You've been doing biz for a while now, using the Flat Rate pricing principles I've proposed, so you're hip-deep in cash. In the back of your mind you're beginning to think you might like to hire someone to lighten the load. You may even have attempted to hire someone fully-trained, only to find their ain't any, or they're defective. Seems all the good techs have been taken, and the ones from your Craig's List ad are ... well, let's just say, “flawed,” to be nice.
What to do? As I said in my previous article — “All the places to look for your next employee”! — I gave you numerous places to look for these folks ... even recommending women, elders, and hungry new immigrants. Thimpk outside your comfort zone and take a real hard look at women, immigrants, and elders. Hunger for betterment is one helluva motivator, and it's up to you to feed that hunger.
Let's assume you're inclined to follow my lead. You've checked in with your “inner-executive” and are positive you could hire, train, and manage at least one person. (If you have doubts, at least give the following plan a shot.) Let's look at the math of growing your outfit from one to 5+ or 6+ persons in as little as 36 months. This is a proven strategy, one I accidentally stumbled upon because I'm basically lazy.
Step 1 (Year 1): Hire a “helper” at minimum wage to ride around with you, say for 30 days. After that, or even earlier, you'll know if this person can learn and grow. You may have to hire-and-fire a bunch until you get the right person, but that's good entrepreneurial practice, and the benefits are well worth the effort: They can fetch-'n-carry; do the heavy lifting, job-prep and cleanup; you have company during your long day; and they git trained the way you want. Think what a person like this would be like in six months or a year. They could now go out on their own for simple jobs that you’ve taught them to do.
Bob Mader recommends:
A year has passed. Joe/Jane #1 can be cut loose to do the common jobs they've learned with you. He/she has their own truck and is eminently trusted because you've “raised” 'em. They ain't totally journey-level yet, but they're gittin' there fast, and, if they need to be licensed, you have 'em enrolled in trade-school.
Step 2 (Year 2): Hire another “helper” to ride with you while Jane/Joe #1 are on their own. Twenty-four months later, Jane/Joe #1 are closer to journey level, and the newbie has a year under his belt so he can git-out and do many of the simple jobs on his own.
Step 3 (Year3): Hire two “helpers” at minimum wage, one to ride around with you, and another to ride with Jane/Joe #1. Meanwhile, #3 is doing the simple jobs in his own truck. At year's end, you have one three-year journeyman, one two-year almost-journeyman, and two one-year apprentices. Counting you, that's four employees and one ecstatic owner.
Step #4 (Starting year 4): Now you do the math: Starting your 4th year, you could have two journey-level folks; three one-year trained employees; and two apprentices. (Check my math, but I think that's seven.) Bye-the-bye, you personally don't have an apprentice because you are not in a truck anymore.
Is this a foolproof, perfect plan? Yep. That's not to say you ain't goin' to have challenges along the way. Some people will not work out, some will move, some will ... well, you get the point. Howsoever, you now have a plan that your competition doesn't, so you've become the envy of every other contractor in town.
Caveats: You must be Flat Rate. You must move beyond being a technician (read the E-Myth Revisited or The E-Myth Contractor), and you must have a burning desire to learn, help others, and enjoy money .
Coming articles: How to keep them employees; how to train 'em; and how to make 'em so happy they won't even think about looking elsewhere for another buck or two.
Ain't this fun?
Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].