Finding good quality help is a challenge most contractors are facing around the world. Mike Corona @coronamarbleandtile comes on the show to answer this Ask A Protractor question. Do you look for skilled labor, or a hard working person that you can train?
We had an awesome chat together about this topic. And I know it’ll be of help to you.
So, whether you are currently looking for someone to hire, or you are thinking of doing it in the future… you’ll love this episode.
#Protractors- Making A Difference!
Martin: Alright, today on the show I have Mike Corona and he is a tile contractor. This will be very interesting to hear his perspective on a subject that just about every contractor deals with at some point, has to do with hiring new employees. Welcome Mike, glad you’re here.
Mike: Hi Martin, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Martin: Mike, where are you located, what is it that you do, and how long have you been in business?
Mike: We’re located in Woodbine, Maryland, which is geographically kinda nestled in between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a second generation tile contractor and we’ve been in business for over 30 years. My dad started the company in 1985 and I’ve jumped on board, he’s still involved. I jumped on board about eight, nine years ago.
Mike: Yeah, we’re cruising right along right now.
Martin: Nice, well congrats, that’s awesome.
Mike: Thank you.
Martin: The question before us today, Mike, is what’s the best practice for hiring new employees. Specifically, do you look for skilled labor or a hardworking person that you can train?
Mike: I think this question is kinda part of both. We look for both skilled labor and somebody willing to work hard, willing to learn, and just represent our company for what we stand for. I’m actually involved in this exact situation right now with certain guy that’s on my team. We’re a team of seven guys, including my dad and myself.
Mike: Top installers are definitely, they’re hard to come by, good guys.
Martin: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Mike: Good installers are hard to come by. I currently have a guy on my team who’s been with us for two and a half years. He’s moving back to his home state of California, and with work being as busy as it is, I’m currently looking for somebody to fill the void because I have a ton of work coming up later on this summer. It kinda brings me to my first point, timing of what your situation is as a contractor definitely impacts how we’re hiring. Would I like to say that we could grow real quick? Sure, but there’s definitely a sweet spot with having the right guys for the right situations. Based on what I know our workload is, and what it’s going to be, I’m absolutely looking to hire somebody that is skilled in their craft of tile installations, rather than having to train somebody from scratch.
Now, that definitely has changed some much depending on what we have going on, but for my situation right now, we’re looking for somebody skilled. It’s definitely a challenge, but there are ways that you can get around that. One way that I have recently found is social media. I’m actually in the process right now of talking to somebody that I found through social media, Instagram specifically, from his just posts and hashtags that were tile related, they brought us together and who would know there’s another tile guy in Woodbine, Maryland?
Martin: No way.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. It’s not a done deal yet, this is kinda ongoing, but there is another guy that I’m talking to right now about a potential job position.
Martin: How did you start that conversation with him?
Mike: Pretty much, I just sent him a private message and I was like, “Hey, good to know that there’s another tile guy in Woodbine, Maryland. We should grab a bite to eat sometime for lunch.” Of course, naturally, I got a response back. “Yeah, that’s such a small world. Let’s do it.” One thing led to another, and we had a coffee about two or three weeks ago just to start the conversation. It was low pressure, it just wanted to get a feel for what his situation was. I didn’t want to impede on his current employment situation by any means, but you know, just Woodbine tile professional to Woodbine tile professional, let’s talk some shopping, create a relationship. That’s kinda how that got going and you know, it could definitely work out. I’m just waiting to pursue some other wraps as well to maybe see what else is out there and then make a decision, hopefully within the month. Social media is what kinda ignited this potential employment position for this gentleman.
Martin: What are some other ways that you’ve found, or even your dad and his experience of finding good help over the years?
Mike: Other than social media, I would say our pretty much slam dunks of a channel to funnel potential guys that could fit our needs on our team is through our networks of whether it’s a builder or a supplier, a tile supplier. Some of these supply houses, you know they get foot traffic. They know who’s buying the material, who’s executing the jobs. They also know when somebody’s slow. For instance, there’s a lot of solo tile contractors out there that do good and sometimes they get slow and are looking for more of a secure employment position with a bigger company. I call us a small company, but I would say we’re relatively large for the services we offer in the customer residential end of the industry.
