Victoria Downing
Sharpe + Harrell Photography Victoria Downing

Does your company have the bench strength you need — employees in the wings able to take on more leadership if the business needs it? It’s important to prepare in advance to avoid paying more than fair value for a new staff person or hiring the wrong person. So build bench strength with smart, thoughtful hiring and a plan to grow replacements from within.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What’s the financial cost of hiring a replacement for a key position?
  • What’s the loss-of-productivity cost?
  • What effects do these costs have on your business and on your remaining key players?
  • How will you find this new teammate?
  • How much time will it take?

Developing a plan to increase bench strength in advance is worth the effort:

  • Assess your current organizational lineup to see if you have staff with the potential to move to advanced positions. This is especially important for the roles that are the most difficult to fill, such as production manager or top salesperson. Start with the positions that have a deep impact on the business and would be the most difficult to do without, and have an understudy in the wings. Not sure who on your team has the potential? Talk with employees. You’ll quickly identify those who are ambitious and want to excel. Also, look for “energy generators,” those people who bring vigor to the table. They will fuel you and one another.
  • Review job descriptions. Clearly defined positions are most crucial when the cost of replacing someone is especially high. Some leadership skills and traits may only fully develop over time, and during a crisis you don’t have time to wait.
  • Hire smart. Also, think ahead and make sure that everyone you hire has the potential for advancement.
  • Train, train, train. Help team members get ahead. Give them the opportunity to take on more responsibility and to learn new aspects of positions within the company. E.g., do your lead carpenters have an opportunity to learn scheduling? Is the production coordinator learning estimating basics? Are you teaching the entire team how to decipher financials and understand how to generate profits?

This type of ongoing training will help individuals be ready to move up when you need them. Another benefit: As the rest of the staff sees a team member move up, they’ll get excited about the opportunities that exist for them as well. This means retaining your talent far longer than you have in the past.
—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, helping remodelers across North America build strong, profitable businesses. 301.490.5620.