Best hiring practices for route operators is a prime example of more robust educational programming undertaken by the National Bulk Vending Association. NBVA past-president Steve Schechner, Capital Vending (Florence, AL), delivered a wakeup call to traditional bulk operators who continue to hire in the old-fashioned way during the NBVA convention in mid-March in Las Vegas. Schechner offered operators, who continue to "trust their gut" and micromanage the hiring process, a workable alternative that not only saves time but also prevents costly hiring errors.
The industry veteran pointed out that hiring a new employee is one of the most important decisions a small business owner makes, and it is time-consuming. "People are expensive," Schechner observed. "If you hire the wrong people, they won't do the right things; your business suffers and your bottom line suffers, too," he said. "However, if you do hire the right person, you benefit greatly. The right employee can make your company, if you're a small business."
As Schechner sees it, too many bulk vending companies have a relaxed, mom-and-pop approach to recruiting: hire people to see whether they work out and, if they don't, fire them and start the process all over again. This is not only time-consuming, he warned, but it also can jeopardize relationships with locations and potentially have a negative impact on the cashbox. "You can't have that attitude," he emphasized. "You're wasting valuable time and resources, and creating the wrong image for your company."
The key to finding the right candidates is to have the right processes in place, Schechner said. A "help wanted" ad online or in the local paper will draw a wide variety of candidates, some much more suitable than others. The trick is to weed out the "good fits" from the bad.
This screening process begins with the very first contact a potential employee has with the company, he explained. This contact is typically made by phone and offers the first opportunity to identify unsuitable candidates.
"You have to ask yourself: 'How much is your time is worth?'" he said. "You're going to get a bunch of calls. You, personally, don't have to take all of them. Have an administrator, secretary, spouse or telemarketing company do it for you."
During that first call, the job applicant should receive additional information about the position, beyond the summary listed in the help wanted ad. This includes responsibilities, schedule, salary and other pertinent information. The phone conversation also provides the chance for the candidates to ask questions.
This first contact will not only eliminate applicants who find the details of the job unappealing, but also will save time down the road. For instance, if the workday begins at 6:30 a.m., that will almost certainly eliminate late sleepers and people with scheduling conflicts.
The next step Schechner recommends is to mail the applicant a formal job application. The one he uses is uncommon in that it includes a series of essay questions, along with the standard form asking for employment history and information needed for a credit check. One sample question included in Schechner's form is: "We don't always have exactly what we need or want to make things work optimally, but we have to make do with what we have. Tell me about the last time you were able to make lemonade out of lemons."
Schechner's questionnaire incorporates a point system of his own design. Even without a point system, questions like these not only measure an applicant's desire to get the job, they also test his or her ability to communicate in writing.
"When you send an application out, mark on the reply envelope the date when it should be returned," Schechner added. "If the applicant doesn't get it back by that deadline, it tells you something. If they get it back on time, then they want the job."
Schechner finds amazing the speed and ease at which these few steps eliminate potentially disastrous candidates. "I don't think I've had to interview more than two candidates, by the time that initial screening process was done," he said. "My time is valuable, so instead of interviewing 25 people, I have a choice between just a few qualified candidates who want the job."
Well designed processes and procedures for hiring (and most other tasks) work for small and large companies, Schechner observed. They may even be of more value to the small company. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with "going with your gut" when it comes to hiring; but finding the right person for the job can turn into a full-time job for owners and managers who lack a human resources department. For a small bulk vending business, this is certainly time better spent in the field selling new locations and managing the other core aspects of operating machines.
"With a company as small as ours, the wrong employee can be very costly," Schechner said. "But with the right employee, you're able to do really good things. The right employee will help move your company forward."