Employees Management Montana Web 2.0

Video want ads to find an employee?

bluesboys.jpg At left, my wanna-be Jake and Elwood in their Blues Brothers House of Blues shirts, about 7 years ago along the Missouri River in Ft. Benton, MT. Who would hire these guys? 🙂

One of the ways you eventually become an advisor to other business owners is by making (and usually learning from) your own foolish mistakes.

How to advertise for and select employees is one of those areas where you can get plenty of “learn by doing wrong” experience. Making mistakes is ok. Making the same one repeatedly is not.

The first time I placed an ad for programmer was back in my mainframe days. Silly me, I used the word “assembler” in the newspaper. Everyone and their mom who had ever put two pieces of anything together in a manufacturing environment was calling, faxing etc. Seems that outside of the geek world, “assembler” means “someone who puts things together”. Whodathunkit?

A few years later, older and presumably smarter me was looking for a new tech support person. I had a weird idea and figured I’d give it a shot. Instead of putting a bunch of detail in a newspaper ad and having to filter through all the folks who weren’t qualified, I took a different tack: I’d let them filter themselves.

I put a one line ad in the paper: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company. Email MS Word resume as attachment to”.

I included no phone number. No address. No company name. Anyone paying attention could get all of that information from the domain name used in the email address. Anyone who didn’t get that really wasn’t qualified for the job.

I got 43 inquiries in 2 weeks, from places as far away as Austria, from an ad in a weekly, small mountain town newspaper in rural Montana.

Let’s break down the ad.

First: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company” – this says you need to know Windows, you need to know how to do tech support, you’ll be working for a software company and the job is in Columbia Falls (well, mostly).

The point of this is to eliminate as many people as possible while attracting the right candidates. People with Windows experience who understand what tech support is for a software company. The rest is details at this point. Get rid of anyone who is scared of those words, cuz they aren’t a good fit.

Next: “Email MS Word resume as attachment to some email address”.

This gets rid of a lot of people without me having to do anything. It also tells me whether or not they can follow instructions. First of all, anyone who can’t understand what I just asked is not likely to apply, or not likely to be able to apply. Which is just what I want.


  • If they don’t use or have access to Word, I’m not interested.
  • If they can’t send an email, I’m not interested.
  • If they don’t know what an attachment is, I’m not interested.

Results? Found the best employee I ever had from this ad. She still works in that job, 5+ years later.  She is a superstar at that company and now runs that entire department.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses using that method. We got a lot of phone calls with questions. We got a lot of the same questions by email. Lots of wasted time.

Soooo the next time, I fine tuned the ad:

“Windows tech support person wanted. For details, see”  (note: the newspaper ad salespeople really don’t like this, but I really don’t care).

On the web page, I went into detail about the job, the expectations the candidate should have for us as well as the expectations the company would have for them. I suspect the SHRM-trained human resource folks reading this blog are going to flip when they read the anonymous version of the “Hire me” page but it is what it is. Er, was.

Last but not least, if you were interested, you were NOT to call, you were to again email a MS Word resume as an attachment to

Again, it required following instructions. Anyone who didn’t follow instructions, even Bill Gates, was not considered.

It also eliminated a lot of the questions that the previous method didn’t address. I could easily address workplace, people, karma, qualifications, and anything else I wanted on the webpage. I used the page to not only attract the right candidates, but also to make sure to get rid of / scare away the people I wasn’t interested in.

We hired two people from that ad. One worked out and still works there. The other, far more experienced one, was fired for non-performance within a month or so (Montana law says you are an at-will employee on probation for substantially longer than that, SHRM-boy).

At the time, someone had advised us to hire two people and keep the good one. We did. I understand the other one is doing fine now, they just weren’t a good fit with us.

So what’s the next step? Video want ads, as seen in this Wall Street Journal Independent Street story.

It takes a step beyond the website idea, plus the face and the voice in the video makes it more personal (I like that idea, ya think?).

How would you improve the process?

SHRMers, I’m curious: What’s your take on this process from HR’s “dot the i’s, cross the t’s, keep all the lawyers happy” perspective?

Customer service Employees Management Web 2.0

Do you care THIS MUCH about your customers?

