be the leader in your business or to be the market leader. If you do that, you become the place that people want to work, because they want to work for the best company. That would be number one, but obviously competitive pay and opportunity to participate in ownership and all those benefits are very important to attracting people to a job as well.

What are some other struggles of rapid growth?

As you grow rapidly you’re constantly changing your profile with your lending institution. You have to maintain good relationships with your bank and keep them well advised of what’s going on. It’s really about maintaining good communication.

HOW TO REACH: Geo-Solutions Inc., (724) 335-7273 or www.geo-solutions.com

Published in Pittsburgh

After losing his job as an airplane pilot following the Sept. 11 attacks, Jerry Lasco turned to his hobby of food and wine for answers. With a desire to start his own business, Lasco brainstormed for a business idea that solved a problem people were experiencing.

“The problem that we wanted to solve was fear,” says Lasco, CEO of Lasco Enterprises LLC, the management company of The Tasting Room, Max’s Wine Dive and The Black Door. “The fear of not knowing how to navigate a wine store and not knowing how to navigate a wine list was a big fear that we wanted to solve.”

Helping average consumers understand a vast wine selection and taste the wine before they buy proved to be a good solution to the problem. Today, Lasco operates seven wine locations in three cities and had revenue of $12.5 million in 2010.

Smart Business spoke to Lasco about what it takes to get an entrepreneurial company off the ground.

Solve a problem. The question that I think is important for entrepreneurs is, ‘What’s the void in the market or what problem can you solve?’ Whether it’s starting a new company or a business initiative, what problem is it solving? You need to ask yourself a lot of questions and you need to do a very thorough analysis. Everybody has to go through some sort of due diligence process and gain a confidence level that their idea has legs. Then you take a leap of faith and put everything on the line to test whether or not you’re right. Due diligence is critical, and it’s specific to whatever industry or idea you have.

Prepare for growth. You don’t want to grow before you’ve got everything taken care of in your own backyard on your first business. You’ve got to have that down pat and you have to feel very confident in your initial business because that becomes your backbone. Secondly, the skill set that made you a successful entrepreneur — the risk taking, the idea, the strategic thinking — isn’t necessarily the skill set you need to be a growth company, which has a lot more to do with strong management abilities, organizational abilities, systems abilities, and visionary and motivational leadership. I think of entrepreneurs as inventors, but that doesn’t mean you can manage a complex organization and a complex system. You have to look in the mirror and figure out whether or not you personally have those skill sets or you need to bring those skill sets into your company. You have to make sure that you’ve got a complementary skill set or tool kit.

Manage your cash flow. There is a mindset that you have to have if growth is your goal. That means you’re going to have to reinvest and you’re going to have to hire more brainpower and manpower to allow you to grow. You have to have really good cash flow management. Running out of capital or running into financial troubles can devastate everything. There are countless stories about businesses that have had great ideas and probably would have succeeded except for a small mismanagement of cash flow. You never know when something unforeseen could come about. It’s challenging for small businesses because you don’t want to invest in accounting, a controller or a CFO because most small businesses can’t afford that. Whatever you do you have to know what’s going on in your books and in your cash flow situation, even if that means you’re staying up at night and doing it yourself.

Hire the right people. As you grow, it becomes much less about the entrepreneur and much more about the leader of the company. I think a great leader’s strongest asset is having the wherewithal to bring great people into the company. Get people that you can trust that have complementary skills. The greatest variable that is going to affect your growth positively or negatively is that you have the wrong people on board, a bunch of yes-people or people that aren’t contributing or aren’t complementary in strengths. If you put the right group together and you have a good idea, you have an excellent opportunity to get to where you are going. To be a good leader you really have to understand yourself and know what your motivations are and know what your strengths are. You have to hire people that have strengths in areas that you don’t have strengths in. Once you decide to grow, that’s when you have to specialize. You have to bring people in that are really good in those specialty areas.

How to reach: Lasco Enterprises LLC, www.lascoenterprises.com

Published in Houston

John Magee walked away from a multibillion-dollar company to start over.

