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Finding help, from outside the family

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How do you find good people to work at your company, assuming you haven’t brought them into the world yourself?

“The short answer of what we’re using is Craigslist,” admits Chandler Clark, owner of Signature CanvasMakers LLC, Hampton, Va. “Because, I mean, the money required to run an ad is crazy money, and the returns on it haven’t been that great. The main things we look for are attention to detail, the ability to listen and learn. We do a little ‘vote people on the island’ as a team, because we’re a fairly small elite team. If you can’t fit in, if you’re going to cause disruptions, then it’s just not going to work.”

Good tent installers aren’t too hard to come by, says Kathy Schaefer, CEO of Glawe Awnings and Tents, Fairborn, Ohio. “Every one of my crew has come from another one of my crew,” she says. “It’s all been from talking to a friend and saying, ‘Hey, my buddy wants to work here, can he come?’ I can usually tell within two or three days whether they’re going to work or not—and everybody else can, too. I’ve had people say, ‘You know what, he’s my buddy and I thought he’d work, but this isn’t going to happen.’ And then they’re just gone. It saves you from having to interview.”

Good sewers are a lot more challenging to find in her market. “I’ve learned, now, rather than deal with a lot of them that don’t know what they’re doing, the ones I have are so good that I’m better off to pay them overtime at the time I need them,” she says. “I used to lay them off in the winter. Now I keep them and I have them get way up on the spring, so that we’re totally ready to go.”

Evanston Awning Co.’s Aaron Hunzinger says the key to hiring good welders is to audition them. “When we’re in the market for a welder, we schedule a time for them to come in, and we give them a simple shop drawing of a very simple frame,” he says. “We give them the basics of how we do our corners, how we miter the metal so there are no open ends, and how we have all the seams welded. Then we’ll basically just say, ‘Build the frame!’ and then critique their work.”

Regardless of the type of employee, he agrees with Schaefer that it’s better not to have to go looking at all. “Once we find an employee who can do the job, we do whatever we can to hang on to them.”

Jamie Swedberg is a freelance writer based in Woodville, Ga.

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