Finding the Best People

find the right people

Ever since their businesses emerged from the challenges COVID inflicted on them, one common challenge that all of my dealer partners still face is staffing issues.

Almost everyone I know is still running their company short-handed, while actively searching for qualified people. At the same time, many of them have complained that the available talent pool is shallow, so to speak. It’s hardly a universal answer, but it shouldn’t be surprising that generally speaking, qualified people who are doing a good job are happy where they are, and aren’t looking to change jobs. That means that some proportion of the available labor pool looking for work isn’t going to have everything that companies are looking for.

I’ve heard from more than one of my dealers that the reason some out-of-work installers are looking for work is simple: They aren’t very good. I’ve heard about installers with years of experience who weren’t able to answer basic technical questions in the interview. Or worse, they had poor work habits or large gaps in their technical skills that only became apparent after they were hired.

To be fair, this isn’t a recent phenomenon. Years ago, after a number of disappointing hires, my old boss fumed and said to me, “From now on, instead of asking about their experience and certifications I’m going to lock them in a room with boxes of IKEA furniture and a stopwatch, and if they can read manuals and follow simple directions — they’re hired!”

A point that I’ve made for years is that in order to increase the depth of the talent pool, companies need to actively look outside their narrow and specific channel of the AV and CE businesses and acquire talent from outside. Cast your nets wider in search of great people. Not only does that broaden your pool of potential candidates, but also it cross-pollinates your company with skills and experience from other industries.

The project manager at the AV integration company I worked at was a Certified Engineering Technologist, with oilfield and automotive experience. A combination of technical aptitude and — most of all — industrial project planning training and experience were a big part of his contribution to our team.

That doesn’t just apply to technical and mechanical trades like installers. Look outside the channel for new sales professionals. That doesn’t mean strictly looking for sales experience either. This past week I was visiting one of the more remote branches of one of my larger commercial dealers. My primary reason for visiting was to meet the new branch manager and inventory clerk. But while I was there I met their salesperson, who was very impressive.

It was later, talking to the company’s general manager, and I mentioned how impressive their salesperson at the branch was that I learned the backstory. The general manager and a couple of the owners frequently stayed at the same hotel every time they were in town, where she worked at the front desk. The owners were so blown away by this person’s attitude and professionalism that they convinced her to come to work for them in commercial sales.

Since then, more often than not in any given month, she’s been the top salesperson in the entire company.

Assembling a great team is a process, and sometimes it seems like it’s an unending one. Look outside the industry, stay open-minded, and do your best to find people who want to excel.