Hardware Retailing

APR 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | April 2018 52 There's a concept of business management, called the Peter Principle, named after the man who formulated the theory, which says that otherwise competent employees are often put into positions that require skills they do not possess. It often happens in leadership roles, where someone who might make a great employee doesn't always make a great supervisor. Paul Gabbard, president and CEO of Malone Lumber Do it Center in Greenville, Kentucky, recalls that's what happened once when it came time to hire a new manager. He and his team thought they found the ideal candidate. The resume was attractive. The potential hire had good reviews from others in the community and passed all the background checks. "We thoroughly vetted him, and when we were all finished, we thought we had our man," says Gabbard. After hiring the new manager, Gabbard invested in training, sending him to an off-site program where he could develop the skills necessary for a successful career in management. And for the next three years, the new manager dug into his new job at Malone Lumber. "Then he hit a wall," Gabbard says. "I think he realized he was in over his head. It was a classic case of the Peter Principle." He didn't have the natural abilities to perform in a management role. Fortunately, the breakup was amicable. The manager recognized he had stepped outside of his abilities. Perhaps he would have a made a good employee elsewhere in the company, and may have had many other desirable qualities. However, he was mismatched for the job in management. Mismatched Don't be afraid to fire early. As he reflects on what might have gone differently, Gabbard says he ignored his gut feeling that something wasn't right. "Early in the hiring process, I sensed something was wrong, but ignored it," he says. "I thought there should be more of a leadership attitude that just wasn't there." Given all the resources invested in bringing on a new employee, especially a manager who requires more time to onboard, it's easy to want to hold on to the hope they will mature into the role. "The problem is that when you start putting so much money into people, you do everything you can to hang on to them," Gabbard says. "You don't want to believe you made a mistake." Sometimes, it's best to cut your losses and move on. Try an outside recruitment agency. Gabbard now uses an outside recruitment agency to assist him in vetting candidates for higher-level positions. After choosing five or six candidates, he administers a test provided by the agency, which asks questions on competencies and character traits. After looking at the results of the written test, Gabbard identifies one candidate to do a one-on-one interview with a representative from the agency. "The process is expensive and takes a bit of time, but is well worth it," he says. "They know how to ask the right questions and find both the negatives and positives of each candidate." Don't rush the hiring process. One mistake many retailers make is to put minimal effort into hiring temporary and entry-level employees. But even though you need someone on the job quickly, you're risking a host of nightmares such as dissatisfied customers or missed lumber deliveries if the employee doesn't do the job properly. While the hiring process for some jobs may be more involved for some positions than others, patience is the key to success. "Whenever you set out to take on a new employee, take your time and don't be in a hurry," Gabbard says. "You may only be thinking about the service you provide to your customers and think you need to get someone hired so they can keep that going. However, if you get the wrong person, you'll end up hurting the brand you're trying to preserve." Tips for Your Next Hire

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