It is nice for solo tile installer to find a company that once 3:30, 4;00 hits on the day, their phone goes off and they’re done. They lose all the responsibilities of having to work for themselves, and there’s value in that. I would say, definitely, our main channel of finding work, aside from let’s say social media or posting an ad on Craigslist or whatever, is networking through our supply houses. Just putting out there, is anybody looking for work or are these guys good or is this guy, what kind of work does he do. Just start acquiring, just to start the conversation and then kinda put the feelers out after that to find out, is this going to be mutual, is this guy gonna have interest in Corona Marble and Tile, for instance.
That’s kinda how my dad has operated over the years. Our team size has kinda fluctuated over the years as well. Right now, there’s a lot of work and in my opinion, relatively larger than we have been in the past. That’s just the function of finding a good core group of guys who can all work together for the same goal. That’s kinda where we are right now, in terms of how we hire and then where we look for new hirees.
Martin: You know there is that idea that it’s almost better to look for someone with the work ethics and that fits your culture and then train them to do the actual skills. I sense that your trade is a little bit different, but talk to us just a little bit, or briefly, about that way of hiring.
Mike: Absolutely. I’ve kinda been in both positions. For instance, right now I’m looking for somebody that I would not need to train. I would have to adapt him into the ways and techniques we do somethings, but for the most part, whoever I hire next has the basic and real good understanding of tile installations. On the other side of the coin is hiring somebody completely green, who has no tile experience whatsoever, might not even have construction experience. I’ve actually been a part of a situation. Soon as I graduated from college, it was my dad and I, that’s how small we were when I graduated college. I wound up finding a kid who was 18, just graduated high school, and I trained him from totally not putting tile in his hands to he could go take a whole job on by himself.
There are benefits and disadvantages to that approach, it takes time. I would say that to train somebody to perform the type of work that we do, or like a carpenter would do, it doesn’t happen overnight. I repeat this all the time, I’m currently training somebody who’s 19, straight out of high school. This is like the second time I’ve had to go through this. It’s great, but it requires patience.
Martin: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Mike: It’s not for everybody. I need to pick and choose jobs that I put him on with the mechanic, whose part of our team, to not impede on that guy’s work. He needs to be able to teach, I need to be able to teach. That doesn’t always work out depending on who he’s working with. There’s definitely a fine line in picking and choosing the timing of when to hire somebody who would need the full nurturing and educating to set tile.
Mike: I think it’s super rewarding to do it, but like I said I’m gonna stress this, it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t wake up the next day after reading “How to Set Tile” from Amazon or finding a book on tile at Home Depot, for instance. You can’t just read that and jump into things. There are unique ways today, and I’m actually utilizing a cool thing right now. It’s a video module set, there’s about 44 videos where members of the National Tile Contractor’s Association, and this is like a benefit that I have access to through this association. It’s pretty much 40-some lessons put into video modules that sum up different topics or techniques within the tile trade.
Mike: We’re utilizing it for the first time with this current employee that is part of my team right now. He’s 19 and I’ll just be like, “Look Trey, I just want you to go home tonight. I want you to get through two modules.” I can monitor if he’s doing them or not. Send him off on a little quiz, and just test his knowledge. This way, in the future if I have to hire somebody completely green, I know that I can put them through this type of pre-requisite training to get their mind focused on what to expect day to day, and their experiences day to day within tile. It’s definitely a benefit right now, because I know my Dad, he never had anything like this.
Mike: It’s nice because you know, with the generations coming up right now, everybody is on their phone and they’re computer savvy to the highest degree.
Mike: To be able to have this at my fingertips, to be like, “Look, I want you to go through these 40 modules. You’re gonna learn about cutting tile. You’re gonna learn about the protection, the safety requirements needed. You’re gonna learn about layout and bonding and mortars and all of that. It’s really cool to be able to implement that early on because it’s gonna take a lot of work, I’m hoping, off my shoulders. I can’t attest to how well it’s played out, but this is definitely, moving forward, gonna be part of our plan.
Martin: All right Mike, appreciate that very much. Where can people follow your online journey? Where can they follow you online?
Mike: Okay, so we’re on Instagram. I would say we’re probably most active on Instagram at Corona Marble and Tile, that’s all spelled out, the same on Facebook. You can also find us on Coronamarbleandtile.com on the web. That’s where you can find us and I’m hoping to keep up on the posts and keep everybody engaged.
Martin: Nice. Well, thanks a lot for coming on today and we really appreciate your time and those insights. Thank you.
Mike: Absolutely, I was happy to share with that with you guys.