You may find that the people who were perfect for your company when you started often aren't the right people today. Because of volume growth, new markets, increased business management savvy, or a variety of other reasons, the needs of the company may have grown beyond the skills of one or more of your employees.

So what do you do? Do you release someone who has been with you for years and feel terrible about it? Or do you keep them, knowing that they're just not up to the job? Or are there other solutions?

Susan Pierce, AIA, of Commonwealth Home Remodelers in Vienna, Va., has experienced this problem in the award-winning company she and her husband, Kelvin, created. She says, “When we started 20 years ago, we were young, naïve, and struggling. We had little management experience when we hired our first staff members. Since that time, we've grown and changed a lot. We've learned a great deal about management and about how to effectively lead the company. Now we know what we need in terms of employee performance if we're going to reach our goals. Because of this, we have new expectations. We raised the bar, communicated what we expected, and gave everyone the chance to rise to the challenge. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to do it.”

As long-term employees left the company, they were replaced with more skilled individuals who could make a greater contribution to the company's success.

A remodeler in California who faced the same issues says, “We've decided that we want to be leaders in this industry, and that requires us to constantly improve and upgrade everything — including our people. This attitude was difficult for me at the beginning, but I've learned that the more I cling to unqualified people, the weaker we become.”

Allen Lutes, president of Alpha Contracting, Ann Arbor, Mich., takes another perspective. He says, “There is a generation of people — who are now in their 50s and 60s — that was not raised with computers and technology; and they may not have made the effort to educate themselves in areas that are now not only common but are critical to their success in a position. But … they often offer tremendous experience in business and construction that is difficult to find in the marketplace.

“[When this happens] we offer training, and it has helped most of the time. A few times, when the employee has had other skills or experience that is valuable, we have assigned personnel to support them in the areas in which they are weak. In a few cases, the employee refused to use the technology that had been implemented and adopted by the rest of the team. In these cases, we, unfortunately, parted ways.”

Pierce adds, “While it can be painful to release an otherwise good person from the company, we've found that in every case, the new, more highly skilled employee has done much more for our company.”

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Laurel, Md. 301.490.5620.