Adding Employees Without Disrupting Your Shop
Well, after months of work, equipping, spending days at the construction site, renting parking spaces at other facilities and forcing our employees to walk a few blocks to work in 15-degree weather this winter as a result, we did it: Our newest location is now 100 percent open. It’s been a huge undertaking building this one, our largest location, but I’m thrilled at the result. The growth has been tremendous and we’re already doing $100,000 in sales per month during our slowest time of year.
I learned a lot from opening this location and I’m happy to say that all the trial and error over the years paid off. The area I see the most amount of improvement, though, is definitely staffing. This time around, we were extremely particular about not putting new employees there, and instead, backfill our other locations to keep the culture as consistent as we can. Being a brand-new shop, we’re growing so fast so it feels like every couple of days, we need to add more and more people. That’s especially true because we started off fairly lean: just four technicians, a production person and a CSR. Now, that was largely because of the construction, so as the space opened up, we kept adding people and we’re up to 24 people total now, so you can see the amount we needed to add relatively quickly.
Having to add so many people at once is where you can get into trouble really easily, though: You still need to find the right people and the right people working together. You always need to keep the culture of the company in mind. That’s why we decided to pluck people from existing locations in the first place. But, keeping the culture of the company in mind also means being considerate of those existing locations. When opening a new location, it’s natural that you as the owner will spend a lot of time there. There’s no way you can deny it: It’s simply going to take up a lot of your time and energy. But even still, you never want the employees at your other locations feeling like second fiddle. If anyone thinks that we’re hurting one location by taking people away, by spending too much time at the new shop, or even by moving work away from the old shop, that can affect culture. It can affect the base that you’ve already spent so much time creating, and that can have a really negative impact throughout your entire company.
I know I’ve talked about building trust in previous columns, but it really can’t be hammered home enough. You can’t do anything without trust. It’s the building block of everything. Your employees have to trust that we’re not going to do anything that isn’t in everyone’s best interest. We have to be flexible, continue with that and celebrate the wins at each location.
Throughout construction, we overstaffed at the existing locations. I’m not going to lie: The timing worked out perfectly. We had a massive workload during those periods. Normally overstaffing isn’t a good thing, especially in a market with drastic weather conditions, and we never want to lay people off as a result. But this year, we lucked out and no one sat around. We were able to stay on top of everything and we broke records.
When it came time to start moving people, we planned the staffing pretty strategically. First, one of the best things about adding this location is that we did it once we were at capacity at our other locations. So, we had a meeting at the other shops and said, “We have to take people and work from this location. We can’t fit any more work through these shops.” We then really honed on the people who can look at the big picture. Not everyone can do that, which is OK. We said, “We’re opening a new shop; if anyone is interested in moving to that one or is ready for a change of scenery or a promotion, we’ll always take that into consideration.” You wouldn’t believe the responses that I got. We were able to get a really good core group right away.
But, there were also people who I really wanted to move over who didn’t exactly raise their hands. That’s when I needed to do some convincing. In particular, I got responses from one guy who said, “I’ve worked at the same location for 20-something years. I don’t want to move.” Well, I needed him to. With the new location, they didn’t have an estimator. The production guy knew estimates and we really needed those skills until we were ready to add a full-time estimator. When that’s the case, you really have to open the lines of communication and explain your thinking. It’s not punishment. I’m putting you there because you’re a leader and could help grow the shop and the team over there quickly. Do you agree or disagree? Now he’s over there and he loves it.
When staff feel overlooked at times, we’ll continue to make it right. We’ve got to take our time. My staff is all commission so they respect that, No. 1, we take that paycheck into account. Administratively, they share the pay with all locations. They’re excited for the growth, as long as we do it correctly.