Thursday, May 9, 2019

It’s Not Hard to Find Good Help if You know How

By Ben Kinsey

Image courtesy flickr
When it comes to small businesses there are several complaints that are almost universally expressed by owners.  They hate paying one penny more in taxes than they absolutely have to.  They can never be too credit worthy.  And they all agree that it’s hard to find good help.  While most CPAs can help small businesses solve the first two of these conundrums, I thought I’d go the extra mile to help you handle the third.

What is Good Help?

Just as with most business goals, if you can’t describe it you can’t achieve it.  When it comes to small business owners, if you ask them to define what is meant by “Good Help,” they will be hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Some owners will say that they seek employees who are energetic, punctual and courteous to customers.  Others add that when they hire, they’re looking for staff who are more committed to helping the company than they are in watching the clock.  If you’re looking for superlative help, it helps if you first set down in writing exactly what it is you seek in employees.  If you have been having problem either hiring new employees or retaining them, what you need to do is stop making the same mistakes that are derailing your efforts.

Which is more important, aptitude or attitude?

Image courtesy Pixabay
While most employers focus on hiring based on the ability of an employee to perform the job at hand, if this is the only qualification, you could quickly find yourself in hot water.  This is true whether you’re hiring a plumber or an executive, since both represent your company.  The problem for most businesses isn’t getting a position filled, it’s getting the right person in the right slot.  What I mean by that is hiring a warm body isn’t the same thing as hiring a motivated, dedicated individual who will solve more problems than they create.  The only way to avoid hiring a poor employee is to describe your concept of one that is ideal.

When it comes to placing a help wanted ad, do you desire quantity or quality?  Once you’ve defined your dream hire, the next step is to craft a help wanted ad that will attract this elusive applicant.  If you can convey this concept correctly, it will not only help you attract the best qualified candidates, it will also help you keep from being buried alive by responses.  Translated, this means the job of the ad is not to cast a net over anyone who is remotely qualified.  Its job is to help you weed out the people who may have the skills but don’t have the character that help define an applicant who has the right stuff.  This vital step is the pre-qualifying process.

Image courtesy Blue Diamond Gallery
If you make the process too easy on the applicant, it will make the job hard on you.  If you find yourself inundated by responses from a help wanted ad, you haven’t crafted the ad properly.  You will know this is the case if your phone suddenly starts ringing off the hook or your email box gets flooded with resumes shortly after you place an ad.  The way to avoid this is to put a speed-bump in front of all applicants that makes them give something before they get something. One of the best ways to weed out the chaff from the wheat is to create a form that every applicant is required to fill out before they can qualify for an interview.  The form itself should not only ask the applicant to detail their qualifications for the position, but it should require them to answer questions that relate to such things as personality, social skills, willingness to learn and follow directions.  

(Below is a sample ad for painters posted by Steve Burnett the DYB Coach.)

If you’re the painter we’re looking for…You are described by your references as very neat and clean, friendly, enthusiastic, conscientious, as well as courteous, mature and a relaxed team player who holds yourself to high standards.  You present yourself as a trustworthy and punctual person who always has a smile on their face.  You are eager to learn and grow with a caring team with high expectations.  You will be responsible for prepping and painting interior and exterior surfaces without direct supervision.

ABSOLUTE MUST – You have your own personal truck, a driver’s license, smartphone and email.
PLEASE DO NOT CALL! If you call, you will disqualify yourself by not following instructions.
If this is YOU…be ready to tell me why by filling out the form below.

Not only did this ad help Steve hire qualified, motivated painters, it also helped him build and eventually sell his painting business.

Weed them and reap.  By taking the time to prequalify applicants, not only will this reduce the sheer volume of responses, it will let you know who is really motivated to go the extra mile to work for you.  The next way to cull the herd even more is by understanding how to interview applicants on the telephone.  Just as with the prequalification part of the process, if you want to wind up with a consistent result, you need to start with a consistent phone interview.  That means you need to write down the questions you want to ask all applicants who have made it through the prescreening, so you can ask all applicants the same questions.   

Just as with the form, the objective of the telephone interview isn’t to decide who to hire.  Its designed to help you weed out the candidates to a precious few who you will schedule to meet at your office. That means it should take you only 10-15 minutes per phone interview.  It also means if you accomplish the task successfully, the remaining few candidates you do call into your office should make the job of finding the right person for the right slot a lot easier than it is now.  Even better, if you run out of candidates before you schedule an office visit, all you need to do to find good help is repeat the process.

Ben Kinsey, CPA of Small Business Group works with owners of closely held corporations in the Northeast Florida region.  If you work in the North Florida area we offer a FREE initial Consultation at our office, please contact Small Business Group if you would like to know more about strategies for your business.


  1. Hiring doesn't have to be as painful as root canal.

  2. There is a saying that goes - "Good help is hard to find!", it should say - "Good help is harder to find!, instead ;D