Before helping found Crane Worldwide Logistics in 2008, he worked for Eagle Global Logistics, a global supply chain company that had grown from $80 million to more than $3 billion in the time that Magee was there.

Unhappy with how big the company was getting and the loss of personal touch to its clients, Magee and eight others from Eagle left to start their own supply chain business, but they had to wait out a noncompete agreement for a year.

They took the time to scout how and who they wanted to hire and the clients they wanted to chase. One thing was certain: They didn’t want Crane Worldwide Logistics, a full-service customs brokerage and logistics company, to turn into the same thing they had just left.

“That sitting out actually gave us a chance to reflect on the industry,” says Magee, president of Crane Worldwide. “What did we see taking place in our industry? How did we want to launch a new organization in there? It was truly the best thing we could have done, because it allowed us to get so much set up the way we wanted to do it so that when we launched the organization 12 months later, we could do it, in many cases, very different than the way a lot of our competitors and the industry has morphed into.”

Not wanting to become another huge global company that lost touch with clients and not wanting to be too small and stuck in a niche, Magee and his other team members combined their expertise to develop their plans for growing and staffing their new company exactly how they wanted to.

Here’s how Magee grew Crane Worldwide to $252 million in revenue and 700 employees in 2010 by carefully planning for controlled growth.

Know your destination

Growing a company is ultimately not the biggest challenge, but being able to control it is.

You must clearly identify how you want to position your company and then stick to that plan.

“Since the late ’90s and into the turn of the century, our industry has seen a tremendous amount of consolidation,” Magee says. “All that industry consolidation created a few dozen big players that are $3 billion in annual sales and larger. They basically try to be everything to everybody everywhere. No matter what industry it is, what geography or what type of service somebody is looking for, they try to say yes and they try to do it. I don’t subscribe to bigger is better; I think better is better.”

Being better means staying true to how you want to position your company. You have to be diligent about not faltering from how you want the company to appear to employees and clients.

“You have to know what you’re good at and stick with it,” Magee says. “Don’t take on business for the sake of growing. Don’t sacrifice the company’s results because you’ve taken on something that doesn’t make good sense for your company. Don’t try to grow for the sake of growing, because you’ll spend time and effort and resources on nonvalue-added work. Everybody feels it. The company feels it, the people feel it, and it takes away from that feeling of being in high performance when everything is working right.”

Having started with a company when it was relatively small and watched it turn into a multibillion-dollar company, Magee knew that becoming a huge company wasn’t the right path to go down a second time.

“I can tell you the bigger we got, the harder it was to be great at what you do,” he says. “We want to be this global midsized player,” Magee says. “We want to have high touch, high service and really get back to the core brokering of supply chain solutions. I want to bring this high focus on it that I think a lot of the big guys lost, but be large enough so that people with global supply chains are willing to trust us with it. That was our vision. We want to be a $1 billion company. It’s not because that’s some magical number, it’s really to let the market and, more importantly, our clientele know where we are positioning ourselves.”

Hire for growth

When you have a clear path that you want your company to go down, you need employees who will be capable of continuing that growth. If employees are unable to handle the growth your company sees, you will end up having to let go of them and start the process all over. You have to hire for the future.

“What I saw [at my old company] was us outgrow our management team easily four times, arguably six times during my 13 years there,” Magee says. “When you start making management changes, you run the risk of getting this momentum built up and then, all of a sudden, you have to bring in a new leader who can take us from here to the next level, and by doing that, you run a risk of seeing that momentum come to a stop.”

Because of the experience of the founders of Crane, they knew that they would be able to get their company off the ground and grow. However, they still needed to be smart about who they looked to hire.

“Part of our plan for the future is let’s go hire these key positions above and beyond where we are today, where we’re going to be in two years, but let’s really think about where we’re going to be in five to seven years and let’s hire for that,” Magee says. “That has allowed us to attract the talent that we needed and ultimately that has led to what we’ve been able to accomplish in the first two years.”

In order to hire in front of your growth, you must constantly be on the lookout for potential employees. You want people who you can see working in a higher-level position than what you’re hiring them for.

