Ask Steve

Ask Steve: Why Can’t I Find Reliable Employees?

Good workers are out there - the trick is finding them

employment management newspaperHi Steve,

I don’t want to throw in the towel on my business by liquidating it (at least not yet), but I am so totally done with futilely trying to hire a full-time technician and get myself off the truck. I'm burnt out and it's hurting my business from the low performance of these guys.

How bad is it? In the last two years I have had 14 guys come and go through my door. Three have stayed 3 months or more. Out of all of them, one was really great but needed full-time work plus insurance and I couldn't do that at the time. There were about 4-5 weeks a year where there might be 20-25 hours of work and a couple weeks where we just cleaned the truck for a day. So he moved on.

I just can’t find reliable full-time employees. I have talked the guy who does commercial sales for me part-time into doing 1 job per day (sometimes maybe more). He's very reliable but wasn't crazy about cleaning carpets before. But now he's getting married and has a baby on the way so he's quitting his night job as a bartender and will split his time with sales and cleaning. I have also hired a helper to do the grunt work with me so I can do an extra job per day and save my tired 48-year-old body.

But other than this, I'm now out of options. I have failed on my own. I have a lot of respect for you guys that have full-time employees and they actually work out. I don't know how you do it, but I'm done for now. My stress level is through the roof and I'm not a nice person to be around lately.

I'm sure I'll have to turn down some jobs this summer because I can't get to them all with this current employee set up but I have no choice. So Steve, do you have any thoughts for me?

-Frazzled in Florida


Dear Frazzled,

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger! I remember early in my business career I did exactly what you are doing. I fired all of my loser employees which meant it was once again just me all alone doing everything! So I went back on the truck and started studying exactly why I was having so many problems finding and keeping decent (not even great) employees.

So use this time to reflect, Frazzled, not just on hiring people, but also what your long term business (and life) plans are. Trust me, at 48 you are ready for this process! When I was 48 years old I was in decent shape, but even so my body said it was happy not to be on the wand every day. (I sold my company at 38 and semi-retired!)

I do like your stop gap measure of hiring a helper. This will make you more efficient, save a lot of wear and tear on your body (can you say "clean all these stairs, Charlie, while I do the paperwork!”) and may result in a quality employee. They are out there. The trick is finding them and you will do it by:

1) Constantly recruiting by asking friends, neighbors and, yes, even customers if they know anyone who could be a good employee for you.

2) Also pay a bonus to your current employees if they recommend a worker who proves to be a star! Remember that your employees have a vested interest in finding good people to work with.

3) Your goal is to have pre-screened prospective “employees in waiting” who are currently employed but want a better position and are willing to wait until something opens up with your company. Of course, this means you must…

4) Pay better than other competitive positions. This doesn’t mean paying more than just other carpet cleaning companies, but any type of business that could hire your employee candidates.

5) Don’t limit yourself by only hiring carpet cleaning employees with previous experience. In fact, many SFS members have found their best employees are developed from scratch (i.e., zero experience cleaning carpets before) with their own in-house training system.

NOTE: ALL employees must be trained right from the get-go on your customer service philosophy. Write me at for my “Initial Value Added Service Training Outline” we used. I’ll e-mail it to you - no charge!

6) If you discover a new hire just isn’t going to cut it, then, with respect and dignity, quickly cut them loose and keep on searching. (Yes, I know this is easier to say than to do!)

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! A new “Ask Steve” will debut in the ICS eNewsletter every Thursday. Register to receive it by clicking here

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