Show me. Post a comment and tell me of acts that you’ve experienced (or given someone else) that are even remotely like the one described below. Imagine if you thought about them just a little tiny bit more than you do now.

How many pairs of shoes do you think the two small acts described in this post are going to sell over time?

How many clients will they get, simply because they were …. thoughtful?

If you’re the small shoe shop in town, I’m sure you’ve wondered how can you compete with this “big impersonal internet shoe company with no overhead and low prices”. (See, I knew you were thinking “Wal-Mart for shoes”)

They don’t sound so big and impersonal now, do they? See, behind that website, there are entrepreneurs. People. They have parents too.

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking “I’m the only shoe store in town, bring me all the money!” and maybe, just be as nice as they are, or maybe even nicer, since your clients are your neighbors and the internet shoe store never gets the privilege of meeting their clients face to face.

How difficult is that? Costs little or nothing. Pays off big time.

Do people talk about you and your store like this?

It starts with good people, but without the right management in place to train and set the example and let people know they have the latitude to be thoughtful, this kind of stuff won’t happen.

Make it happen. Be like Or better.

Corporate America Employees Management ONE

Why Street Cleaning Is The Most Important Job In Your Business

Imagine that your attention to quality is so weak that you could make enough bad product today (or next week) to actually kill your company.

Who was monitoring their sanitation processes, other than the understaffed, seemingly incoherent USDA, who actually thought about it for a few days before asking for the recall, for reasons that none of us will ever really know (ie: politics).

The thing is, this sort of stuff seems NORMAL to some meat plants. Our domestic beef industry routinely gets banned, unbanned and banned again in other countries because we stick stuff in a box that says “no bones” and someone will open a crate overseas and find bone marrow, bone pieces, BSE lab samples, or Jimmy Hoffa.

Ok, you got me, I made that last one up:)

Did you know that the plant that produces more hamburger patties than any other plant in the US has just one USDA inspector on the site? Yep, the same Topps Meat plant that is now closed.

How do you make 331 thousand pounds of bad hamburgers? By not managing “the little things”.

By now, you are undoubtedly wondering what this has to do with your software company, car wash, restaurant (sort of), retail store, or outdoor power equipment store.

It all comes down to your management. Your understanding that the “little guy’s job” is more important than the CEO’s job.

You have to impress upon the street cleaner that their job is important, even if they don’t think it is and your city appears to prove it by paying the street guy $12.50 an hour.

No, cleaner streets aren’t going to bring the troops home, make Britney a good parent, bring back the glaciers, balance the budget, or eliminate obesity. On the other hand, the street cleaner’s job might keep a car from hitting a piece of metal, blowing a tire, veering off the road and running over your neighbor’s seven year old while they ride their new Wal-Mart bike down the sidewalk.

That’s pretty important, don’t you think?

Look around and you’ll see plenty of “unimportant jobs” that are critical to the success of their organization, yet the people doing them are barely managed, their performance often unmonitored and definitely unmeasured. And those folks quite often care deeply about what they do, despite being treated like crap.

A friend of mine is a cook at the local high school (reality: she’s a master). Most folks have no idea how hard it is to cook 2 meals a day for 1200 people in a space smaller than the size of your garage – much less serve, clean it up for tomorrow, plan for next week, order the supplies and maintain the equipment. Is that job important? Think so.

The next time you hire someone to do what you feel is an unimportant job, or you take what you think is an unimportant job, think a little harder about the impact that job has.

How important was the job of the Topps Meat quality control team who missed whatever tainted 331 thousand pounds of their burger?

Apparently it was important enough to kill a 67 year old company and instantly put 77 people out of work (87 before it’s all over).

The little things, like sand in a wheel bearing, will tear your company apart and send your customers running to your competition. Customers notice the little stuff and they’ll wonder – if the little stuff is messed up, how good are you at the big stuff?

Do the “little things” right and take good care of the people who do them. They hold your company – and your customers – in the palm of their hand.

Competition Customer service Employees Management Marketing Montana Retail Starbucks

Business owners can’t get a hit unless they swing the bat.

A few weeks ago, I decided to celebrate winning a Glazer-Kennedy (GKIC) contest by having a contest of my own.

To enter, you needed to send me the best testimonial you have. It could be about you, about me, or anyone else.

