INDIANAPOLIS — What you know about recruiting and hiring new employees is wrong, Mike Agugliaro, Gold Medal Service, East Brunswick, New Jersey, told a packed house of contractors attending the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show here. Agugliaro is also the founder of CEO Warrior and CONTRACTOR’s latest Contractor of the Year.
How much is one amazing employee worth? Agugliaro asked the contractors. A million dollars?
Contractors need to get passed their self-limiting beliefs, he said. In the past, Agugliaro hated his employees right after he hired them. They won’t live up to expectations, they’ll smoke dope on their lunch hour, they’ll do the work wrong, or they’ll steal. You program your brain for the outcome, he said, and that’s the outcome you’ll get unless you change your thinking. Agugliaro said that contractors should write down their self-limiting beliefs and acknowledge what they have cost them.
“You can’t take on a new skillset without a new mindset,” said Agugliaro.
Hiring is so much more than placing an ad and then interviewing candidates, Agugliaro said. It begins with an amazing company culture that people want to work for.
To begin with, Agugliaro pointed out that there is no cookie cutter approach to company culture and hiring because it has to fit each company. What works in New Jersey wouldn’t work in Alabama or in Colorado. The contractor has to establish his culture and that culture influences the type of employees that he brings in. A contractor has to create his own culture, but Agugliaro had plenty of examples of what works for his firm.
He has a Smile Program. Any employee is authorized to give a gift to any customer. A customer has a wedding? That’s a call for celebration. A family member is diagnosed with cancer? They need cheering up.
Any meeting that Agugliaro has includes a single-page form with three action items — what are you going to stop doing, what are you going to start doing and what are you going to keep doing? Having employees commit to action is part of the culture.
Contractors must “build the avatar,” a description of their perfect employee. Then they have to find that perfect employee and hire him or her. But they don’t know who they are looking for without a description of the perfect employee.
The contractor should survey his culture, so his employees tell him what’s good, what’s bad and what needs to change. When Agugliaro interviews a prospective employee it’s a two-way interview — here’s what I can do for you and tell me what you are going to do for me? The contractor must give prospective employees a vision for the future that includes opportunities for professional growth.
The interview includes sentences such as, “I need you to want to be one of the best,” and, “We’re going to a place and we want you to come along with us.”
Along with opportunities for advancement, Agugliaro offers spiffs and bonuses, including commissions that can give an employee — he calls his field people “experts” not service techs — recurring monthly revenue. Holding court after the session outside the meeting room with more than a dozen contractors who stayed to talk longer, Agugliaro said he has experts that live in $900,000 houses because they’ve earned a lot of spiffs and bonuses.
Agugliaro never stops recruiting using every type of media, social and otherwise, that’s available to him. He uses yard signs and emails customers asking if they know someone. Twenty percent of his employees are veterans and Agugliaro works the veterans’ organizations such as VFW. He hits up the trade schools, former employees and even competitors, although he noted that he always “plays nice” with competitors.
When he finds a promising recruit for whom he doesn’t have a slot, he interviews him, finds out how much the prospect wants to make, and puts him on a “hot list.” If, for example, the worker said he wants $30 per hour, Agugliaro knows what he has to offer. When he has an opening, Agugliaro calls him and says,” I have a position for you and I can pay you $32 an hour. Still interested?” Who could refuse?