Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Torque over Horsepower”

The following article appears in this month's Atlantic Business Magazine in my regular column "Fish to Fry" under the heading “Torque over Horsepower”

Something Donnie Allan once told me about choosing a car popped in my head today as I made my way through a stack of resumes.

I was out on a cold call when I first met Donnie. I was sitting across from this quiet man, trying hard to sell him a metal building when he starting asking me more questions about the buildings than I had answers to.

Behind his desk, which wasn’t much more than a dusty machinist’s workstation, was a homemade model of a huge motor home. Its tri-axles for steering and numerous axles at the rear made it look like something right out of Cape Canaveral.

Happy to have found a way to change the topic, I asked what it was. He proceeded to explain that he had once seen something like it at NASA and thought it would make a great motor home. His face lit up like a child’s when he asked if I’d like to see the one he was building.

On my way home, I couldn’t help but consider the fact that even though his resume could have listed NASA under work experience, this mechanical genius was raised on a farm. He didn’t have a formal education; his start in the manufacturing business came from welding go-karts as a means to get away from the farm.

Our family business was a two-bay “service station” involving more family members standing at the end of a gas pump hose than paid help. From as early as I can remember, up to the time of my Dad’s death when I was 16, I had been kidnapped by the world of work.

Today I could probably declare a lost youth and blame my circumstances on dropping out of school way too young. But looking back I don’t remember being all that unhappy. In fact, I’m certain most of what I know today was absorbed during that period from Dad’s continuous harping about customer service to Mom’s ability to find the positive in everything. It was there I discovered my passion for cars and the drive to find something better for myself than working on them for other people. My lucky break came from a customer in the contracting business who helped me get back to school and into an industry which ironically now allows me to play with those cars I’ve always loved so much.

Since that long-ago sales call, Donnie and I have become good friends who share an interest in automobiles. When discussing which cars to buy, Donnie will often say, “Sometimes it’s less about the horsepower and more about the torque.” I usually just nod in agreement.

Donnie’s theory is well-debated but I still don’t really get it, except from my experiences racing a car out of the turns, I know I’d rather have more torque than horsepower.

One of our engineers came to us when a “top of the class” student engineer we’d hired for the summer found a better paying position with the Federal government. Through either guilt or for her own entertainment, she found a replacement for us in a young, not-so-studious classmate who was working at a nightclub. Another student engineer who usually strolled in wearing gym pants, sometime around noon, found his way to us because of his drafting skills – not from his school record. Today both these guys are executives at the top of their game. They got to where they are with a strong work ethic and the ability to take charge.

I’ve also headhunted “top of the class” talent and though they are usually bright individuals that doesn’t ensure they’ll be the best. In fact, most have a great tendency to move on to something else.

You may need more patience with younger employees but they’re more open to ideas. More experienced candidates know more but resist change. But it’s “work ethic” that stands out for me in the end. The good news for job-seekers is that you don’t always have to be the “top gun” to get the job. Work hard at finding the right job and the right job will find you. Life comes at you funny sometimes.

When I find myself in another conversation with Donnie about finding good employees, I’ll offer up my own anecdote, “Sometimes it’s less about the ‘top guns’ and more about the work ethic.”

But I’m pretty sure he already knows that.

For more Atlantic Business stories this month try

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"not a chance in Hell"....

The attendance here pretty much sums up a couple of issues... there is no support anywhere for a 2-tier wage system other than a few restaurant owners and the other issue is that Committee hearings are just a false front for Governments to give the impression they're "looking into" the matters at hand when they are really judging "voter" reaction but getting paid to do so (and the new MLA's at the same rate as the experienced ones)... bottom line here is there is "not a chance in Hell" that PEI will adopt a 2-tier wage system and I agree....
Business down on 2-tier wage in western P.E.I.
Not appropriate for rural areas, says group
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
CBC News
About a dozen people attended the meeting. (Brendan Elliott/CBC)
The West Prince Chamber of Commerce has come out against a two-tier minimum wage for P.E.I., unlike business groups in other parts of the province.
The government is considering whether setting a higher minimum wage for experienced workers is a good idea. The committee has heard support for the idea from businesses in other parts of the province, but that was not the experience in O'Leary Tuesday.
"Surprisingly enough, our business organization is against the thoughts of having two-tiered minimum wage," John Lane, past-president of the West Prince Chamber of Commerce, told the MLAs.
Lane said the chamber surveyed its 100 members and got about 25 responses back. None of them supported a two-tier wage.
While the government has stressed the idea is meant to reward experienced workers, there has been a lot of discussion about the restaurant sector, and how perhaps tip-earning wait staff do not need to be paid as much as others.
Lane said that model doesn't work in rural P.E.I. He pointed out urban centres have more people eating and drinking at restaurants, and so servers earn more in tips. In rural areas that traffic just isn't there.
"If you're instilling a minimum wage policy that is suitable to an urban area such as Charlottetown, it may not be suitable for the Sourises, or the Tignishss or the Montagues or the Morells of the world," he said.
"I think you've got to be very careful when you start looking at these policies, that they are not suited for a few big businesses in Charlottetown that will save a few dollars and to the detriment of the rural communities."
Extra duties, no tips
Debbie vanBuskirk brought more direct experience to the discussion. She has been waitressing in North Cape for 23 years.
VanBuskirk told the committee she has always made minimum wage, and she cautioned the MLAs not to get fooled into thinking her tips more than make up for the low wage.
"In the morning we have to vacuum, stock the fridge, get ready for the day. No tips there: $8.40," she said.
"At night we clean the fridge, microwave, sweep the floors, all for $8.40. No tips there."
The committee will continue its public hearings from Islanders Wednesday morning in Montague and Thursday in Charlottetown.