A Better Hiring Mindest: What We Can Offer You

Jose Hernandez and his brother Pete started their asphalt business with nothing, but discovered an out-of-the-box recruitment method to find quality employees.

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Oftentimes we hire someone based on what that person can do for us, but in reality the employer is just as much in need of the employee. Especially in today's world! So how can we attract good employees? By simply removing barriers.

The hiring process can be an arduous task for any manager, you don’t know them and they don’t know you. You put an ad out for a job opening and they inquire about it, and now an interview is set up. The potential employee comes in with a resume and you start the process by asking questions about their experiences and their skills, their positives and negatives. You explain what the job requires and if they feel they can meet them. You tell them what the job pays and ask if they are ok with that and then finally you ask if they have any questions of you. Then you say you will review everything and get back to them.

Guess what? The moment that employee leaves they’re gone and you’re back to square one.

This was me in 2016, my brother Pete and I decided to start a small paving company after five years of him selling his other paving company to Hubbard Construction named TPC, where I held the position of QC Manager. After selling TPC he founded BlackRock Milling and, in the following five years, grew it to fifteen milling machines! So, going into business with him was a no brainer!

Just after deciding to do this he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and had a golf ball size tumor removed. I wanted to call off starting BlackRock Asphalt but he insisted we continue as planned, because he’s going to fight it!

We go forward. We start buying equipment and put an ad on Indeed for crew members and called on people we knew in the industry to see if they had anyone interested. We did anything and everything we could do to get someone to come work for us! Interview after interview and nothing!

Through all of this my brother was in chemotherapy.

It was a really tough time for everyone to find employees, and especially for a small paving company. I mean what did we have to offer? No 401K or insurance, so if the bigger contractors were struggling to hire how were we going to do it? To make matters worse, we had been awarded three jobs and still had no crew!

Pivot Point 1

One of the many things I learned from my brother was that you will always hit walls in life, it’s just a matter of whether or not you will hit it so hard you go through it. He went through a lot of them.

We had to find a way to get these jobs done. So I reached out to Lane Construction and asked if they would sub out one of their crews to us, just the crew, I had all the equipment needed and, of course, I was buying their asphalt. They said, “Yes.” 

Phew!! Ok, that crisis was averted, but we still had no crew of our own, and then three jobs turned into four!

I was beyond freaking out. “Keep bidding on work! Don’t worry we’ll figure it out,” Pete always tested and pushed me to my limits, but because of him I love challenges!

I get a phone call from Ricardo, a crew member at TPC who had a buddy named Miguel flying in from Puerto Rico to Orlando where his wife just got a job with Disney and was looking for work. 

“Great give me his number!” I said.

Miguel and I talk and this guy sounds amazing. He can operate a paver, roller, screw, lute, skidsteer, milling machine, tack truck, and he’s a mechanic!! Wow, if only we could manage with one person It all sounds good, but proof is in the pudding, right?

Pivot Point 2

How the heck am I going to get this guy to show me he can do all these things? I tell my brother about him and that we should offer to pay him $300 cash and reimburse his travel to come to the jobsite and show us everything he can do. Pete says, “Do it!”

I called Miguel, gave him the deal, and he took it. We told him to meet at the shop at 5:30am and we’d take him to the jobsite, but when I got there at 5:00 a.m. he was already there. I liked him already!

We get to the jobsite and the Lane crew shows up, preps, and begins working. Miguel starts off with the lute, rakes, then runs the screw, jumps on the paver, and the super for Lane is looking at me like, “Who is this guy? He does it all!”

We finished the day and I gave Miguel the money, and offered him $17 an hour (remember this is 2016), which was $10 more than what he was making in Puerto Rico, and guaranteed him 40 hours a week, if he came to work for us. He took the job!

We had Miguel work on one of the milling and paving crews with Lane, while I continued to look for more workers. Again we found nothing! I spoke with Miguel and asked if he knew anyone else that would come to Florida and work. He made some phone calls on a Thursday, and on that Saturday I received 12 phone calls!

Pivot Point 3

These guys couldn’t just get up to come on their own to interview, so we had to get creative. My brother said, “You know what you have to do.” And I sure did. Miguel and I went to Puerto Rico and spoke to all 12 guys that called me.

On the flight to PR all I could think was, “How the heck am I going to go about this?”

We met with the first candidate the following morning. A young man in his early 20s with a wife and two kids. How am I going to convince this guy to pack up and leave his family for a paving job in Florida? I told him about our companyand about our experience. The great thing about having Miguel with me was he could verify that we were not just some fly-by-night company. Miguel told him about all the work we had, and the better pay in Florida rather than in Puerto Rico.

It all sounded good to the gentleman, but he had a problem, “How am I going to get there?” Even if he got a flight there, then what? He would have no where to live.

You guessed it!

Pivot Point 4

I had to take make a phone call. I told my brother that we were going to have to make it a no-brainer for these guys. This was the deal we offered: 

  • Pay for the flight
  • 3 months full-time work at $17 an hour
  • 3 months rent for an apartment
  • 3 month car rental 

If it did not work after that period, we would fly them back. I told him, “Give me an opportunity to show you a better way of life, and if it doesn’t work I’ll fly you back home. But if it does work, I’ll fly your family to Florida, what do you say?”

He says he’ll do it, and six total of the people we met with agreed.

I got back to Florida and began booking flights, rented two apartments and transportation. Done, done, done.

We got them to Florida and began working our jobs with our own crew! Our first job was a Winn-Dixie parking lot mill and pave in Lakeland, Fla.

Less than two years later, we had two and a half crews.

We succeeded because we were not just in the paving business but the people business.

Now, I know my story is an anomaly in the way we went about it, but there is still a difficulty in hiring employees. What is your current approach to hiring? What are you offering? What is your culture? How involved are you with your employees, your community, your industry? What does your website and social media say about your company? Look within your company first, and then ask yourself and your management team, “What are WE offering THEM? Why would anyone want to work for us?”

I promise you as long as I’m standing I will run through any wall put in front of me!

Forever in honor of my brother, business partner, mentor, hero

Pete M. Hernandez

2/23/1972 – 7/26/2018