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Positioning - The Very Best Way to Find Great Employees

May 7, 2008
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This month I want to take a bit of a detour on our little road trip called networking. This month, I want to show you how becoming a master networker can bring you great employees as well.



This month I want to take a bit of a detour on our little road trip called networking. The past four months my focus has been on networking as it relates to marketing. This month, I want to show you how becoming a master networker can bring you great employees as well.

Right now it’s the beginning of May. If you are like most cleaning firms, your sales are up from January and February. More business means you need more help.

Can You Still Find “Good” People Today?
Most business owners would agree that finding good people is their biggest challenge in a world where no one seems to understand customer service, basic honesty, and integrity. “You just can’t find good people anymore!” they say.

In my 23 years of experience I have sure seen a lot of “not so great people” apply at my company. One day we noticed a car sitting in our parking lot with two males sitting inside. Both of the car doors were open, and pot smoke was billowing out of the vehicle.

As I was about to pick up the phone to call 911, one of them emerged from the low-rider Impala and was making his way toward our shop. Surely he was going next door; we certainly didn’t have much to steal.

As my staff hid in the back room, I was the lucky one to greet this person. With one hand on the phone on which I’d rehearsed dialing 911, I asked, “May I help you?” The guy was dressed in flip-flops, cut-off blue jeans (with the natural fringe), a yellow tank top, sporting a huge tattoo on his bulging bicep and wearing sunglasses (which he did not remove, although he was now inside my office).

“Ya’ll hirin’?”

You’re kidding! This guy is looking for a job? Smoking dope right before he walked in the door? Wow, this is too good to be true. So, I responded with something that is not altogether legal, but seemed appropriate at the moment.

“We do require a drug test, is that going to be a problem?” I asked.

You won’t believe his answer: “Dat gon’ be today?”

In other words, if you can give me a few days, maybe I can get clean. Wow! This is what we are dealing with today.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have 37 of the happiest, most productive, most loyal employees on the planet. Where did we find them? Were they that way when they showed up?

How do we find people who will run our companies for us, honestly, ethically and to the best of their ability?

It’s called “positioning.” Just by existing in the marketplace, you will gain a position. In their classic marketing book “Positioning,” Jack Trout and Al Ries describe positioning as “filling a slot in the consumer’s mind.” In your industry and in your community you take up a “slot,” a position. If you haven’t intentionally “positioned” yourself, others will put you in the position they want you in. This is true for marketing as well as for attracting the right employees.

Here’s how it works. If you are seen as a struggling carpet cleaner, or a frustrated business owner, “good” people won’t want to come to work for you. People want to be associated with successful people.

Years ago I attended a weekly breakfast meeting that consisted of a dozen local carpet cleaners in my area. The idea was to “co-op” marketing ideas that would benefit all of the members of the local “association.” Although there were a few really good guys there, some of them looked like they rolled out of bed and came straight to the meeting. To make matters worse, they wanted to sit around and complain about the industry and their low-paying customers.

Then I showed up. Full suit. Huge briefcase (one of those auditor’s cases similar to what you would see a commercial airline pilot have) that had my laptop, files, etc. Oh, and with a great attitude as well.

They would scoff, “Who do you think you are, Zig Ziglar?” What they didn’t know was that I had already been to a networking group that started at 7am (this group started at 9 am for obvious reasons: they didn’t have any jobs!).

Because of the different approach, positioning myself as a successful business owner rather than a disgruntled carpet cleaner that hated the world, I got the attention of none other than James Howard Bardwell III. Jim was working for one of the member firms. Before too long he asked me for a job. I told him I could not and would not steal the competition’s help, so the answer was “no.” “I’m leaving there anyway,” he said. “I still don’t have an opening.” I said.

As fate would have it, he did quit and I had to fire one of my employees. But I still wouldn’t hire him until I talked to the owner of the company to make sure I didn’t create bad vibes. The previous owner told me to do whatever I want and Jim Bardwell became an 8-year key employee and, better than that, one of my best friends in the entire universe.

Many more would come in the same way. Why? Because of the position we have intentionally built. A position as a leader. A position as a consultant. A position of a company with integrity. A position of a company that is a great place to work. A position of success.

John Browning has intentionally positioned his company in Nashville as the premier carpet cleaning company in the area. Jason Darnell in Greensboro, NC has positioned his company as the premier high-end cleaning firm where good people stay for a long time.

So, how is your position?

If you aren’t attracting quality people, you have a positioning problem. How do you position yourself properly? Networking. Everywhere you go, tell your “success” story. At every industry event (even the ones out of town), be the picture of success. When you are out in the community – picking up your kids from school, on the little league field, or wherever you happen to be –remember, you have the choice to manage what people think about you. You decide what slot you want to take up in their minds.

Do you want them to think of you as “just a carpet cleaner” or a successful business owner that has lots of opportunity for “good” people?
  • Watch your attitude. No one wants to be around negative people.
  • Always dress professionally.
  • Use good grooming habits.
  • Speak life. Talk about positive things.
  • Tell your story. Your story of success.
  • Share your vision.
You may not feel like a huge success right now, but if you begin to talk and act successful, it won’t be long. A few years ago, my company was written up in the Houston Business Journal. A lady who was in some of the same networking groups with me 23 years ago when I was working out of the trunk of my car had since moved to Florida, but still received the paper to stay in touch with the business affairs in Houston.  She sent me a card congratulating me on the feature. “I always knew you would be successful,” she wrote. In fact, she was one of my first customers. She supported me way back when. Even when I showed up in my little car and pulled my equipment from the trunk and the back seat.

So, no matter where you are on the “success journey,” position yourself as the success agent in your community and you will see the “Law of Attraction” take effect.

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