I don't care how great your facilities, furnishings, and delivery vehicles are or how spectacular your inventory assortment is, mediocre employees will ensure that you fail. On the other hand, you can have mediocre facilities, second-hand furnishings, and used delivery vehicles, but if you have a great team of self-motivated people you will win, and win big.

I have hired waitresses with great personalities and made them inside salespeople. I have promoted truck drivers into outside sales because of their attitude and their drive. And I have made people with just a high school education officers in my company because of their absolute refusal to cut corners, their integrity, and their commitment to excellence.

So how do you find great people? Here are some ways that have worked for me:

Word-of-mouth referrals. When several people you respect tell you about a superstar, you need to interview that person, and if the prospect passes your background check and the rest of your hiring benchmarks, hire him or her. Remember, it's never the wrong time to hire the right person. I don't care how bad the economy is, superstars always find a way to pay for themselves … and then some.

Postings on a web-based service such as CareerBuilder. We never run help-wanted ads in the newspaper anymore. Why? First, you get a better grade of candidate because the applicants have to be at least a little bit computer literate to find your job posting. Some job sites also have "screener questions" that give us a score for every respondent. Below 70 is a failing grade in school, and it is with us. If someone doesn't get a score of over 70 (and preferably over 90) I don't even bother reading their resume.

Ask your customers to name people from other companies who impress them. But don't send them an e-mail. Call them on the phone and engage them in conversation; you will get a few names. Better yet, take them to lunch.

Network. Be active in business groups and trade associations and you're bound to meet people who impress you. Plus, if you've known them for a while through a trade group, you're not hiring a total stranger. That's a crapshoot.

Always be looking. Southwest Airlines believes that when you meet someone with a great attitude and a magnetic personality, you can teach them everything else they need to know. No amount of training can fix a bad attitude.

Use TEC. Sales guru Bill Lee promotes the TEC method of hiring: T for talent, E for experience, and C for chemistry. If you find someone who has all three qualities, hire that person. If you can't find someone with all three, compromise first on experience, because you can't teach talent or chemistry.

We have all come across a waitress, airline ticket agent, or sales clerk with charisma. When you find someone like that, snatch him or her up (unless you are filling a highly technical position) because, especially in sales, people with those types of personalities do extremely well.

When I interview someone, immediately after the candidate leaves (so my impressions are fresh in my mind), I rate the prospect on a 1-10 scale in terms of:

– Friendliness
– Smile
– Sense of humor
– Personality
– Fun to be around
– Enjoyable to interview
– Charisma
– Aggressiveness
– Preparation for interview (had questions and notes written down for interview)
– Good listener, or interrupted a lot?
– Concise answers, or long rambling ones?

Hiring based on attitude made a huge difference in my success rate with new hires. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Jim Sobeck is president of New South Construction Supply, West Columbia, S.C., and author of the Biz 101 blog at http://jimsobeck.tumblr.com. Contact him at jim.sobeck@newsouthsupply.com.