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Key Idea: Hire Those Who Want To Learn

Employees stay where they are challenged to learn about new products and technologies.

Key Question:

A: 

Pete looks for people who want to learn then he takes time to teach them. Knowledge gives employees confidence and security so they feel good about coming to work. They are not on edge, they don't feel vulnerable and weak. They feel strong and competent. They get positive feedback from the customers and from the owners.

Q: How did they get knowledge and why is this so key to success?

A: Many employees at Feasel have what is called, "institutional memory." They have been around the business for years so their knowledge grows deep. To speed up the learning process though, the best businesses we find pay for continuing education. Jim Schell, asks, "Can a small business afford to train its people?" Then he answers his own question by saying, "small businesses can not afford not to train people?"

Why do so many business owners fail to teach employees? Fear, ignorance and procrastination are three reasons. Some owners believe that if employees learn too much, they will either demand more or leave. Some don't understand the power of education hen there are those who intend to offer more training and education but they just never get around to it.

Before she started her own firm, Leonor Ferrer worked for a large custom broker. At that job, she saw some things she did not want to see in her own company. She learned how not to do some things. Because of this experience, she prefers to hire people who have no experience in the customs business.

Q:
What is the down side to hiring people fresh out of school or who have never worked in your industry before?

A: You have to take time to teach them. Leonor says it is easier to teach skill than attitude. So, if you hire a person who wants to learn and who has a nice personality, you will build a better work team than if you focus only on hiring a person who has experience. Leonor has almost no turnover, which means she spends time in the beginning teaching; but, she keeps people many years, so it pays in the long run.

Think about it

Are you willing to take time to teach? Do you have a process in place to teach new hires?

Clip from: Feasel of DeLand, Florida and the Rebirth of Downtown

DeLand, Florida: Just northeast of Orlando, this town personifies the statement, "Big business homogenizes. Small business diversifies."

On the Main Street of this town they celebrate the rich variety of one-of-a kind shops owned by locals.  Just on the outskirts of town looms the big-box retailers.  How does a family-owned hardware store on Main Street survive? How can they compete?  

We do not have any simple answers. We do know that small businesses must develop a many-sided customer relation that competes in value against the volume discounters.

When we taped this episode of the show, Feasel Paint & Glass  was being slammed by by nearby discounters, both Home Depot and Lowe. And, we are sorry to report that this downtown store closed on December 9, 2008 (more).

We were fighting for the small businesses.  We still do.  Up until the store's closure, we had encouraged people to drop in on Feasel's on Main Street and buy something.  We talked with the new owner, Mike Woosley.  He's a very nice person.  He was optimistic and we all wanted to encourage their esprit de corps for their role in the continued Main Street revitalization.

This town, cited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a "Great American Main Street" award winner, the people of Feasel Paint & Glass are helping to paint that picture.

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Feasel Paint and Glass

John Gregory,

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Hire Those Who Want To Learn

PETE: You keep plugging away and plugging away and plugging away until you find somebody that can learn--not necessarily do this type of work, but somebody you can teach to do this type of work. I recently have run--advertised for employment for someone to be one of my lead men doing the storefront-type work. Of the 30 or so applications I've taken, I think I've got three on my desk that I've considered interviewing.

HATTIE: Why are 27 applications not acceptable?

PETE: Number one, the application doesn't look good. It's incomplete. Their answers are vague.

HATTIE: Are you shocked?

PETE: Well, no, I'm very accustomed to it because this is the way it's been now for a number of years, last eight or 10 years anyhow. You don't see quality applications. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a depiction of what you may get if you hire that person. If it's an incomplete application, you probably have an incomplete applicant. I hate to say this, but one of the biggest things I run into is the high ratio of alcoholism involved with a lot of my applicants. One of the first things I do is to look through an application to see if I want to go any further with it. My next move is to send a copy of their driver's license to my insurance agent; they run a DMV report on them. And that's how I know about the alcoholism.

HATTIE: Have you actively recruited your family?

JOHN: Believe it or not, I've never asked the first one if they wanted to work here. That's what they wanted to do.

HATTIE: When did you start working around here?

VINCE: First week of high school in the 12th year.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) There are 15 employees at Feasel's. Some are technically family members, like John's son Vince and his wife Sue. But as Sue says...

SUE: We know all the families and kids. And, yeah, it's like one big family.

PETE: There's no one answer to all the problems that you face with an independent business. And there's no one decision that's going to make you successful. It's a combination of things. And it's not just my decisions or John's decisions. It's decisions of the people that work for us. Every time we hire someone, we tell 'em that, `Our plan for you is for you to retire here when you're 62 or earlier if we can come up with the money.' And that's an attitude we have about hiring people. And as a result of that, that attitude has brought to us some very, very special people; people that aren't making a lot of money, but people that I think really enjoy their job, they enjoy dealing with the public and satisfying the public, and their reward, I think, is similar to ours. They enjoy going home at night having satisfied someone and having done something that is important to someone else. And, you know, the paycheck comes later.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Although we spent most of our time in Feasel's, many other De Land merchants were happy for us to stop in.

Now, tell me about your customer, and are these dolls selected...

Now why would I want to buy this...

Unidentified Man #6: First of all...

Unidentified Woman: Small-business people are the heart and soul of the community. Our downtown is the heart and soul of De Land, and if you aren't involved in the total community, it's not just your city center, it's the heart of your community, and you've got to keep it strong.

MAUREEN: Main Street De Land is an advocate for business. The businesses we recruit get tender-loving care. And we don't leave 'em hanging. After they're here, we want to nurture 'em. Naturally, it's easier to keep a business than to attract a new one or recruit a new one. So we try to help 'em from the very beginning when they walk in the door and say that they're thinking about opening a business. We get them through the government red tape and, you know, help them--give them facade grants to help them fix up the exterior of their building, or maybe get them a new awning or a new sign, whatever it takes to get 'em. The proven approach is definitely to have a balance in your retail mix.

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