I was often told 'employees will be your biggest headache', and I'd be lying if I didn't admit they have been cause for the ocassional headbanger over the years, but I've generally been careful (and lucky) enough to hire conscientious, hardworking kids. You hear the 'kids these days' comment thrown around a lot, and admittedly there seems to be a wide range of 'motivation levels' in today's youth, but I believe there are more than plenty of great kids out there, eager to work hard and make money for college, that first car, a new I-phone...
And let's face it, the quality of your crew is directly proportional to the quality of your life. For me, a responsible and reliable crew means not only a better, more successful biz, but it translates directly into my ability to leave the shop to the crew while I drop the kayak in the water or go for a jog around the block.
Being able to employee teenagers has been an unexpected perk of being a small biz owner. It's definitely a lot of work to hire, train, maintain, do all the paperwork, manage, and schedule the crew, but just being able to provide jobs to college-bound teens is pretty satisfying. For most, it's their first job, save a few babysitting gigs and paper routes. This can complicate the training aspect, but it also presents the opportunity to offer a young person a chance to (hopefully) get their professional lives off on the right foot, or forearm, if you will.
When I first started my engineering career, I had the opportunity to do a one year rotation as a shop supervisor on a production line. It was a challenging job, especially as a twenty-two year old engineer and working world neophite thrown into a feasting pool of well-seasoned union workers, some three times my age and a hundred times my experience. I was tested early and often. It was definitely one of the most challenging jobs I've had, but also one of the most rewarding. It was in those silicon trenches where I learned a few key rules about managing people that have served me well through my tech career and now as crew chief to an ever-changing group of young men and woman. Here's my short list, if you'll indulge me.
1. Treat people with respect.
2. Value their efforts and tell them whenever you can.
3. Encourage fun (as long as the jobs get done).
4. Empower them.
5. And most importantly, be consistent. Treat everyone the same way. Make your list of rules and consequences and stick to them. Discipline is never fun for anyone involved, but I've learned if you let it slide for one person, pretty soon others will start breaking the same rule, and before you know it, you're a lame duck waving an ice cream scoop around like a crazy person.
One final people managing observation... Although arguably the most important aspect of the staffing process is hiring the right person for the job, I believe everyone has a strength or a skill. Or as I like to say, 'everyone gets a little something.' The key is to identify what that something is and, for lack of a better word, exploit it. The 'cleaner' becomes the go-to cleaner. The artsy one becomes the cake decorator. The chatty one becomes the shop quality team leader...
Ok, I'll stop lecturing now. Hey, what else is there to do on a rainy day like this...
Enjoy the rain, and stop in soon for a cone and a hello to the summer crew.