Millionaire Marketing Lesson – Employee Retention

In my last “Millionaire Marketing Lesson” column, I went over some of my tips and tricks to hiring employees. So, you hired ‘em. Now what? How do you keep ‘em?

In July 2020, my company ClearWater Plumbers was featured in Pipe Cleaning PRO. Mike, the magazine’s managing editor, asked for employees’ names so he could tag them in the photos we sent. I told him I preferred that we use first names or aliases. The reason I use first names or aliases may seem strange, but it’s a real eye-opener about the hard reality of being in a human resource service business.

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RELATED: Millionaire Marketing Lesson – Are You Hopelessly Hiring?

Did you know that some competitors search websites, social media and anything else online to snag or “poach” your employees? These competitors hop on your website, look up names and addresses, and send your employees hand-addressed hiring letters.

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It Happened to Me!

I was paying more than $30,000 to be part of a home services business development group and found out they were promoting this strategy to lure away well-trained and specialized employees from competitors who had good reputations and provided high levels of service. A competitor in my market, who I thought was a stand-up guy, was sending “poach” letters to my crew and it worked. He hired one of my plumbers, “Tommy.”

When Tommy resigned, he said I was a great boss, but he had a “Golden Ticket,” making $40/hour to do low-stress install work for a reputable competitor nearby. My crew has two options – $25/hour or performance-based pay, which can be over $40/hour.

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What’s an extra $15/hour? Let’s do the math.

$15/hour x 40 hours/week = $600/week

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$600/week x 52 weeks/year = $31,200/year

$31,200/year over 10 years…BAM!! That Golden Ticket is worth $312,000…and I’m in serious trouble!

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What’s my competitor installing?

What’s he charging?

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What are we doing wrong?

Tommy had won big, and my crew knew it. What happens when my crew catches wind that Tommy has hopped on my competitor’s gravy train? Or that my competitor is offering additional boarding passes with sign on bonuses? I’m likeable and funny but am no competition for easy, stress-free work and a 62 percent raise.

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Wait…HIT THE BRAKES…Hold up on that car wash!

RELATED: ClearWater Plumbers Adds Trenchless Solutions

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Tommy was getting only 10 hours/week and came back to us for a job three months later. He was, what I would call, an “in and out” service guy who had more bills than income. He was likeable and made about $40,000 in sales a month, but he was sloppy, cut corners, rushed jobs and couldn’t do the installs. He wasn’t a craftsman.

When ex-employees come back, they’ve realized I offered them a good gig. I don’t rehire right away. It sends a message that there are consequences for leaving. I can’t get caught in the “If I leave and

it doesn’t work out, I can always come back to Jeff,” trap.

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Employees are Assets

Employees are rented assets. We don’t own them. We must view employees as long-term investments, much like businesses or rental properties. If they aren’t valued, provided stability and offered opportunities for growth, employees leave in search of something better.

We picked up Buck Nasty, our tomcat, (below) while coming back from a Colorado road trip. Tomcats are always looking for food, fighting and don’t stay put. My daughters fell in love with Buck, so I’ve been “tricking” him into staying. Every day I whistle a tune, and Buck comes running for his meals and petting sessions. We all win, including Buck, because everyone worries less about Buck fighting for food and survival.

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Buck Nasty the tomcat

It’s the same with your employees. Set a consistent tone (or tune) and feed them

with stability and opportunity so they aren’t compelled to leave.

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What’s in my “trick” bag for hiring and retaining employees?

  • Competition is good.

  • Determine if employees are earning money for your business.

  • What is your ROI with apprentices? Are they showing initiative, evidence of learning and application?

  • Are employees’ goals in line with your business goals?

  • Take care of your employees. They’ll focus on quality work instead of being fired.

  • Let money flow through you, not stop with you. Keep a little and invest more in your employees. Pay well, RESPECT and EXPECT more, and you’ll receive more in return. Running your business becomes much easier.

  • How about continuing education and training? Peer mentorship? Do you offer any of these? If I train and mentor employees for five years, they’re capable of working anywhere in the United States and providing a good living for their families. This sure beats thousands of dollars in college debt.

  • Are you helping employees reach their career goals? It stings when you lose a good employee because their goals exceed what you can provide. Help them transition into a new business.

  • Maintain the soil for your first crop and start tilling and fertilizing the next crop. KEEP HIRING! If you’re not hiring, you’re not thriving.

The Bottom Line…

Be a good person and be the best boss. Good employees will become great employees. Help them evolve in your business, and they will help your business evolve. Don’t be selfish and hold them back. Remember you were once a rented asset and think about all the Buck Nasty’s out there. When your employees feel secure, valued and are given opportunities for growth, they’ll have every reason to stay.

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Jeff Longspaugh

Questions? I’m glad to help.

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