We can all agree that business today is adjusting to a new reality in which people are less grateful to have a job, and more selective about whom they’ll work for.  

Let’s consider some changes in our thinking as employers to make our shops more attractive to those great hires we really want.

-Chuck McKay

Rob owns a small engine repair company.  

He’s an excellent mechanic, but has discovered over the years that he’s an even better salesperson. Another mechanic on the bench frees him to pitch his company’s repair services to firms that use, and wear out, small gasoline engines. 

But, for the last several months Rob hasn’t had another mechanic. He expressed frustration that “nobody wants to work” for the $25 per hour he’s offering. Nobody Rob? Well, nobody with experience. “I need someone who can work without supervision because I need to be out selling,” said Rob.  

What is the shop billing?” I asked Rob.  

About three hundred thousand a year.”  

And what could you bring in if you were free to focus on sales?

Double that. Easily. In this economy, maybe two and a half times.”  

Could you hire the best small engine mechanic in town for, say, $65 an hour?”  

You want me to pay $65 an hour?” Rob asked incredulously.

“Rob, we’re talking about investing $83,000 per year to generate as much as an additional $450,000 each year.  That’s almost a five and a half time return on your investment.  

“Could the best mechanic in town work without supervision? Could he handle perhaps two and a half times your current workload? That eliminates your backroom issues.  

“And with $65,000 annual compensation, would you ever have to worry about a competitor hiring him away from you?  

“Maybe $65 isn’t the actual number, Rob, but you can see the concept at work, right?

Rob told me he would have to think about it.  

Sadly, months later, it seems he is still thinking.

Your industry may be short of technicians, but there’s no reason your company must be.  

Using Culture to Attract Superstar Employees

As your company’s reputation grows, as more homeowners are saying, “I really like these guys,” prospective employees are affected in much the same way. They’ll want to know more about working for your company. It shouldn’t surprise us that workers in your industry want to find their own tribe, as well.  

Employees who believe in and share company values reduce turnover to as little as 4% of the typical company.

Even some competitor’s employees will be interested in changing employers. Help them to understand why they should.  

Competing for Experienced Techs

During the last building boom general contractors would drive from construction site to construction site to on the spot hire carpenters away from their competitors. The primary appeal? More money.  

Money and standard benefits are important to everyone, but that’s not all that good, experienced technicians want. They also want 40 hour per week, year round employment.  

The best technicians are problem solvers. They want challenging work. They want opportunities to learn and grow professionally. They want to make an impact, and to work on projects that matter.  

And they want to work for companies whose values reflect their own. 

Use Your Current Staff to Promote Working for Your Company

Imagine a radio campaign in which your bookkeeper explains how proud she is of the technicians she works with, and the company she works for.  

Or a billboard on a busy highway with a photo and simple statement from one of your techs that his skills stay sharp thanks to the 40 hours of annual training provided by your company.  

Could you feature the wife or husband of one of your technicians in a city magazine or local newspaper? Imagine the impression left when she, or he, brags about the company the spouse works for.  

How about a succession of customer testimonials expressing the trust they have for any employee you send to help them? Or advising a grandchild to aspire to work for a company like yours that invests in employees and treats them as the long-term assets they are.

Could you do all of these things?  

A recruitment program like the one described here takes the focus off the next job opening you need to fill, and puts it on the reasons great employees choose to work for you. An on-going image campaign like this requires year round presentation. Give your recruitment program its own budget.  

Recruitment ads must communicate the same values as every other ad you create for your company. People should immediately know that both campaigns present the same company.  

Build Your Own Bench of Candidates

The beauty of starting conversations with currently employed technicians is they aren’t desperate to find a job. You and the candidate can have much better conversations about future possibilities.   

Let there be a real courtship as you explore the possibilities of a future together.  

Properly cultivated, these individuals will be waiting in the wings, ready to fill upcoming vacancies.  

In Part 14 of this series we’ll take a closer look at the local labor pool. In part 15 you’ll learn why I’m so gung ho on military veterans re-entering the workforce. And in Part 16 we’ll explore growing your own technicians.  


The content for this series of posts was taken from Chuck McKay’s The Personality Prescription for Contractors, available on Amazon.  

Links to previous posts in this series: 

Part 1 – Stalled Growth

Part 2 – Never Cut Price

Part 3 – You’re Choosing Cheap Ones

Part 4 – Other Homeowners’ Motivations

Part 5 – Let’s Sell Something

Part 6 – Uniqueness

Part 7 – Company Culture

Part 8 – Your Company’s Reputation

Part 9 – Using Your Culture

Part 10 – The Company Spokesperson

Part 11 – You Should be a Celebrity

Part 12 – The Perils of Celebrity