Successful contractors have one thing in common: they have the best people working for them … or, I should say, with them.

They are always on the lookout for qualified people looking for long-term positions. They know they “can’t do it alone,” so they constantly seek out the best people and give them career opportunities. They’ve learned that good, motivated people can accomplish great things and weak people can’t handle normal responsibilities.

Contrary to what many in the industry think, hiring the best is not all about the starting salary package. For the kind of people you want in your organization, opportunity usually trumps starting salary. That said, you’ll never hire the best people if your competitors offer better compensation packages than you. Offering less than market rates is a sure way to create a revolving door when it comes to keeping good people.

Always seek leaders

Successful companies are always seeking emerging leaders who can work their way up their organizational charts. That should be your goal, as well, recruiting and hiring qualified people looking for long-term positions. For that reason, include a discussion about long-term opportunities within your company during every interview you conduct. In today’s tight employment market your applicants may (and probably do) have several options.

First impressions are usually accurate, so if at first you see something good in an applicant, follow up on it. But, be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions, and then be quiet and let the jobseeker tell you their story. What you want to discover is the applicant’s level of engagement, their attitude. There is logic in the adage “hire attitude and then train specifics.”

I know a large contractor who hired an auto dealership general manager as his general manager some time ago and it worked out very well. Yes, the jobseeker had good management skills but, equally important, he brought a can-do attitude to his new job.

Fill your senior management team with the best people, and they’ll help you find the best middle managers because they want to work with a winning team. Senior vice president, general manager and operations managers are your key partners in finding the most qualified middle managers and growing your company. Challenge your management team to assemble a top-class team of middle managers.

Establish goals, set expectations

Regardless of position, each new hire should know what is expected of them in terms of job performance and what they can expect in return for their services. Be reasonable with your expectations, but never set goals that are achievable by mediocre performance. Clearly state expectations and avoid over-promising.

“First of all, do you have a clear role for the individuals you’re looking for? Having a clear role covering job duties and objectives as well as who they report to and how they are going to be measured is a good way to increase success,” says Mike Rorie, CEO of GoiLawn and the former owner of a multimillion-dollar landscape company.

“If you want to hedge your bets, have them assessed, using software designed to tell how a person will behave in several situations and how they interpret and communicate. I’ve used PeopleBest.com and had good success,” continues Rorie. He also advises having your management team involved in making important employee hires.

Then comes training and periodic performance reviews. Rorie advises reviewing the performance of a new manager after 90 days, but sooner if any possible issues begin to develop.

Lay out the advancement path

Good managers want to be great managers. Good account managers want to be promoted when they consistently exceed goals. The same goes for supervisors, crew chiefs and laborers. I have seen many examples of employees starting as laborers and working their way into management. Every new hire should realize that when they excel at their current position they will have advancement opportunities.

Challenge people and keep them on track by setting goals. Set top management goals focused on company profitability and cost reductions. Chart the progress of new managers and reward them when their performance achieves or exceeds the goals you have established. Establish regular check points that let employees know where they stand in relationship to their goals.

Sales and marketing people are responsible for and challenged to increase revenue and business. Account managers’ main responsibilities include retaining and growing their existing client base and establishing new accounts. They’re also responsible for the profit margins on their accounts, and they work in conjunction with management to address low-margin clients.

It’s the job of supervisors to lead the way by establishing goals and involving the crews in implementing the company’s action plans. Field supervisors, crew chiefs and operators must continually focus on increasing efficiency and productivity on every job.

Hiring the right people is important to growing your business, and so is letting your people grow along with you.

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