“If you can envision that you can see this person being developed into two levels above what you are hiring them for, then you probably have a good candidate for the job,” Magee says. “It’s vitally important that your human capital pipeline can keep up with your sales pipeline. If you can’t bring on the right talent, you’re going to ultimately hit a ceiling even though you can continue to bring on revenue. It’s going to hit a ceiling and your customers are going to feel it. As we know with inertia, what’s in motion stays in motion, but what’s at rest stays at rest and you don’t want that momentum to stop.

“You have to prioritize recruiting. You don’t recruit when you have a need. You recruit every opportunity you can. I’m always asking, whether its colleagues, whether it's customers, or whether it's suppliers, ‘Hey who’s out there that I should know?’ Because when the time comes to pull the trigger if you’re starting your recruiting then, you’re falling behind. When the time comes to pull the trigger, if you already have multiple candidates that you’ve been getting to know and been recruiting over time, even though you didn’t have a role for them, it’s a lot easier to finish the process and bring them on board.”

Create the right culture

Controlling growth means setting up the right culture for your company. With the right culture, people will instinctively do things the way you want them done. This requires finding the right people to help you reach your goals.

“Having lived and worked all over the world, whether I worked with some great people or I competed against them, I was fortunate that I knew a lot of folks and a lot of my colleagues knew a lot of folks,” Magee says. “We spent the year that we were off creating a recruiting database. We couldn’t talk to anybody from our former company for 12 months from a solicitation perspective, so we went out and built a recruiting database everywhere else.

“We also defined what kind of culture that we wanted and we called it our Crane Character. I basically took the letters from Crane and I created our character statement. The C stands for customer-centric, the R for responsible, the A for attentive, the N for integrity, and the E stands for execution.”

It is crucial that all employees agree with and abide by the company culture that has been established. If employees don’t mesh with the culture then the odds of it working in the employee’s or company’s favor are slim.

“When we are hiring, can we see the individual that we are bringing on board … developing into two levels above what we are hiring them for,” Magee says. “Do they have the first four values within our character statement? Are they customer-centric, are they responsible, are they attentive, and do they have integrity? If they pass that test, then we bring them in the door. At the end of the day, if they don’t execute … they are probably not staying if they can’t actually do the job that we are hiring them for. But if we’ve done a good enough job betting it, then your success rate on bringing in the right person is pretty high.”

That upfront attitude has been a big reason for Magee’s success hiring people who can continue to drive the growth of the business. You have to be able to tell employees exactly what the company’s plans are and why.

“You have to lead by example,” Magee says. “Have integrity. A lot of leaders tell people what they think they want to hear versus just being completely open and honest with them. I know that’s the only way I want to be treated is if somebody just shoots me straight and is very open and honest. I think if you lead by example, have integrity and be open and honest with everybody and communicate, people will follow that. They want that from their leader and when they feel like they are getting partial truths, that’s not as good.”

HOW TO REACH: Crane Worldwide Logistics, (888) 870-2726 or www.craneww.com

The Magee File

John Magee

President

Crane Worldwide Logistics

Born: Houston

Education: Received a marketing degree from the University of North Texas

What was your first job and what did you learn from that experience?

When I was in middle school, I went and printed up business cards and started mowing lawns in the neighborhood for $6 a lawn. Mowing lawns was a commitment. If you make a commitment, you’ve got to stick with it. My friends would invite me to the pool or to the amusement park and although I would have loved to go, I said no I couldn’t I have to mow yards that day. That taught me the value of money.

What is the best piece of business advice that you have received?

Don’t set your goals too low and write your goals down. If you look, I think statistics say that only 3 percent of the world writes its goals down, but that 3 percent makes more money than the other 97 percent put together.

If you could have a conversation with any one person, who would it be and why?

Jack Welch. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he did during his leadership at GE. I’ve read lots of books on GE, and Jack and I definitely don’t subscribe to everything that Jack does, but in my mind, he goes down as the best executive that’s ever run an organization.

Published in Houston