Show notes from episode 49.
Many industries have the luxury of having an abundance of talent applying for every position. Marketing agencies, big banks, private equity firms and the like. In the service sector we don’t have that luxury. There is a major shortage of people out there willing to do manual labor for $15 an hour.
It’s no secret it’s the number one challenge in our industry. Don’t believe me? Ask any small business owner what the hardest part of his job is. The answer is always the same – finding employees.
It’s a level playing field. All companies struggle. Turnover is high for everyone. Our competitors deal with the same problems. We just have to do it better than our competitors at building systems and finding the right people who can do it.
Put in the same effort marketing your business to potential employees as you do marketing your business to potential customers.
Just as you compete on price and quality with your competitors in respects to your service you must compete in these areas when appealing to potential employees.
We can compete on price by paying more. We can compete on quality by making our company a better place to work. If you do the 5 things from the previous post before you hire you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors off the bat. Your company will be a better place to work. You’ll be able to pay them more money.
You’ll win on price and quality.
But it’s not that simple. While we have simplified our system to the point where we don’t NEED unicorns and spectacularly competent people to work for us we do have a lot higher standards. We aren’t willing to hire chainsmokers with poor hygiene. We aren’t willing to hire grumpy gossipers. We aren’t willing to hire scruffy and unkept people. We aren’t willing to hire those who can’t pass a drug test and a background check.
To justify the higher price we charge we have to show up with clean cut employees who exude eager professionalism when they interact with our clients.
There are still reliable and competent employees out there ready and willing to work. Now let’s talk about how to find them and how to convince them to work for us. Paying them more and treating them better is not enough to really dominate your competitors in this area.
Don’t limit your efforts to the job boards.
Monster, Craigslist and Indeed should be utilized. Its a great way to get a steady flow of 20 applications per week. You should post and you should interview the candidates. Be selective on who you hire. You’ll find good talent here but it isn’t enough to staff an organization with the turnover and growth of a service business.
But you have to get creative with your recruiting so you have a larger pool of candidates to choose from. Recruiting follows many of the exact same principles as marketing. Just as we find your ideal customer and get creative in how you reach them we can do the same for our ideal employee.
Who is our ideal employee?
As a first hire for the typical service business we are looking for a clean cut reliable person who is a good communicator and can follow directions.
Some examples of people that might make a great fit for your business:
College students have a lot of free time and they often work at the campus bookstore for $9 per hour. Major companies don’t like to hire them because they invest resources teaching and training them just to lose them when they go back to school or graduate. They’ll be entering the job market next year for $50k a year but they’ll work right now for $12/hr. They’re often clean cut, reliable, great communicators and fast learners. They are hungry for experience and a resume boost. You can find great talent here if you are okay with turnover when they go back to school or graduate.
Hospitality and retail workers can make great employees during their off-peak times. They work evenings and weekends. You need employees who can commit to business hours when the sun is shining. This can be a great way for them to earn extra money and for you to get competent help.
Offer flexible hours to work around full time commitments that are always changing. The local prison here has guards that work 4 days on and 6 days off. Sometimes they work nights. Sometimes they work days. Sometimes it’s weekends. Some of them would love to have a flexible part time job during those long stretches of time off.
Find people with seasonal jobs or commitments.
Workers on oil rigs or fishing crews work 7-30 days on and then have several weeks or even months off. Many nurses and other fields work 3 12 hour days a week. That leaves 4 days off if they want to earn extra money. Teachers have summers off. Coaches have off-seasons off. Professional athletes in non-flashy sports often work side jobs. Hire them in the off season.
Uber drivers get busy on weekends and in the evening. Maybe they want to pick up more hours on a consistent basis on weekdays when things are slow for driving.
Turnover can be minimized by paying well and creating a great work environment but it is unavoidable. You have to keep a new supply of applicants applying for your jobs, going through training and joining your team.
Consider sharing employees with another company.
