All aboard Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

When Rick Pogue came on board at Arrowhead Building Supply Inc., there were a lot of people in the wrong positions and some employees whom the company didn’t even want.

For the son of the building supply company owner, he quickly learned that if you don’t have the right people in the right positions, it’s going to hurt your company.

To better situate the company, Pogue devised a system to analyze each position and weed out those who didn’t fit the culture.

“We create the goals for the company, then we build the people around those goals,” Pogue says. “There’s a plethora of different things that have to work. You have to have the right attitudes, the right personalities, for each individual position.”

Getting the right 100 employees was the first step of many that has allowed the company to capitalize on the market. Arrowhead recorded record growth in 2009, reaching $30 million in sales revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Pogue about how to get the right people in the right positions.

Recognize needed changes. Ask yourself four questions about your employees: Do my people really care if my company grows? Are they overjoyed, giving each other high-fives when we get a new customer? Do they stay after work to finish projects, or is there a giant gust of wind through the front door at closing time? What motivates my salespeople — money or success? Remember, success breeds money, but money breeds the desire for more money.

If achievement motivates your people, then you will all reap the monetary rewards from your accomplishments. If money is all that motivates your people, then that’s all they will focus on, and every 90 to 180 days, you’ll be talking about pay raises for no results.

Restaffing a company can be a scary concept. However, you have to be serious about change, and your people must believe in your willingness to replace them. Otherwise, in effect, your employees will be in charge of your company and you.

Assess each position. We look at every position individually and we come up with a set of goals for the position.

If it’s inside sales, what do we really want our inside salespeople to do. Do we want them just to sit there and wait for the phone to ring and then answer the phone and then take the order? Because that’s what I call an order taker, and you can pay those people about $9 an hour. We want inside salespeople to be salespeople.

What we do is we have very detailed job descriptions for them, and when we train them, we show them exactly what we want them to do. For the inside sales position, their job is to produce new sales via any avenue possible, cold calls, fax, landline, they all have cell phones.

(To assess the workload,) I put myself in the position and that helps me. I don’t ask anything from anybody that I wouldn’t do myself, so I put myself in that position and I say what I would expect out of myself if I were doing that job. That’s basically where I get the standards.

We have started in recent years, probably the last two years, we started testing. I can have a prospective employee or even an existing employee that might be in the wrong position (tested) — they can take a personality test.

That has been very beneficial to us. That has helped us assess things that I can’t pick up on my own just by talking and observing. This test helps flush some of those weaknesses and strengths out.

Put weight on attitude. No. 1, for me, is attitude. Absolutely attitude is No. 1 for me because if the person has the right attitude, they’ll be successful.

I first look at their attitude, and then their skill set would come in second to me.

I’m not one who believes you have to have a four-year college education to be the best bookkeeper for a company. I don’t hold everybody to that standard because we have people here that never went to college that I wouldn’t trade for somebody with a doctorate.

I don’t think that has enough of an effect on a person’s abilities to discount them as a quality employee.

Look for person/position mismatches. I look for efficiency in that position. Usually that will jump out at you.

When you look at everything, all aspects of the business, you can see where the weak spots are. Maybe the weak spots are in bookkeeping because credits are not being issued properly, whether they’re given too many credits or not enough credits, tickets aren’t being processed correctly.

Usually the inefficiencies jump out at me first. It’s like a red flag. Then I say, ‘OK, what’s going on here.’ Then I delve a little deeper in there.

Leave out personal convictions. You have to set feelings aside. I’m the nicest guy in the world and I want everybody to love me, especially my employees, but you have to set the feelings aside.

If you have a person that’s been working for you for 10 years but they’re the wrong person in that job for whatever reason — maybe they have a bad attitude, maybe they don’t work well with others — you have to set your emotions aside.

‘Oh, they’ve been here 10 years, just deal with it.’ I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in telling my other employees, ‘I know they’re difficult to work with. … I know they have a bad attitude, just deal with it — they’ve been here forever.’

When I say assess every position individually that’s what I’m talking about. Do I have the best person in that chair that I could possibly have? If not, then that position is a work in progress. That’s how I view it.

How to reach: Arrowhead Building Supply Inc., (636) 970-1976 or www.arrowheadbuildingsupply.com