In 2002, Lee Kimball Inc. owners Gregg and Bruce Johnson created a five-year strategic plan to grow the company, which led to substantial changes. “One of the first moves was for me to leave production and move into sales,” says Gregg, who had been production manager for years.
The search began with the company's existing staff. Although their production coordinator lacked the experience, “he was a go-getter, so we felt we could coach him and turn him into what we needed,” Gregg says.
But the employee couldn't handle the expanding sales volume, nor could he create “a plan to make it happen,” Gregg says. “He became a bottleneck because production couldn't handle the load.” After two years, Gregg asked him to leave the company.
Although the Johnsons wanted to grow the company — rapidly — they found they didn't have the luxury of time for the employee to get up to speed as production manager.
Worthwhile Investment The next time around, they took a different tack: They contacted a headhunter. “[Head-hunters] will search out great people who are happy where they are and weren't even thinking of leaving,” Gregg says. “But sometimes, they're willing to talk, and then they get excited about the possibilities.”
That's how it was for their eventual hire, who had been working for a large commercial remodeler. When he met the Johnsons, saw the company's new offices, and learned about their plans, he took a pay cut and joined the team — and he hit the ground running.
“Within weeks, he'd set up procurement and planning tools similar to what he'd been using at a $300 million company,” Gregg says.
One significant benefit of hiring talent from outside the company is the likelihood that they will carry with them a “briefcase” full of new-to-the-company tools, systems, and experiences that can have an immediate impact on company productivity and efficiency. And hiring an experienced, quality player means less training, allowing the owner to focus on his or her own high-impact activities.
This approach is paying off for Lee Kim-ball. In the past two years, the company's revenue has grown from $3 million to $5 million, and the Johnsons expect to hit the goals they set five years ago.
“With the aggressive goals we had in place,” Gregg says, “we now know that hiring from the outside was the right move for us.”— Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage Inc., a national consulting firm specializing in the challenges of running a remodeling company. The Remodelers Advantage team works with thousands of remodelers each year to help them develop companies that deliver above-average personal compensation, healthy net profits year after year, and the structure that allows for a balanced life. 301.490.5620. www.remodelersadvantage.com.