Any service business is only as good as the people who work there. That’s why Liftech owners Darren Crotchett and Brian Lehnerz are incredibly thankful to have assembled such a fantastic team. Indeed, the Liftech team is made up of smart, hard-working team players who are serious about doing quality work and making customers happy.
So how do Darren and Brian do it? How do they find the right people – and then keep them happy, motivated, and wanting to stick around? (Liftech enjoys a very low rate of attrition.) To find out, read on.
Finding the Right People
Though Darren and Brian are proud of the fact that more than half of Liftech’s employees are college-educated (the majority of their leads are college grads) and from relevant professional backgrounds (e.g., construction, landscaping, metalwork, oil engineering), they’re quick to point out that they don’t have hard-and-fast requirements about education or experience. They know the right employees can come from a wide range of backgrounds.
Indeed, since polyurethane concrete repair is a relatively new industry, very few prospective employees already have direct, hands-on experience in it. So for Darren and Brian, what matters most is work ethic, attitude, and fit with the team. Darren summarizes, “We’re looking for people that are plugged in, that are interested and dedicated, and responsible and motivated. And they care about the customer.”
Getting Creative About Hiring
To find the right candidates, they’ve challenged themselves to think outside the box. As Brian explains, “It’s such a tight job market here that you have to get creative about it.” Accordingly, many of Liftech’s hires come from referrals from within the Liftech team. Job openings are publicized and passed on by word of mouth and social media. To keep pace with the company’s growth, they’ve started posting to Indeed.com and other sites to expand their candidate pool. They’re stringent about requiring all online applicants to provide a cover letter and resume, ensuring they’re serious about the job and capable of being professional in their pursuit of it.
In addition, Darren and Brian have a clear affection for singling out and hiring people they meet in the course of their daily lives. When they find someone with a strong work ethic and a deep commitment to customer satisfaction, they may make a pitch, no matter the candidate’s background. They’ve hand-picked several employees on their current roster. One example is Liftech Structural Technician Austin Bell, a former bartender. Bell relates, “[Darren and Brian] plucked me out of the bar, saying, ‘You’re being wasted here. Come work for us. Can you use a shovel?’ I started from the bottom. I fell in love with it. I really enjoy doing it. It’s one of those things where you enjoy going to work most days.”
For Bell, the work absolutely feels connected to his service industry roots. He explains, “Most of the time you’re going in there and fixing people’s problems. They’re super grateful for it. They feel like their house is coming down, but we’re here to help. It’s customer service. We’re going around making people happy, providing a service for them.”
Ensuring a Great Fit
Once they’ve found a good candidate, they’ll have an informal sit-down interview at a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop. The less formal setting helps them get to know candidates on a more personal level, letting them assess whether they’ll be a good fit for the team. Darren handles interviews on the delivery side, while Brian handles the administrative side (e.g., office management, sales).
If their interviews goes well, candidates are formally invited for a paid “working interview,” joining one of the Liftech teams to work for a couple of days without making a commitment. Darren explains, “We want to make sure the prospective employee likes the job – if they think it’s a fit – before we start investing all the time, money, and energy into fully training them.”
Afterward, they follow up, asking the prospective employees questions such as “Do you think this is something you’d like to do?” and “Do you like the people you met and were working with?” They also ask for feedback from the other Liftech team members on how the prospective employees performed, and whether they’d be a good fit with the team. After all, as Brian says, “Those are the guys and ladies they’ll be working with on a daily basis.”
Darren echoes the sentiment: “Chemistry is very important amongst the group. Everybody gets along really well. And we have had some square pegs in round holes, and it just doesn’t work out.”
Making the Call – and Making an Offer
Once they’ve collected feedback, Darren says, “It’s our job to make the decision that they’re going to fit or not. Do they have the right work ethic? Are they looking me in the eyes when I’m talking to them? Do they have questions for me? Did they look at the website?” Once a candidate gets a green light, Darren and Brian work with the candidate to come to terms on an offer. The offer typically includes a 90-day trial period acknowledged by both parties. After all, it’s all about ensuring a good long-term fit.
Neither Darren nor Brian shy away from acknowledging when someone just isn’t working out. Since founding Liftech in 2012, they’ve fired a handful of people. Says Darren, “When someone’s not working out, it’s like, ‘Get the heck out of here. You’re a cancer in this organization’.”
Retaining Their Top-Quality Team
What matters to Darren and Brian are all the team members who have stayed. Many of their people have been with them for years. Only one technician has ever quit, and it was because he left to help his dad, who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, with his construction business. They had an office manager quit once, but it was early in her tenure and she’d belatedly realized she didn’t like talking on the phone. (Kinda crucial for an office manager, I’m sure you’ll agree.)
Indeed, Darren and Brian make a significant effort to retain their team for the long term. Importantly, they pay their people hourly wages significantly higher than those offered by their competitors. They’ve also come up with a creative way to encourage the team to become even more invested in the outcomes of their work: Explains Darren, “We started incentivizing our employees. We said, ‘Here’s our benchmark warranty rate. If we can improve upon that, for every dollar we save – because warranties cost money – we will give that back to you guys.’” (Given Liftech’s consistently improving warranty rate, that’s indeed meant money in their pockets.)
As Brian explains, “We do things outside of work, too. We try to make it so it’s not just work – it’s part of being a family.” With that in mind, they frequently organize events to bring the team together, ranging from Liftech-sponsored outings at places like Top Golf to impromptu happy hours at local watering holes. Every year, they host a holiday party for employees and their families, taking everyone out for dinner. Some years, they’ve gotten creative with the holiday celebrations: One year, they put everyone up for a night Ameristar Casinos, hosting a big dinner and giving everyone spending money for gambling. They’re even trying to figure out if they can afford to take everybody to Mexico one year.
Providing a Healthy, Respectful Working Environment
Mostly, though, retention is about showing their team respect, appreciation, and consideration. Says Darren, “You know the old adage, you treat somebody the way you want to be treated. We truly do that. I wouldn’t ask my guys to do anything that I wouldn’t get down in the hole with them and do. And there are several jobs we turn away because I’m not putting my technicians through that.” In addition, they do their best to set the tone that everyone is an equally important member of the team. Says Darren, “These people don’t work for us. They work with us. We work together. We get it done together.”
The respect they give to their team members translates to a good amount of autonomy. Explains Brian, “We try to do a good job of making their jobs as enjoyable as possible. They’re still jobs. They’re service jobs. But we’re not micromanaging them. We give them a lot of liberty to get their jobs done.” In addition, he explains, “We try to team them up with people that can work together well. Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn’t. We try to nip it in the bud if it doesn’t.”
Of course, it makes a huge difference in the team’s day-to-day work lives that Darren and Brian have brought together a group of strong, hard-working, highly capable team players. Says Liftech Technician Kody James, “Everyone’s got a ‘make-the-best-of-it’ attitude. It makes the day 20 times easier. It’s definitely a blessing because I’ve had other jobs where you’ve got to pick up slack. Here you really don’t need to worry about that. Everybody’s usually on top of what they need to do. And if somebody needs help with something, they’ve always got a helping hand.”
Darren and Brian know exactly how fortunate they are to have such a top-quality team working with them. As they continue to scale their business, they’re committed to staying focused on making sure each and every one of their employees feels acknowledged as an integral part of the operation. After all, as Darren sums up: “We love our team.”
Interested in becoming part of our high-performing Liftech team? Let us know!