The recession has forced many vending and OCS operators to downsize. But whether from a shift in the services provided or a more stable economy with less unemployment, many operators have started hiring again. And with the hiring process comes the challenge of finding good, qualified people, sifting through overwhelming applicants and determining proper compensation. Many operators rely on word of mouth, while others are using employment agencies. And knowing what is needed in an employee, besides basic requirements, is just as important as compensating them fairly.
Qualified employees still a challenge
Finding good quality candidates strongly challenges small, family owned operations which need workers who are multi-talented and committed to the company, instead of just the paycheck.
Mark Legler, owner of V.E.N. Enterprises, a small honor box and vending operation in rural Indiana, finds it staggering how few people in his area have a good driving record, good attendance record or who can be trusted with a lot of cash.
“We can teach everything else they need to know, but if they don’t have these qualities, they are probably not the right person for what we want to do,” said Legler. Rather than put an ad in the paper or online and sift through applicants, Legler looks in his community for those who meet the requirements. If he can’t hire the right candidate, then he won’t hire anyone.
“The people we have now enjoy the relative freedom of working by themselves, traveling around the area, and interacting with people,” said Legler.
He finds if the job doesn’t fit the employee, the pay doesn’t matter. He pays a straight hourly wage because he asks his employees to do many jobs from repairing/moving machines to selling new accounts.
Marni Frank, co-founder of Community Refreshments, Tampa, Fla., doesn’t find high unemployment rates making good, qualified employees easier to come by, even in densely populated Florida. “There are very few people with the mentality to grow with us,” she said. Being a small OCS provider, having dedicated employees is a must.
For Frank, the skills that are more important now than ever are the ability to upsell an account and be knowledge about service. She’d like a driver who can notice a location buying coffee cups from a savings club, for instance, and then communicate to them that Community Refreshments could supply those instead.
Frank pays drivers bonuses on top of their salaries for upselling an account or finding a new account. Her sales force is split, some receiving a similar bonus package and some getting a commission for maintaining the relationship, although this is often viewed as the route driver’s job.
Hiring is the same, but tools differ
Randy Parks, owner and founder of ProStar Services, Inc. in Carrollton, Texas, thinks the economy has led to better candidates and less turnover, but not to an extreme.
“It’s a work-a-day industry,” he said, “so it’s sometimes difficult to find folks with the right work ethic.” He posts jobs online, on Craig’s List, or hires employees from a temporary agency if he doesn’t think the position will be permanent, such as for software projects.
“I used to use newspapers,” said Parks, “but it seems folks we want to hire are all online.”
Outsourcing screening helps
Bob Yeomans, owner of Central Vending in Janesville, Wis., outsourced his recent hires of a full- and part-time route driver because it was easier and convenient.
“I think the pool of capable people is larger than it was,” he said. “That’s a good and bad thing.”
Yeomans found when looking for an applicant on his own, he’d be flooded with resumes. “When you get thousands of applications to weed through, it’s a challenge, if you’re a small business owner,” he said, “even 50 applications is a challenge.”
Yeomans used the employment agency Manpower, in part because he didn’t need the drivers immediately. He gave Manpower his requirements, and two months later he got candidates that met his exact needs. “I’m very happy with who they found,” he said.