Eighteen years after founding Firefighters Bookstore, Peggy Glenn says she finally has her dream team of employees. “It was getting people to buy in, to be committed to something more than just showing up for work,” explains Glenn, whose catalog sells instructional guides for firefighters. “I didn’t used to have people who could look around their work area and see what needs to be done.”
She does now. Glenn recently saw an employee round up her co-workers to clean up the showroom, without being asked to do so by the boss. Another worker not long ago decided on his own to look through all the overstock in the warehouse to make sure the count was right and that each of the products was clean and ready to go.
It wasn’t always this way. Glenn says one former employee would spend most of the day doing nothing and then besiege the other workers with requests for help at the end of the day. And since the Huntington Beach, CA-based company’s six employees (three part-time, three full-time) are expected to do a variety of tasks, including picking, packing, and answering the phones, the whole operation feels it when one person isn’t pulling his weight. Glenn dealt with the lackluster employee by drawing up a list of specific work expectations, such as making sure the packing tables were filled each night with supplies. If the requirements were not met, the worker would receive a warning giving him two weeks to improve his performance or face termination. Rather than work to meet the expectations, the worker immediately gave Firefighters Bookstore two weeks’ notice.
Wary of making another bad hire, Glenn was careful when writing a help-wanted ad to include in the job description every detail she could think of that might affect the prospective worker. When she found suitable candidates, Glenn hired them as temporary help and paid them from week to week until she felt they were ready to be converted to permanent status. “I didn’t rely on any fancy assessment tools,” she says. “I relied on my gut.”