In the mid-nineties I was faced with the reality that we were not the company I wanted to be, and needed to decide if we were going to make HRI a good place for good people to work, or hang in the realm of the bottom feeders chasing work as the low bidder. I'm a rather simple and unsophisticated person, horribly unorganized but honest as the day is long. What we provided to customers was not what I was selling and it needed to stop. Drugs were being bought, sold and used on the roof, attendance was deplorable and outside of a small group of key people, we really struggled to find good workforce.
Our first step was drug free, and as I stated in a previous month's contribution, much of Ohio's drug free workplace program is a carbon copy of what we were doing.
Second, we started offering full family health insurance at a low cost to employees. Today, that cost is $100/month to the employee for family coverage. We do not have a minimum number of hours worked to carry insurance through the winter. If you're hired in October and laid off in December, as long as you bring in the $100 each month, we pay the rest.
Third was a decent retirement 401k and to date, employer contributions have averaged nearly 100% of employee contributions. With profit-sharing, our 401k is a very good plan for those that contribute.
Fourth was to take our safety program to new heights. We are the only roofing contractor ever nominated by economists at the Ohio BWC for the "Governor's Award in Workplace Safety," and we've been nominated twice. We never expect our little company to win in this All-Industry award, but it is a great honor just to be nominated.
Fifth, we went in search of the very best products. Products that had something different about them and were a little more expensive. I knew we couldn't compete in the TPO, rubber and other commodity markets. We sell the merits of the products right alongside the merits of the company. The one/two punch has made us very successful in bidding opportunities where something other than just the low dollar is being considered. When it's just about the money, I'd say our hit rate is under 5%.
You cannot expect to get more money if you can't offer legitimate value for that money. Find out what makes you better, and sell that.
Michael Hicks is owner of Hicks Industrial Roofing. See his full bio here.
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