Recruit the attitude, train the skills

John Riddell
Not Business As Usual
John Ridell writes a business column and a fun, Zoomer-Boomer outdoor column for the Sky-Hi News.

Given the preponderance of service-based companies in Grand County, this column has, quite naturally, devoted significant space to ideas and suggestions for assisting these companies. Starting with an original managerial framework of a surveyors’ tripod, various columns have addressed individual “legs” of the tripod focusing on People, Processes and Programs. While all three legs have to be working and coordinated for the business tripod to be a stable base for success, I sometimes get asked “Where should I start?” or “Which leg is the most important?” Without a doubt, the correct response is always “People.”

My wife and I recently made a short trip to another tourist/service based area of the country. We were immediately struck with a glaring difference between this area and what we have, unfortunately, come to expect here in the Fraser/Winter Park area. We were actually treated with extreme courtesy by extremely polite employees who seemed to be genuinely happy that we were frequenting their place of business. This noticeable difference, of course, prompted some investigation on my part and the results proved to be very interesting.

First, even without having read too many of my columns, the owners/managers of these service based companies clearly understood the importance of the People component. Even though we were over half way through their “season,” managers were still personally involved in all aspects of customer service, providing ongoing training and reinforcement of standards. In addition, the vast majority of these courteous and polite employees, the recipients of the training and reinforcement, were seniors in high school or freshmen/sophomores in college. Conversations with a number of these folks revealed a sincere appreciation for the job opportunity coupled with some clear visions of how this summer job would be a springboard for their future ambitions.

Conversations with their managers revealed that these inexperienced folks were hired initially for two reasons. The first was they had a pleasant personality; the second was that they did not bring any preconceived notions or baggage to the job. The hiring managers never had to “undo” bad habits or try to rehabilitate bad attitudes.

Contrast this with our area. Like many ski areas, we are not only a recreational destination, we are also a lifestyle destination. As a result, many of the potential job candidates for various service jobs are generally a bit older, a bit more experienced, and probably carrying a bit more baggage. This baggage can be good or bad, but it is certainly a challenge for any manager to try to break down bad or undesirable habits while trying to instill new and better ones. And if they are not trying to instill new and better approaches, then they themselves will find their positions to be in jeopardy.

It seems to me that any service company in the County could do themselves a favor by actively seeking out some young folks to bridge this quantity/quality employment situation they all face. I cannot imagine any school administrator being opposed to a local job fair for students being conducted by local businesses. While many Chambers of Commerce conduct needed job skills for students, not too many involve themselves in assisting in the actual recruiting of local students. Seems to me that this could be a win/win for everyone involved.

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.

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