The best testimonial would do what we talk about here when discussing what makes a great testimonial. It might address a sales objection, such as price, unfamiliarity with the vendor/product, common reasons not to buy, etc. It would mention a specific vendor, or product. It would be specific about results.

Joel’s testimonial did all those things.

Competition Corporate America Employees Entrepreneurs Marketing Starbucks Strategy Wal-Mart

Competing with Walmart – this guy gets it.

Last week, a story in the Flathead Beacon (a weekly print/internet paper that carries my business column) discussed a Whitefish MT store called Main Street Art and Crafts Supplies.

Main Street offers arts and crafts, but takes things to the next level, by offering classes in cake decorating, stained glass, etc.

One quote leaped out from the Beacon story, telling me that owner Rick Latta gets it:

â??I canâ??t compete with Wal-Mart prices, but Wal-Mart doesnâ??t walk customers through projects, give them ideas, teach them tricks or have a studio with tools where people can come and work and ask questions,â? he said.

This is where you make a difference by hiring the right people (experienced in those crafts), paying them a little more so they don’t have to work at Wal-Mart, and more importantly, doing what Wal-Mart simply won’t do.

It doesn’t matter if your small business competes with Borders, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Circuit City or Starbucks: They won’t do the little things like Rick is doing. Will you?

Those stores will focus on price, above all else. You have to change the rules of the game, as Rick has.

Employees Management

3 minute warning: Big reasons employers have to pay attention to the little things

In football, the 2 minute warning seems to work fairly well to wake up teams from Denver/Dallas and kick them in to high gear. How many times did Staubach, Aikman and Elway cause more scoreboard damage in 2 minutes than in perhaps the rest of the game? Plenty.

One thing you couldn’t do in that 2 minute period was make mistakes. Former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was quoted in last month’s GKIC newsletter as saying something along the lines of “the Cowboys always knew we could always come back from one mistake, but two mistakes tended to beat us”. 2 minutes isn’t very long if you use that time to make mistakes.

At my favorite coffee shop, the 3 minute warning is what gets you.

Competition Corporate America Employees Management Marketing

San Diego recruited for performance AND character. So should your business.

CNN is reporting a deal between Federal prosecutors and Michael Vick’s legal team regarding the dog fighting related charges filed against him, which include the use of cruel methods of execution of his dogs. Vick’s troubles are another in a seemingly endless list of athletes whose millions, homes, cars, companions and business interests aren’t enough to entertain them.

Ever wonder when or if professional sports (much less college sports) will figure out that the hiring and subsequent glorification of drugs, thugs and “gangstas” is not only stupid, but bad for business?

Corporate America Customer service Employees Management

This old man, he’s got Dish.

Well, he sorta has Dish. He has a bill every month anyhow.

Dish Networks is simply amazing.

I haven’t done business with them in years. Their customer service 8 years ago was mildly annoying but nothing unusual for a public “utility” of that nature. We expect them to be bad, or at least, barely better than AT&T.

This story about an older guy and his account with Dish Networks are a great example of what not to do, how not to do something as ugly as that, and perhaps most importantly, why “it’s our policy” is a great way to create horrific referrals and PR that you won’t be proud of.

The money is bad enough, but the way this call was handled – even if the description isn’t 100% accurate – is astoundingly ugly – even for a big, dumb corporation.

How much is it worth to have your company used as a bad example of customer service? Is it worth the $150 they got?

Training your staff to handle things like this is one of the most valuable things you’ll do for the long term health of your business. If nothing else, training them to be at least marginally human, vs robots that say “It’s our policy” over and over again will get you higher up the food chain past AT&T.

You can, and should, do better.

Competition Corporate America Customer service Employees Management The Slight Edge

If you pay your people minimum wage, you are an idiot.

Earlier today, I got an urgent email warning me about the recent minimum wage hike.

The Fair Labor Standards Act increased the federal minimum wage in three steps:

  • July 24, 2007, $5.85 per hour
  • July 24, 2008, $6.55 per hour
  • July 24, 2009, $7.25 per hour

If you have employees in your store making minimum wage, you MUST increase their pay rate immediately! If you have already paid them for time worked after July 24 you must calculate the difference between their old rate and the new rate and give them a paycheck to make up the difference!

Heads up – You should only have to do this if you are an idiot.