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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981
February 12, 2013

People are the Heart of Our Business: The Priceless Value of Choosing the Right People

Written by  Barnett Gershen

9-PEOPLEARETHEHEARTAs CEO of Associated Building Services, it was my biggest challenge to find, develop, and retain the right people in order to achieve success AND make a successful exit. Your team makes or breaks the company and definitely makes or breaks a profitable exit sale (if that’s your final objective). One of the crucial steps in taking your business to the next level is to elevate your human resources department to a higher place within your organization. In fact, HR needs to be equal to finance, sales, marketing, and operations. Jim Collins says that “One of the secrets of success is to find the right people, put them on the bus, and put them in the right seats.” If nothing else, this will make you successful and allow you to “drive the bus” to the right destination. Many times, HR is simply considered a quasi law-enforcement, reactive department. When, in fact, HR should be a proactive, high-level, strategic department / initiative, with the resources and knowledge to find, develop, and retain the very best people.

Excellent HR can be a real profit booster by recruiting faster and deeper, while finding people who are more effective and stay longer. A proactive HR department can also act as a backstop for payroll problems, holiday strategies, raise strategies, minimumwage strategies, fiscal budget strategies, and other important initiatives. Average controls and strategies can become wildly successful IF implemented by good people with good systems. Turnover is costly for your company—when a good employee leaves, you don't just lose their productivity, you lose their essential knowledge of the position and the relationships they've built inside and outside the organization. At the same time, you have to find the time and effort to hire and train new employees. HR can lead the way to minimizing unplanned turnover by increasing the number of successful hires.

In Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch explains the dynamics of defining, identifying, and retaining a winning team. “A players” are passionate, visionary, focused, open, charismatic, committed to “making things happen.” They’re productive and not only energetic themselves, but they also energize everyone around them. “B players” may not be as visionary or the most driven, but they are vital, and they make up the majority of the group. “C players” are non-producers and more likely to “enervate” rather than “energize.”

Just like any other crucial department, we must recognize that HR requires active and focused management. Fortunately, there are many new computer programs and applications that can improve HR’s performance. The latest HR software can generate countless different reports on tasks, such as performance review scheduling, compliance issues, equipment control, time off, and turnover. Just remember that if you choose to use programs like this in your HR department, the real payoff is what you do with the information these reports generate. Plan your work, and work your plan.

One of the primary goals in selecting the right team is to turn the hiring process into a more objective (rather than subjective) process. While there’s no one perfect selection method, you can improve the methodology with technology. Begin with a clear understanding of the responsibilities, skill sets, and objectives for the position. Focused job descriptions or position profiles are key in this regard. In fact, the recruiting and vetting process (interviews, reference checks, background checks, etc.) should both be guided by the initial position profile.

The next step in “mechanizing” the subjective task of recruiting the right people is the use of effective assessment instruments. These tools can add significant, structured information that help enhance your understanding of your candidates. I’ve been successfully utilizing one such instrument, The Birkman Method®, for over three decades with my companies, and now I’m sharing this strategy with companies across the United States, while also facilitating the same kind of success with my clients.

Birkman testing and consulting is an extremely cost effective way to develop a winning team—and in turn, a profitable company. Practically speaking, Birkman helps measure people's job interests and their natural approach to various responsibilities. From there, it identifies the positions in which a candidate would be the most successful. My own use of this instrument has resulted in decreased turnover, less risk of poor-quality hires, lowered costs, increased profitability, and a dynamic, winning team.

Once you get the processes outlined here started, they will ultimately evolve into improved individual and team development, along with enhanced success for your business. Michael Jordan, for instance, never achieved his full potential until the right players—Scotty Pippen and Charles Barkley—were there to support him, and they’d developed a good understanding and trust in one another.

Building the right team is an ongoing process that continually results in positive results for the company and creates a win-win situation. Remember, your team is paramount to your success. Your ability to select and develop a winning team is one of the most crucial skills for any effective business leader.


After a successful exit from his position as owner/CEO of Associated Building Services, Barnett Gershen established a private consulting practice focused on helping CEO’s across the country define, embrace and realize their goals. He can be reached in Bellaire, Texas, at 713-839-1990.

Last modified on April 06, 2016

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