How to Make Your First Hire Count
Last month, I wrote an article about my brothers’ experience working for a large company and why they decided to quit. I highlighted where that company went wrong and what we, small business owners, could learn from their poor example. However, since many window cleaners are single owner/operators, I wanted to reconfigure some of the points made in that article towards an owner who has decided to hire for the first time. Often there is trepidation in depending on another person to represent your business, which is certainly understandable. If you hire someone who doesn’t work out, it can drastically affect a single owner much more than a company with several crews. For instance, if you are scheduled out for a month based on having two people on the job, their unexpected quitting can leave you scrambling to figure out how you will be able to handle the job’s upcoming load. While there are no guarantees of perfect hires in business, there are things you can do to ensure the person you have hired sticks around and becomes a valuable part of your company.
#1 Put personality & character ahead of experience. Experience is a bonus if you can find it, but it isn’t helpful if the new hire doesn’t like being told what to do, is rude to your customers, or is always late. Even a guy with no experience can be helpful as an assistant, going ahead of you to clean screens and tracks, loading and unloading equipment, and such. If they are a poor employee, you will be annoyed with them the whole day while you “babysit” them and constantly check up on their work. On the other hand, a good character person will think of you in their decision-making process, recognizing that they have a responsibility to represent the company with their actions. You can teach someone to clean windows, but you can’t teach someone to have good character. At least not on the job.
#2 Make sure the employee understands that you care about them as a person. I ended my last article by saying that good employees quit bosses, not jobs. So, be a good boss. Part of being a good boss is recognizing that your new employee isn’t a robot and has other things going on besides window cleaning. Happy employees want to feel a part of the company’s success but don’t want to feel like they are a slave to it. If you treat them as only a means to make money, they will feel replaceable and unmotivated and do the minimum needed to avoid getting fired. Communicate by words and actions that they are more than just a number at the end of a P&L statement. Employees who feel content and valued will want to stick around.
#3 Reward good work. If they don’t have experience, it’s best to pay low during the training process. But as soon as they are making your company money, pay them well. It takes time to gauge the right pay scale, but it should be 2-3 dollars above minimum to start. Remember, the job market is competitive right now. Fast food places are paying above minimum wage, and they offer benefits. So, give them a reason to work for you by paying well. If they can work independently, effectively doubling the amount of money your company can make, that justifies another pay raise. I’m not saying that you need to give them raises every two months, but reward them whenever they learn or refine a skill that makes your company more money. This can also be done in the form of other incentives like giving gift cards for reaching profit goals, being mentioned in online reviews, or going above and beyond in other ways you appreciate. Be creative and listen to feedback. Recognizing & rewarding their value will keep them loyal and happy.
#4 Work at building a positive culture. Remember, the new employee will not be your clone, so don’t expect it. It’s essential to have standards, but if they feel like their work is just being nit-picked all day, they aren’t going to enjoy it. So, try to balance correction with praise. Sometimes, it means just letting something go and fixing it after they leave. If you are a serious-minded person, make sure there are times you are out of “work mode” so they can see your light-hearted side. If you finish work early, buy them dinner and just hang out. Mix in fun times along with the work. Show them that part of their compensation package is having an enjoyable workplace.
If you are a single owner/operator and you’re ready to take on your first hire, that is a huge achievement you should be proud of. The next steps can produce anxiety for sure. Just remember that any hiccups along the way are temporary. If you’ve gotten this far, your business obviously has the qualities needed to handle hiccups, burps, farts, and anything else your growth might throw at you. A lot of other window cleaners have been where you are. Just take some antacids and add your name to the list. You got this.
~ Gabe Gutierrez