Hire and Retain the Right Kind of Employees

Marisa Beaver has taken a multifaceted approach to building the strong, cohesive team she envisioned having when first starting her sewer rehab company

Hire and Retain the Right Kind of Employees

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When asked to name a primary reason for the success of Sewer Experts, a sewer-line replacement and rehab company based in suburban Denver, co-owner Marisa Beaver quickly points to her employees.

“Sometimes they work 14 hours and come back at 6 a.m. the next day and they never complain,” she says. “That’s the No. 1 key to our success.”

But the converse to that is the company has to hire, and retain, the right kind of people in order to create that kind of culture. And Beaver says she does that with a different approach to job interviews, plus offering higher-than-usual pay — a minimum of $21 an hour.

The company also periodically pays cash bonuses when employees work long hours and offers other perks, like celebrating birthdays with an unusual gift: lottery tickets, with the number of tickets matching the person’s age.

Moreover, the fact that Beaver is a woman in a male-dominated industry creates a challenging dynamic.

“We have to find people that are willing to work for women and take direction from a woman,” she says. “If a guy is willing to take direction from a woman, right there you can tell they’re different than the norm.”

How does she know if someone will do that? Sometimes she doesn’t, but it becomes evident when they don’t return for a second job interview or quit after one day of work. She also asks a lot of questions during job interviews about job candidates’ personal lives and what they can expect if they get hired.

“I try to have an off-the-cuff conversation to find out what they’re all about as a person,” Beaver says. “I also want to know about their aspirations. If they want to own a house, then we’ll help them get to the right place to get a house, even if it means going to my personal banker to fix or establish credit.”

Beaver also tells prospective employees that she runs a tight ship but also believes in over-communication. And if employees have issues with co-workers, they’re going to come into the office for a talk.

“If someone takes a certain tone of voice with a co-worker, I bring them in and talk about their feelings,” she says. “We’ve even paid for counseling services for crew members who are going through things. This is more of a family than it is a place to work, and we’re looking for people to become a part of that family. I tell them that when we rise up (as a company), you’ll rise up as well.”

Beaver also says that investing in reliable, advanced equipment is another good employee-retention tool. She says that for nearly a year, she and her business partner have taken a $500-a-week salary and invested the rest of what would be the normal pay into equipment and PPE. So far, the efforts have paid off.

“We’ve been able to build the exact kind of crew I wanted,” Beaver says. “They work together like a well-oiled machine — you’d think they’ve been working together for many years. That’s what happens when you put the right people with the right temperaments together.”


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