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Having just observed the Memorial Day holiday veterans are on my mind. Those who read my column regularly know that I strongly advocate and support hiring veterans for a lot of reasons:
1. First and foremost, hard-goods wholesaling is people-driven. As the economy recovers, wholesalers will be carefully adding people in order to accommodate the growth in their businesses.
2. Your objective is to fill each opening with the best possible people. I have written a lot on the topic of people over the years and will not repeat it in this column. If you would like a couple column reprints on the subject of people, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will summarize by saying that your company must develop a reliable process to find, attract and hire high-performing people to build a high-performing wholesaling business. A team of good wholesaling “players” is not an accident in the same way a good team of baseball players does not happen by accident. To requote Yogi Berra when asked what makes a good manager, he replied, “Good players.” Invest the time, there is no alternative.
3. Generation Y and younger folks will often represent the bulk of your entry-level hiring choices. They, just like all generations, have their own set of peculiarities. One of the most discussed will be their perceived delayed maturation process. As part of that, they may come into the labor pool with a misguided understanding of what a job really is. It can be little things like, “No you cannot spend the whole day getting paid for texting your friends” or “Starting time means you are here at work every day at that time ready to work.” It can be more serious problems like, “No your mom cannot shadow you at work to help you with your job.” Or even, “No you are not allowed to “hook your friends up” with products at no cost…that is what we call stealing.”
4. Veterans represent a pool of available people who can become high performing members of your team.
5. With my focus on providing ideas that will help your company to become a high performing wholesaler, I would never suggest that you hire a veteran as an act of charity. I think it is important to separate company operation from charity. Hopefully, your company is involved in activities that “give back” to the community, country and world but hiring underqualified people for key positions is not a proper view of charity. Further, hiring anyone into a role where they are likely to fail does not help the company or the individual.
6. Veterans come with many types and levels of experience. Like any large pool of people some veterans will be qualified and some will not be qualified to fill positions in your company. Just like your normal hiring process that is designed to identify, attract and hire the best and brightest, you should endeavor to identify, attract and hire the best and brightest veterans that you can find. You want all candidates including veterans who have the skills, intellect and attitude that will allow them to contribute and succeed in your company.
7. I do not believe you should lower your standards to force-fit any individual, including veterans into your organization. None of the veterans whom I have met would expect coddling.
8. I do believe we should go out of our way to give veterans “a shot” at openings in the way that we would for any other individual who we owe a favor or a debt.
9. Regardless of your views about their mission and politics of it all, veterans, in good faith, did what their country asked them to do. (Those of us from the Vietnam era will remember, the shameful way returning veterans were treated as people unfairly vented their views about the war at the returning veterans who were mostly drafted to serve in that war.)
10. I do think we owe these men and women our gratitude for their voluntary service to our country. They have gone in harm’s way and been in harm’s way longer than any military force in our country’s history.
11. Veterans have a very high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the population.
12. Their lives and the lives of their families were rerouted as part of serving their country.
13. Some joined the military directly from high school, served their time and are rejoining the labor force in their mid-twenties. In most cases, their military experience will have trained them in basic job skills and in working as part of a team. They will also have been taught basic interpersonal skills that are key in a service business like wholesaling.
14. Others have made the military their first career and are retiring and ready to begin their second career. Some of these people have more and better supervisory skills than their civilian counterparts because the military is all about supervising and evaluating teams. Teams often built from the generation Y or younger folks I discussed earlier.
For some ideas on how you can give veterans “a shot” at the openings in your company, read my sidebar article that highlights the recently announced, “Hiring Heroes Program” by Epicor Software Corporation to hire veterans.
Rich Schmitt is president of Schmitt Consulting Group Inc., a management consulting firm focused on distribution and manufacturing clients for pricing, consulting seminars and profit improvement. He is also the co-owner of Schmitt ProfiTools Inc. (SPI), which provides web storefronts and handheld tools, print catalog software, content creation and services, and pricing management and analysis. Visit his company websites at www.go-scg.com and www.go-spi.com. Schmitt can be reached directly at email@example.com