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Last Update: Friday December 15, 2017

Key Idea: Hire Slow

Al Smith is very careful when he adds employees to the payroll.

Key Question:


Establish a process and stick to it.  The process should include knowing what you want, putting the word out that you have an opening, receiving written materials, checking references, doing multiple interviews then bringing a person on for a test period before you make a permanent hire.

Knowing what you want includes more than just the skill and experience you require. As important, it includes the attitudes and values you expect from that prospective employee.  Many here have told us, "hire attitude then teach the skill."

Getting the word out for most of the great companies we have in our library is done through employees.  We know that good employees know other good people.  We even know that good employees may have family members who are good people.  One owner told us that they hire people who have nice parents which means they are getting a nice employee.This is a big advantage for small business.  We tend to have close relationships at work and they can lead to finding more great people we might want to bring in to our company.

A written application will reveal much and even if a person doesn't have to have writing skills in the job you are hiring them to fill. You still want to see if the applicant can construct a sentence.

Multiple interviews are key to the success of integrating a new person once they are hired.  The more people in your organization who can interview and offer their opinion on a person the better it is for you.  Chances are, you are not the person the new-hire will be working with most directly.

A 90-day trial period is a great idea.  Wanda Brice, owner of a staffing company, insists on this strategy.  A new person  joins the company, is taught and is treated as if they are permanent.  At the end of the 90 days Wanda will either say, "I'm happy with you and I need to know, are you happy with us?"  The person then has a chance to quit if they are not happy.  Or Wanda may need to say, "This is not working out."  After decades of business ownership she knows that firing fast is critical to her success.

Think about it

Do you hire too fast?  What is your hiring process now?  What should it be?  

Clip from: Angell & Phelps

Daytona Beach, Florida: As a boy, Dr. Alvin Smith would go into the local chocolate shop, Angell & Phelps, just to smell the candy -- he couldn't afford to buy any.  
That all changed in 1983; Dr. Smith bought the company. 
While he continues to practice medicine as a cancer specialist, his son Al, runs Angell & Phelps day-to-day. They have expanded from one location to four and do extensive mail-order.

Dr. Alvin Smith said, "This is potentially a business that could be grown a lot more. But you'd have to put preservatives in the candy. Once you put preservatives in the candy, it will destroy the quality of the candy; it will change its taste."

Each piece of candy is a little piece of artwork created by hand and made from recipes that haven't changed since 1925. 
Even though they have grown the business, this small business has a key philosophy to stay small. The drive to get bigger and bigger is not a goal of all business owners; and that focus -- to stay reasonably small, especially given the dynamics within our global economy, may be quite wise.

Angell & Phelps

Al Smith, Owner

154 South Beach Street
Toll Free: 1-800-969-2634
Daytona Beach, FL 32114

Visit our web site:

Office: 386-252-6531

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1983

Hire Slow

HATTIE: When you have a job available, what do you do?

AL: When we have a job available, we'll put an ad in the paper, we'll take it--we'll take applications, probably over a 10-day period of time. And from that, we then accumulate a pool of names and then we, by elimination--we know what we're looking for. If it's a production person, so we're looking for somebody with experience in production. Someone who has been able to have a stable job over--of a good period of time and hasn't jumped from town to--you know, from job to job.

And so those are important. And we interview them and I'll have a supervisor interview the person, then I'll interview the person. So we usually get two interviews in there, and then once we decide to hire them, we have an orientation list. So we'll go down that list and make--it has to go in their file. I mean, before it was haphazard, I mean, you'd be real busy--OK, we need three people. Boom, you run out and you hire the first three people that walk in the door and a week later, you're back doing the same thing because it didn't work out. So we have an orientation list that the supervisor has to go down--everything from where to park, you know, where the bathrooms are, to what's expected of you and what your job duties are on a daily basis and who you answer to. All that has to be real clear in the up front and we find that that has been a great help in maintaining and keeping motivated people.

HATTIE: Have you ever had to fire somebody?

AL: Sure. I always feel like people fire themselves. I don't know that I've ever really fired them. But certainly, you know, we've been through that.

HATTIE: Well, it's hard to let someone go. But what we think we've learned--what I've learned myself and what I know from other people is we tend to keep people too long.

AL: Right. Which is--which in the big scope of things and when you sit where we sit--or where I sit, is that you have to realize that if you keep somebody like that on, you know, you're really planting a seed to the rest of the people that that's OK and that's acceptable and so it's really not fair to the whole company when you let someone like that continue to hang on. So as hard as it is to be confrontational, and to let people go, it's really beneficial to everyone and I always find it interesting that when you do those kind of things, employee morale tends to go up, not down.

HATTIE: In terms of your social work, in your training and psychology do you think that you've leaned on that as...

AL: Absolutely. It's funny. People all the time say to me, `Well, it must be nice, you're in the candy business.' And, yeah, it is a nice business, but I'm like everybody else, I'm in the people business. People make the candy and people sell the candy and it's really--my job isn't so much to make candy, it's to make the people--you know, to give the people who are making the candy what they need to do their job.

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