The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s a new day, new year, and a totally new administration in our nation’s capital. Any number of international treaties are up for negotiation. Rules and regulations within the business arena are subject to change—some will improve, some will become more difficult. Labor issues will continue to be at the forefront, both finding labor and managing the workforce. But at the end of the day, what’s really changed in our world?
Those of us of a certain age have seen this a number of times. Everyone is worried, regardless of who you voted for—whether your guy won or your guy lost, the sun will still come up in the east and set in the west. Customers will still build houses, banks will provide loans, lumber will still be available and our lives will go on much as before.
Although I am no longer involved as deeply in the big picture of our industry as I once was, I continue to stay in touch with any number of dealers who have become close friends through the years. And the story is much the same: Trying to find good people is a key issue for all of us. Regardless of whether you are hiring for the service desk, warehouse, drivers, outside sales, or kitchen design, good people who meet the minimum qualifications and seem willing to work are a rare commodity.
As this is being written, I am still searching for a qualified, motivated kitchen designer as one of my designers recently decided to leave. I immediately began the search for a replacement and have received any number of resumes, but very few have even the basic qualifications. I find myself asking almost daily, ‘Where are all of the great salespeople we had in place before the downturn?’ And the answer is simple: They left the industry and begun new careers. Just like the good-to-great builders and carpenters we lost—they’ve all found something else to do.
Coming full circle, I am forced to re-read some of the recommendations I’ve made in the past: ‘grow your own’ and ‘improve your bench strength.’ Easy preachin’, hard livin’. In replacing my kitchen designer, the ideal would be to find someone who is currently working in the industry and bring them over, along with a portion of their existing business. That’s what we all strive for.
The reality is different in that I am going to have to hire someone with minimum experience and, with an eye toward the future, train them to provide the expected level of service, including design and sales. As luck would have it, I am able to provide that education and training—but I also have to be willing to accept that this will be an expense-loaded position, with little hope of offsetting revenue for a while.
How many of you are facing the same or similar situations: long-term employees electing to retire, employees simply leaving the company for a number of reasons, leaving you with open positions and very few viable candidates applying for jobs? I remember reading somewhere that when the unemployment rate drops to 5% or below, economists believe this is essentially full employment. In November 2016, the national unemployment rate stood at 4.6% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
So here we are—new day, new year, new political landscape—and what’s changed? Everything, and not much.