Don't hire them create them

Good employees are created not hired!

I have noticed a recurring theme in questions posed to the MBCEA “Ask the Experts” and Mentor Program. Similar questions have been presented as an argument for why an Erector should not invest in Apprenticeship or Accreditation. Maybe this sounds familiar to you: How do I find good people? How do I keep good people? Why should I invest in my people or an apprenticeship program because they will only leave me?

This whole concept is foreign to me. Most of my employees have been with me since they were young boys. I don’t know to put this any plainer – you don’t hire them; you create ‘em!

Kids don’t grow up saying “I want to be an Assembler of Metal Buildings.” But most kids do grow up wanting to be appreciated, to make a difference, to earn a good living, to be treated fairly, to feel pride in a good days work, etc. If you satisfy these basic needs, you find and keep good people.

Many of you, who know me, know my style is best described as “biker”. Bikers put a lot of emphasis on their “colors”.  I treat my company brand as my colors. My men know when they wear my colors they are an extension of me. I have their backs but by the same token they know not to cross me. I take care of their training needs, I offer a fair remuneration package, decent benefits, etc. and in return I expect them to represent me to the best of their ability. My team knows where they stand with me. They know where I draw the line. They know I am willing to invest in them; to help develop them to the best of their abilities. But they also know they have to give me 110% at all times and be true to my company.

This isn’t exactly rocket science, nor am I suggesting you break the budget. Successful teams have a culture of accountability and shared responsibility. There is a pride in what is done. So how do you create this culture? First of all, it can’t be about you, it must be about team. What does the team need? Training and leadership – it’s that simple. Leadership is the subject for another day but training is easy.

Training can be expensive but not if you belong to the MBCEA. The tools and training materials are readily available from the MBCEA. Pride follows the training: every training course the MBCEA offers issues a certificate or a wallet card. These are designed to instill pride in your company and our trade. This will evolve into a work ethic and commitment to you.

The MBCEA Chapters routinely offer training and certifications simply for the price of lunch. Important classes and certifications like OSHA-10, Rigging 1, Fall Hazards Safety, Hot Work Safety, Torch Cutting Safety and Global Harmonized System (old MSDS). The Quality & Craftsmanship Training Series is $500 but can be used over and over. A sure fire way to indoctrinate your new hires is to have them watch the series before you send them to a job site. Let them hear the basic lingo, rules, concepts, etc. first. Note I did not say learn, I said hear. The series will expose them to words like purlin, girt, spud wrench, etc. Will show them how to be safe, how to fit in with the team. Let them know before they complete one year, they are going to watch the series again, but this time be tested on it. Let them know you expect them to pass that test and that you know they can do it. Maybe tie a raise to the satisfactory completion of all modules.

When it is time to hire, you can take a young kid fresh from the farm or someone with experience. Depending on your circumstances, either may be appropriate.  Regardless of who you choose, be prepared to indoctrinate him or her in your colors from day one. Make sure new hires know where they stand, what is expected of them but also what is in it for them. Sure this takes longer and involves an investment and commitment from the top, but if all you have to sell is Labor (man hours) shouldn’t you invest and commit to your laborers?

Let’s face it, pride, passion, integrity, belief in what you do, commitment to safety – these things all must start at the top. The guy at the top must have a core set of values that is intrinsic to everything the company does. There cannot be two sets of rules – one for the bosses and another for the team. You cannot preach safety and then turn a blind eye to save a few dollars. Your crew isn’t dumb; they know what is important to you; they also know if they are not.

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Gary T. Smith is President of Thomas Phoenix International, Inc. He proudly serves as President of the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association and Chair of the Metal Buildings Institute Apprenticeship Committee. He is an outspoken proponent of training and education for the metal building industry. To know more, visit or

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