Seasonality should be considered. Find companies that you can collaborate with that have a different peak season. Security companies often have a ton of part time flexible staff that they put to work on evenings and weekends. Same with catering companies. Event co-ordination companies.
If you are a snow plowing company consider sharing employees with a lawn care company. If you are a lawn care company consider recruiting at your local ski resort that closes down all summer.
Find ways you can recruit employees from a more diverse pool.
Consider learning Spanish so you can open up your applicant pool to more people. Maybe you need a crew leader that is fluent in English but the crew members aren’t required to interact with customers.
Go after people with full time jobs that aren’t actively looking but have interest in making a change.
All this sounds great and easy right – but how do we reach them?
Go after off-market talent.
There are a lot of people out there who would love to work for you but aren’t actively seeking you out. They’ll never apply to your job on Indeed. They’ll never knock on your door. How can we find them?
I’m a big proponent of guerrilla recruiting and doing things that don’t scale. My competitors aren’t doing these things because they are hard to do. They are sweaty. They are gritty. They are sometimes risky or laughable. They’re almost always uncomfortable.
Get in front of people physically.
Take a pocket full of business cards or flyers to the gym at 6pm. Stand out on the sidewalk downtown. Go to the local basketball courts. Walk up to anyone who looks like a possible candidate and say:
“Hey – do you know anyone looking for work? We are hiring a lot of positions with flexible hours this summer and we pay $15 per hour. Here is my card. Have anyone you know reach out!”
This is a lot less awkward and a lot less pushy than asking the person directly if THEY are the ones looking for work. You’ll end up sparking conversation with people and they’ll have questions. They’ll consider applying themselves. They’ll tell a friend that they know.
This sound silly but it works VERY well. I’ve spent many hours on the street corners of college campuses doing this type of recruiting. We’ve found some great employees this way.
Write chalk advertisements on the ground. I’ve written the following in sidewalk chalk in high traffic areas thousands of times:
“$15/hr + tips. Flexible Hours. StorageSquad.com/Employment“
Put small lawn signs out that say the same thing. Put flyers in local Gyms and fast food restaurants. Get creative here and get sweaty! This stuff works and it will likely turn into your #1 recruiting method.
Consider setting up a formal internship program for college students. College students really struggle to get real world experience. Companies would rather have them push paper around than invest the time and energy in teaching them how to add value within the company.
You can delegate real tasks and get real value out of college students. My company is ran by student managers at each of our universities. They work part time during the school year and then during our busy season play key roles.
Find people in leadership positions that could refer people to your company.
The principle of an elementary school. The head football coach. A trainer who works with a lot of semi pro athletes. The internship director at your local college. Your local chamber of commerce.
Make a landing page and put an application on your website. This page should make it easy to learn more. This page should get people excited to work for you.
Consider making a recruiting video (warning cringeworthy content I made in 2014 that needs updated) for the webpage. Record yourself talking about the job and why it’s different and why your company is such a fun place to work. Interview your current employees. Ask them what they love about the job. Ask them how it has helped their careers. Ask them about helping customers. Record their responses and put together a video that your potential employees can watch to get excited.
Lean on your personal network of family and friends. I know this might not be vast in your city but it can be very effective. Facebook has been a great way to find employees for us. We post about the great wages and flexible hours and we get 10 or 20 good applications.
Offer a referral bonus for current employees if they help you recruit a new employee. $50 or $100 will go a long way to encourage your current workers to reach out to their personal networks to convince friends and family members to apply to the job.
If you have multiple locations consider bringing in employees from other cities and covering housing expenses. Have a college aged cousin in another city that wants to bust it all summer and earn some money? Have him come live in your basement for the summer. We travel our employees often. We put them up in hotels or let them sleep in our guest bedrooms if they come in and work hard for a week or so during our busy season. This adds to the cost but it can be an effective way of doing it in some cases.
In my experience the best hires rarely come from paid job boards. You’ll find good talent, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t plentiful. Our hire rate is low. Give some of these other methods a shot and track what works and then double down!