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Addressing the Challenge of Finding Good Help

by Ron Roberts and Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Ron Roberts

This article addresses one of the biggest headaches contractors face: finding and hiring good help. If you struggle with that, you are probably a non-union contractor. The suggestions contained in this article could be a lifesaver for you.

Your struggles probably generate from three obstacles:

  1. Providing full time work.
  2. Getting the word out to potential candidates.
  3. You can't afford proven, skilled workers.

Let's take each one at a time and explore potential solutions.

1. Providing Full Time Work

Most workers keep very close track of the hours they work. Hours are about the most important issue to them - in many cases more so than the hourly pay rate. If you want to be able to bring in and retain good workers, your task will be much easier if you manage to get them close to 2,000 hours a year.

You do that by aggressively marketing and selling your services.

In cold weather states, sweeping contractors are going to have trouble getting their workers 2,000 hours because their work requires good weather (no snow or heavy rainfall). In some states, the sweeping season is pretty short and there isn't much you can do about it.

If you find yourself in that situation, you need to find temporary winter work for your key workers. That way they can afford to work for you during your sweeping season.

You could try to find another company whose seasonal work is the exact opposite of yours. They are not easy to find, but some are out there. You can also add in services that are done in 'non-sweeping weather,' such as snowplowing or interior repair. The problem is that these skills often don't transfer from sweeper operators.

2. Get the Word Out to Potential Candidates

If you struggle generating interest in your job openings, you probably are using the most common methods of publicizing your opening: newspaper help wanted classifieds and the online services such as

There are two problems with those approaches. The first is that your ad competes against your competitors' ads. The second is that many construction workers do not read the local newspaper.

I have a few out-of-the-box suggestions for you to try.

Right at the moment, one of the best places to find workers is on a web site named Craig's List ( Craig's List is meant to be an online classified section and it is used primarily to sell used stuff. However, it also has a Jobs section, among others. The Jobs section has a category for skilled labor, which for the most part is a listing of open construction positions. Unbelievably, the job listings are FREE and the responses tend to be HUGE.

A handful of my clients have used the service recently and enjoyed spectacular results. They were flooded with quality candidates. The responses far exceeded the numbers and quality they were receiving from traditional, high cost help wanted ads. Apparently, younger workers have flocked to Craig's List to find jobs. To maximize the effectiveness of your Craig's List ad, you need to update it daily. That keeps the ad at the top of the list and easy to spot.

If you are open to using Hispanic workers, which you should be, go visit their community churches and let it be known that you have openings. Often, churches know of young adults who are looking for a chance to prove themselves - a chance to better their lives through hard work.

Another proven approach is to place a help wanted ad in the local Hispanic newspaper. You will probably enjoy far better results than by placing a help wanted ad in your local big city paper.

Another place to network into is local high schools and vocational schools. They are jam-packed with young men and women who have no interest in going to college and no longer find the military to be an attractive option. Get to know the vo-tech teachers. They will point graduates in your direction once they know you are an upstanding businessman.

Another group to network with is superintendents who work for general contractors. Supers have first hand knowledge of the various trades' foremen and crew leaders. Develop a relationship with those supers and at the least you will have a great reference check, at the best you will have a inside track on learning about up and coming foremen.

Other options are to scout out your competition. Watch them work. Do that cautiously. You don't want to start a labor war, but on the other hand, unless you are going to hire inexperienced workers, you are stealing your workers from someone else anyway. Many times you can tell when good workers are on a sweeping route being served by a competitor.

It's like the Godfather said "take it to the mat." You're in competition for both good clients and good workers. You'd better embrace the fight. Otherwise, you will never achieve financial security.

3. Can't Afford Proven, Skilled Workers?

Be prepared to train your new workers and foremen. If you are a small contractor you've probably already learned how difficult it is to recruit and pay for highly experienced workers. If they are available and interested in working for you, they usually bring either heavy wage demands or heavy personal baggage. Those that are experienced and don't have baggage are almost always gainfully employed and not easily pried away from their current company.

As a small contractor, you need to focus on finding eager to learn, hard-working employees. Then, mold them in the image that you want them to be. Teach them how to do the work the way you want it down. Encourage them to step up and take pride in their work. This type of worker can be hired for a much more reasonable rate.

What more could you ask for in a new worker anyway? Work ethic almost always trumps work experience when it comes to getting things done, when and as they need to be done.

Until next time, best of luck with your business!

Ron Roberts,
The Contractor's Business Coach

More information about Ron Roberts' and his company may be found on his website Ron may be reached via email sent to

If you have new information to provide on this topic, let us know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article.

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