Offer your employees a career, not just a job.

When I ask how you pay your techs, the most frequent answer I get is, “We ask them what they made at their last job and try to negotiate from there.”

That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Would you agree some people may not tell you the truth? And if they did tell the truth, how do you know they're worth it?

You should always be recruiting, hiring and training so that you're not desperate when it comes time to hire. The way most people hire is by waiting until there's a sudden vacancy. Do this and you'll always be under pressure to fill the void. So, the only testing you can do is the “mirror test.” That means if they walk in and breathe in the mirror you say, “You're hired!”

But if you were always recruiting, hiring and training, you could be more selective. And to be more selective, you should be doing testing. It starts with asking potential candidates to fill out the job application in a specific time period to find out how well he or she reads and responds to pressure. Then you should have each candidate take a 25-question test on the trade or trades your shop specializes in, such as plumbing, heating, cooling or electric. The next test should be a set of practical problems you rigged up in your training center. Even if you don't have a dedicated training center, you can use your office.

Remember, each test needs to have a time limit to see how knowledgeable candidates are and how well they react to pressure.

Would you like to know now what they really know? Or do you prefer to find out when they're in your customers' homes?

Want to know what other checking and testing you need to be doing? There is checking to see if they have a clean driver's license, drug testing, criminal background checking and personality profiling that all help you hire the right person.

Can you afford the cost of ongoing recruiting, hiring and training? I say the cost is minimal compared to the cost of hiring the wrong people. The testing helps you minimize the chance of hiring the wrong people.

Avoid Salary Negotiation

Now that we know the candidates better, it's easier to determine what you should really be paying them. But let me ask you this: Don't you hate people knocking on your door all the time asking you for a raise? Guess what? They hate coming to you for a raise. So what I suggest is that you get out of the salary negotiation game.

Switch to salary levels for demonstrated skills and provide a bonus and compensation program that rewards those who achieve sales, operational and technical success. This works great with existing techs you have and those you hire.

It's actually best if you start with willing apprentices and teach them that you pay a base salary and reward with bonuses and spiffs (spiffs are defined as bonuses on specific sales of products and services). Plus, by starting with apprentices instead of trying to find and then deal with spoiled veteran techs, life becomes a lot less stressful.

My clients have customized the template below and learned how to present the following to a candidate during the recruiting, hiring and training process I've developed for them:

    1. Let's say you arrive as a 21-year-old. Possibly, you've been through a trade school or worked in some mechanical trade.

    2. You impress me with your willingness.

    3. I then tell you the base pay for an apprentice is, for example, $10 an hour.

    4. I explain that at Appleseed, you can't remain an apprentice for life. Appleseed is all about training, which makes all the difference between this just being a job and this being a career. We offer careers!

    5. You start as an apprentice and show me you can learn the basic skills in the shop that we'll teach you. Then, you've earned the right to work with the techs in the field.

    6. Show up consistently, on time, demonstrate the basic skills we've taught you and get good reports from the senior personnel you work for, and you'll be eligible to apply for our in-house Apprentice-To-Junior-Tech Program.

    7. Once you graduate from apprentice to junior tech and get your own truck, you get an increase in base pay to $15 an hour. You show that you represent the company well, and are organized. And if you sell above your individual sales goal, you get to participate in our ongoing Bonus & Spiff Plan. You can make $70,000 and up in a year.

    8. After you show us you are successful in sales, operational and technical for six months as a junior tech, you can qualify to go to our in-house Junior-Tech-To-Senior-Tech Training. This training focuses on the sales, operational and technical training on all the remaining tasks in the plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical manuals.

    9. You graduate from junior tech to senior tech and possibly get a better Appleseed truck; you also get an increase in base pay to $20 per hour. Plus, if you sell above your individual sales goal, you get the following Bonus & Spiff Plan. $100,000 is what you can make in a year. You have a better opportunity to sell more because you now can sell all the tasks in the flat rate book that you couldn't do as a junior tech.

    10. If you are in the top third in sales, top third in operational performance and the top third in least call-backs, you can apply for our in-house Senior-Tech-To-Field-Supervisor Training. You also must have attained your journeyman's license. When you graduate this training, you will be qualified for either the addition or replacement of a field supervisor. As a field supervisor, you get an increase in base pay to $25 per hour.

You will be the primary contact person for your team of four to five techs while you work in the field. You supply the sales, operational and technical support they need. You'll work under the direct supervision of the service manager.

You continue to get a bonus on your own sales and you get an additional bonus if your team exceeds its sales, operational and technical goals. And, you get to sell items like kitchen and bath remodels or other big-ticket items that a senior tech is not permitted to sell so you can earn a commission on this sale.

Do this and you're offering a career to your employees, not just a job. Nobody needs to come knocking on your door asking for a pay raise because they'll be giving themselves a raise!