National Clothesline
National Clothesline
How to avoid haphazard hiring
We are all manufacturers. Making good, making trouble, or making excuses. H. V. Adolt wrote or spoke those words.
Do not ask me who H. V. Adolt is, because I could not find the answer when I used Google and Bing to get the answer. Whoever Adolt is, he or she has made a number of excellent statements pertaining to business.
How many excuses do you have for not growing your business? How many excuses do you have for not becoming more profitable? How many excuses do you have for keeping an employee who is a prima donna and should have been terminated months or years ago?
This month’s inquiry should sound familiar to many of you.
“I recently purchased a drycleaning business. I have never been an employer and I want to do things right. How should I handle hiring employees? After being here six months I keep having problems.”
Hiring the right personnel is a difficult task. The first issue is, what job are you looking to fill? Is it a production position, a sales position, or a combination of both?
In this case, the person was looking for a counter sales representative and a drycleaning finisher.
I asked him if he had any employment applications.
His response was he bought some at a stationary store. The most important question on that employment application is whether the person has been convicted of a crime. Fortunately, the application did have that question.
I then inquired as to whether he had ever heard of a background check. “No!” was his answer.
I explained that there are services that will check court records to determine if the person had credit issues, driving issues, or a criminal conviction. I suggested he use a background check for any employee who handles money.
This bit of advice takes me back to the time an applicant checked the “No” box when asked about prior conviction. His background check came back to indicate he had served time.
I called the man into the office and told him he was terminated because he lied on his application.
His response was one I will never forget. “I only stole from my mother.” Mom had to be very upset with her son to press criminal charges. I bet it was a more than one time occasion.
Another option is a drug screen. You have to check with your state laws regarding a drug test. Consider this option for any new hire, no matter what department the person will work in.
I also recommended giving any counter person a written examination to determine the person’s reading and math skills. Wonderlic is the company used by the NFL and many drycleaners for this purpose.
The name of the test is the Wonderlic Personnel Test. It is nothing more than a short IQ test, but it will tell you whether you want to hire the applicant. If the applicant cannot score an average number or higher, I suggest the person not be hired.
I asked if he had a company handbook. Of course the answer was no.
I then explained how important a company handbook is. It provides details to the employee of how the company is run. Vacation time, holidays, reporting times, and dress codes are all spelled out.
Also, fringe benefits such as free or discounted cleaning, medical coverage, if any, are discussed. In my business, an employee did not become eligible for any fringe benefit until after 90 days of employment.
Then I inquired as to whether he had job descriptions. I already knew the answer would be no. I explained what a job description is, and how it described the expected duties of the employee.
Now this business owner knows he must have a good application, a company handbook, and a written job description.
Here was his excuse, “I only have eight full-time employees and two part-time. Why do I need all of that?”
I then had to explain if you are going to own a business, then you have to operate the business like a businessperson. His excuse is very common. I have heard it many times over the years both when I was in business and now when I do consulting.
Then I inquired as to whether he called the applicant’s prior employer or employers.
The response was a very common “Sometimes.” Occasionally you will get a straight answer from a prior employer, and other times the prior employer is wise enough that the person will only tell you if an individual is eligible to be rehired.
If you ever get a call about a prior employee and you cannot say anything nice, all you have to do is tell the caller the person is not eligible for rehire.
We moved into the method of employee acquisition. He had been asking current employees if they knew anyone who could fill the job. Is that how your company operates? If you answer yes, I recommend you consider other options, particularly for a counter person.
There are online services that are available to look for employees. Using one or more service will indicate the applicant’s computer literacy. That skill is very important.
Regarding production employees, referrals can sometimes be very good. On the other hand, you can have problems if one family member has to be terminated. You might lose more than one employee.
When the ad is placed for a salesperson, I suggest you have the person fax the resume, or call an answer machine so that you can hear the person speaking. If you cannot understand the applicant’s call, chances are your customers will not be able to understand the applicant.
Hiring the silk finisher is a different ball game. The only way to test this person’s abilities is to hire the person for a one-day test. If the quality and production speed meet your company standards and the prior employer tells you this individual is eligible for re-hire, hire the person.
Do not hire a job-hopper. People who consistently change jobs every six months or every year should not be considered.
Now this business owner has a complete way to hire new employees. If he follows my instructions, he will have a written job description for every position and he, or an HR attorney will, create a company handbook. That same HR attorney will check on the application to be certain it follows state and federal guidelines and provide information regarding a background check.
Employment tests will be purchased. In addition, the owner will no longer ask a current employee to find a new employee, unless it is necessary.
I really love to change a business owner into a businessperson.

Harvey Gershenson operates Sterling Drycleaning Consulting and is a former owner of Sterling Dry Cleaners. A second-generation drycleaner, he has been in the industry since he was in high school. He has served as president of the Cleaners and Dyers Guild of Los Angeles and has served on the boards of directors of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the California Cleaners Association. He is also a guest lecturer for the California Department of Corrections. He can be reached by e-mail at or phone at (310) 261-2623. His web site is