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Staffing Power

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The Right Way to Say Goodbye to a Bad Employee

Is firing people tough to do? You bet!

To help, I’m going to share advice that I learned along the way from working at my own plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical business. It’s also what I’ve been sharing for over 17 years now working with my 1-to-1 clients, in my book, my seminars and in my workshops.

THAT SAID….Disclaimer, I’m not a labor lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

You are well served to have a great Human Resources company to reach out to or a Labor Lawyer to help you navigate these turbulent waters. Things are different in different states and even among local governments so you don’t want to wing it.

So, why pay attention to what I’m going to share? The reason is I’m sharing my real world experience with you so you’re better educated on what to potentially do next.

Years ago, when I first entered the family business as the last brother in to what was then a 3rd generation business (now, it’s a 4th generation business), my dad said to me, “You can no longer hire anyone until you prove you can fire someone the right way. Face it. You like hiring people. And who doesn’t? But you need to do both.”

Well, I didn’t like the message, but the message was received. What I realized is…

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Grow Your Own

Yes, Grow Your Own!

No, I’m not talking about what’s now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in varying degrees.

I’m talking about Grow Your Own: Developing Great Employees that are homegrown vs. store bought.

Trying to pirate away staff from your competitors by only hiring “experienced” staff to work at your company is a stop gap approach which is neither effective for growing your company or even maintaining it.

The real path forward is to grow your own great employees by committing to hiring willing people and providing them with all the skills training they’ll need. This approach puts an end to the insanity of hiring spoiled talent and trying to rewire them. I know. I tried for years.

Hiring willing people and providing the skills training applies not just to Technicians. It applies to all the positions at your company.

What are the many positions at your company today? My guess is you don’t really know because you’ve never formalized it.

How do I know?

I know because in my consulting career I’ve rarely arrived at a client, no matter how big a company they were, that had the type of Organizational Chart (aka Org Chart) that defined all the boxes it takes to run their company. At best, some of them had a vague idea in their head about who does what. Yes, I said in their head because it was just assumed everyone would know.

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Attitude vs. Behavior: What’s the Difference?

“That Tech has a bad attitude.”

“I don’t like the attitude of our bookkeeper!”

“What’s wrong with the attitude of our dispatcher?”

Bad attitudes are everywhere, it would appear.

Based on…what?

In most cases, nothing, other than your opinion, that is. An opinion, by the way, that that colored by your attitude toward others! In fact, my new favorite saying is, “I see what I believe” not the old (and incorrect) saying, “I’ll believe it when I’ll see it.”

As owners and bosses, we’re quick to judge. It’s what we do. We compare people to some fictional version of how we think we were when we did their work. The part we leave out is that our vision of ourselves, especially as times goes by, is akin to the fish growing larger every time the fish story is told!

No, you couldn’t put a water heater in by yourself in one hour. Nor could you install a new heating system by yourself in two hours. You didn’t carry that giant hot tub up four flights of stairs by yourself and install it in an hour, either. And when you were up to your elbows in grunge on a job, or a customer groused at you, you may have come back to the office a little grumpy, too!

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What if I Train Them and They Leave?

Resistance—I get a lot as an industry consultant but when it comes to convincing a contractor client of the importance of training, resistance is something I can bank on.

I listen politely as they recount a bad experience or two they have had because they invested in someone who then left the company and went work for someone else—usually a competitor.

After a few minutes of this, I interrupt them and address the elephant in the room: “So, what you’re asking yourself is, ‘What if I train them and they leave?’”

“Yes.”

My reply, the only one that makes any sense, is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

The next thing I typically hear from the owner is, “Darn it. I know you’re right and I hate it.”

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I Can Do Everything… In a Job Interview

Stop me if this sounds familiar:

In the job interview, the candidate told me they could do it. Who knew that they couldn’t? Me!

I got blindsided by this so often in my contracting life. Looking back, it’s easy to know why I didn’t know what they could really do and not do. I hired out of desperation.

Here’s the reality. Sometimes, an employee would give us two weeks’ notice that they were leaving our company. And that was okay. Sometimes, we’d get one week’s notice. And that was tolerable. Sometimes, they’d just leave the keys to the truck in the front door mail slot and leave a note attached to their keys that they were gone. And that was bad.

It was really bad because we were always busy and needed everyone to be onboard. We were in the lucky position of having more work at our company than bodies to get the work done. I say “lucky” because we were able to charge the right price and be more selective about whom we did and didn’t work for and the type of work we would and wouldn’t do.

Yet again, it was a problem because we were always in reactive mode when it came to staffing.

How bad was this approach to staffing? My brother, Marty, called our hiring test “The Mirror Test,” which sarcastically meant that in our desperation, all you needed to do was fog the mirror and there was a good chance you could be hired. We were of course kidding….sort of, anyway.

Well, something had to give, and finally it did.

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Hire the Willing and Provide Skills or Pay the Price

“Hire willing people and provide them the needed skills instead of hiring spoiled veterans with skills and behavior problems.” This has been my mantra since I was a contractor at my own Long Island plumbing, heating and cooling shop.

When did I latch on to this core business philosophy?

Well, it was at 2 a.m. while standing in my office one night talking to my brother, Richie. As usual, in a company full of 25 plus Techs, we were still out there helping late into the night (I mean morning).

Disclaimer: I’ve changed the name to protect the not-so-innocent and I cleaned up the language, but I bet you can only imagine what true New Yorkers would be saying to one another in this situation.

The conversation with my brother went something like this. “Don was the best Tech at their shop? I mean for heaven’s sake he’s barely mediocre compared to our guys. And can you believe how much money we had to pay him to come work here?”

To which I replied, in an exhausted and muffled tone, “I’m sick of it. I’m sick of Techs telling us how great they are in interviews when we hire them or taking the word of others about how great this Tech is.”

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Why is Al the Big Man in Australia?

Al Levi of Appleseed Business talks about planning, operations, staffing, family business, and how to make your contracting business better on The Site Shed in Australia!

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Run Your Contracting Business with Less Stress and More Success | The Site Shed Podcast

In this episode, TSS046, Matt Jones, host of The Site Shed Podcast and I get together for some Tool Box Talk around the systems and processes that my brothers and I developed for our family’s plumbing, heating and cooling business….

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Why Buy Another Contracting Business Book?

Good question!

Is there a shortage of business books out there or business information out there on how to be successful in the contracting business? Nope!

Can trying to figure out what to do with all that information be overwhelming and confusing? Yes!

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Checking In vs. Snooping

In a bunch of management articles and blogs I’ve read in the last few years, there is more and more discussion about the ever-growing amount of time being wasted in the office by personnel and staff in the field. A…

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