Developing Your Farm Team in the Construction Industry

In major league baseball, if a player goes down the team calls up a replacement from one of their farm teams and the team rolls on.

Do you have a farm team for your business? I define a business farm team as a group of high-quality job candidates that you have interviewed who currently work for other companies or are between jobs and are interested in working for you. Hallmark Stone, a fabricator and installer of kitchen countertops in Fenton, MO requires all of its managers to have 1-2 prospective employees in their "farm system" at any one time. Managers are measured on their ability to keep this farm team filled with live prospective employees.

There are three major benefits to the farm-team approach to recruiting:

  1. Few executives and managers enjoy the recruiting and hiring process. By requiring managers to always be recruiting and interviewing, the company overcomes this resistance.
  2. When employees leave, the company always has job candidates to which it can turn. Many hiring mistakes happen because companies are desperate to fill a position and settle for the candidates they have rather than the candidates they need. The farm system approach helps to overcome this tendency toward panic hiring.
  3. Having a farm team of possible employees makes managers bolder in dealing with poor performance. Managers often put up with poor performance because they don't have anyone else to do the work. Building a farm team for your business gives your managers the confidence that they can fill a position when they need to fire someone.

Here are some steps to take to create a farm team for your company:

Interview all the time. Companies that are great at recruiting interview people all the time. They often say "we don't have an open position right now, but we are always looking for great people." When they find a strong candidate they either create a position for them or put them on their farm team in case something opens up.

Be recruiter-in-chief for your company. I once spoke for a professional association of engineers. There were 100 people in the room, and 90 of them were project managers and middle managers. One man stuck out in the crowd. The way he carried himself and the way other people spoke to him demonstrated that he was a senior executive. When I asked him why he attended these sessions, he replied "That's simple. At my company, I am the recruiter-in-chief." He recognized that taking a leadership role in this organization helped him to fill his farm-team with qualified candidates in his industry.

Spread the word. Tell everyone you know that you are always looking to hire great people. When headhunters want to recruit an employee away, they often will ask that person for just such a referral. Of course, what the recruiter is looking for is the employee to say "Hey, I might be interested!"

Selectively pay top dollar. Keep payroll under control, but if you find an exceptional person don't be afraid to pay up for results. A construction client of mine in St. Louis paid top dollar for an administrative assistant. Within 2 weeks of being hired, this individual had called her contacts at a large general contractor in town and set up a meeting with that company's executives. She also made the reservation at the restaurant where they were to meet and dropped off company brochures previous to the lunch. All the executives needed to do was show up! Do you think it was worth it to pay a little extra for that person?

Recognize that all marketing is recruiting. Every marketing event, every industry event, every worksite that you visit is a recruiting ground. Get in the mindset that you are always wearing your recruiting hat - you will be amazed at the good people you start to notice. Take the next action to get them connected to your company; start to interview and build a farm team!

Eric Herrenkohl is Founder and President of Herrenkohl Consulting (, a management consulting firm focused on creating organizations that drive growth and profits. His work has been published or cited in the Philadelphia Inquirer,,,, and Eric is also the author of Performance Principles, a monthly e-letter that reaches thousands of subscribers across North America and is re-printed in a number of industry and company newsletters.