There are several things to consider when you think about what type of work you want to do. Generally speaking, it’s better to do a few things well rather than trying to do it all. Consider what types of work are available in your area, what you are best equipped to do and what it is that you do well. This will help you to determine what niche you want to aim for and, in turn, the makeup of the crew you will need.
Depending on the size of your operation, I would suggest a mix of skill sets and levels. A strong superintendent to help oversee your operations is key to your success. This is especially true as you grow your company. At some point, you will realize that you can’t do it all yourself; marketing, estimating, contract administration, supervising, hiring, and the list goes on, doesn’t it?
A reliable and capable superintendent will not only protect your interests, but will also allow you to grow. This admittedly is the most challenging person to find. I have always started with someone who has a solid foundation in the trade who I know I can trust. You can build on their abilities from there if need be. One critical part of your superintendent’s job description will be to supervise and train your forepersons.
Depending on your volume, you will need a number of forepersons to run your crews. These key people should also have a proven track record as well as the capacity to work with and supervise people. There seems to be a common misconception that we should just promote from within. That is when a foreperson position becomes available that we automatically tend to pick our “best painter” for the job. That seems to have some kind of logic to it, but I have found that not all excellent painters are excellent managers. On the other hand, sometimes they are. You need to be aware of this potential pitfall, promote carefully and be willing to commit to the necessary training. The main body of your workforce will normally be made up of journeymen and apprentices. If you don’t have a Union affiliation, you may just refer to them as “painters” and “helpers,” but they are also vital to your success, as they are the people “getting it done” for you.
Your avenues for finding help are probably only limited by your imagination. I would suggest a few of the more common ones; membership in a local Union is one obvious resource. Union halls can provide skilled people on short notice, depending on availability of course. The quality of the painters referred to you will vary, as with any method of seeking help. A few additional options are Job Readiness Programs such as www.secondchanceprogram.org, newspaper adds, industry journals and publications, magazines, and painting-related web SOURCES. A few are www.linkedin.com, www.bloggingpainters.com or www.painttalk.com.
One last word on hiring. I would encourage you to avoid falling victim to the pressure of demand. You will always have commitments to meet, but a “warm body” may provide only “cold comfort.” Put another way, you may fill a position, but if that person doesn’t show up for work consistently, or when they do, don’t perform, they are more of a liability than an asset. Learn to evaluate your personnel quickly. In my opinion, it shouldn’t take more than a week or two to figure out if a person is a good fit. I find that people most often fit into one of four categories:
- They’re a keeper
- They need training (provided they are trainable)
- They need motivation
- They need a different job
That seems a good segue into the topic of firing, which I will keep short. Having to let someone go is never fun for anybody, but it is nonetheless part of running a business. If you are fortunate, hire wisely and treat your staff well, you will hopefully have people that will stay for years. There are times however when we all have to terminate someone’s employment. This should only come after you have exhausted the steps mentioned above; by providing training if it is needed or the appropriate motivation (each person is different) and giving everyone a fair chance. If it does become necessary to part ways, it should be done with courtesy and respect.
Consistent and thoughtful training is an ongoing and critical part of any successful company. You are primarily responsible to see that you have a program in place to meet this goal. You train your superintendent, he or she trains the foreperson who in turn trains the crew. Nonetheless, it starts with you. I often hear a foreperson complain that they don’t have time to train because they have a production quota to meet. It falls on you to empower them to take the time to improve the skills of those under them. It is surprising how little time it can take to stop and show someone a correct brush or spraying technique, and what lasting returns that investment can achieve. This mentoring mentally needs to be ingrained in your crews, as it pays dividends directly to your operations. Please check out one of the best resources for training in our industry at www.evergreentech.net.
Hiring, firing and training is not why most of you got into the business, but they are important traits and skills all businessmen people need in order to succeed.
How do you go about hiring, firing and training your employees? Let us know in the comments section below.