Business 101: Fishing in Some New Ponds

A contractor was sitting in a fast-food hamburger joint a little after noon one day, grabbing a quick bite before dropping off a bid to a new customer. When the line for ordering inside began to extend outside the door, the drive-through lane speaker broke. The store manager became livid. Barking orders up and down to his workers before he escaped to his small office.

This same contractor, then reported to me of seeing something he had not expected. One of the young workers, about 20 years of age, suddenly popped into action and began calming his co-workers down a bit, apologized to customers standing in line, gave a few gentle order to the workers, and took it upon himself to go out to the drive-through lane to take orders personally.

About thirty minutes passed before organization and peace revisited that little restaurant. That’s when my contractor friend signaled to the young worker who had brought peace and order to the emergency. Here’s how that conversation was reported to me.

“How did you do that young man?” Asked the contractor.
“What do you mean?” Responded the young worker.
“You know what I mean…how did you get things so organized so smoothly?” Continued the contractor.
“I don’t know. I just thought it important to meet the customers’ need. It’s what I just thought should be done…no one else seemed to have any other ideas.” Said the worker in a more humble manner than what his boss had demonstrated earlier.
“How much do they pay you here young man?”
“Bout nine bucks. But I'm up for a raise to $9.25 next month.”
“I’ll start you off at $14.00 an hour if you’ll come work for me.” Inquired the contractor who saw what he wanted.
“What do you do sir?”
“I’m in construction…concrete and some paving.”
“Sir, I don’t know anything about construction.” This was the workers’ honest and flat response.
“I’ll teach you construction young man…I can’t teach you what, I just say, you do.”

Now, before you start thinking about all of the fast food restaurants you will need to visit over the next month, understand the message behind this real event. A contractor, probably like you in many ways, found an employee in a very untraditional “pond.” He didn’t even think about this fast-food “pond” as a potentially hot fishing spot for workers, but it did work out that way.

Here’s some other “ponds” that may be worth your fishing for future workers.

  • Visit your retail hardware and lumber stores. Lots of good high school talent and kids home from college provide a wide breath of potential talent to assess.
  • Tap your local churches by visiting with church leaders about any attendees out of work or looking for work.
  • Develop a relationship with your local high school coaches and find out about those kids that are not interested in college or perhaps can’t afford to attend at this time.
  • Spend about $1,000.00 and create a booth to promote your company and attend job fairs sponsored by schools, associations, etc.
  • If near colleges, post some job ads in the schools specialized areas such as business colleges, arts and science areas, psychology and science buildings. Many students often work construction for summer jobs and may only be getting degree in something that they like…while they may not be able to make a great living being a school teacher, managing a small chain store, etc.
  • Hold your own “Get to Know Us” Saturday fairs where you send invites to local schools and social gatherings frequented by younger workers.
  • Regularly contact government and/or military bases where workers might be looking to leave/retire and would be interested in staying in area.

Finding workers through our more traditional avenues may just not be enough to keep the number of applications coming in to find and hire the needed number of workers. So, don’t be afraid to fish in some less traditional ponds. You may just be surprised what you find “swimming around” in some other industries.

By the way, that young 20 year old who was offered a job by the contractor shared earlier? He not only came to work for the contractor but almost three years later that same young man is now a foreman of a crew. And the contractor will tell you, “He’s a natural leader of workers. He’s a bit younger but the older guys really like how he doesn’t act like a know-it-all. Heck, he may be running this company someday.”

Here’s to fishing in some new ponds!

Ed. Note: Brad is President of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm that specializes in the construction industry. For more information about Brad and his company, please go to