If you’ve ever been a one-man-with-a-spray can pest control operator and came to the place where you realized you needed to hire your first employee, you know how daunting and intimidating that idea can be. After all, you’re going to be handing over your babies to someone else to care for and raise. Or so it feels.

It is a fact that the first employee you hire is without a doubt the most important one you will ever hire. They will either help make you or break you. You are putting them in charge of the most important asset you have…your customers!

And the situation is even more daunting if you are one of those control-freak types who demand that it always be “My way or the highway!”

Another fact: There are more ways than one to kill a bug!

Most of us tend to put off hiring an employee until we are overworked, stressed out and desperate for relief. At that point we are susceptible to making poor choices. We tend to hire too quickly. We need somebody fast and so we hire some body…whichever body is available!

As a rule we are quick to hire and slow to fire, when the exact opposite should be true. We should be slow to hire and quick to fire.

If you’re a business owner reading this right now and I ask you to think of the one person in your organization who should be fired right now, you will probably think of someone in particular immediately. You know they are not doing a good job. You know they aren’t pulling their weight. You know they are over-paid, under-worked, lazy, disrespectful, dishonest and a bad influence on your other employees. They have it made-in-the-shade and you are allowing it to continue. If you don’t have an employee like that right now, it’s a safe bet you have had one in the past or you will have one in the future.

So…why don’t you fire that person? The answer is probably: “Because I don’t have anyone to replace them with at the moment.” It’s one of those examples of, “The pain outweighs the gain.” It’s like lingering for years in a bad marriage because you can’t stand the thought of going through a divorce.

Some pest control companies have very little employee turnover while others seem to have a revolving door that never stops turning. Each extreme has its upside and downside. But one thing is for sure and that is this: The first and foremost consideration when evaluating an employee’s performance is whether or not he/she is profitable (assuming they are honest and not a drug addict, thief or axe murderer). If they are not generating a profit for the stockholders (which is YOU) then something needs to change.

HIRE FOR ATTITUDE. I am a firm believer in hiring for personality. Let’s face it. Killing bugs is not brain surgery. Neither is inspecting a home. These things can be taught to almost anyone. But you can’t teach personality. I don’t want to get into a psychology debate here, but you get my point. You want to hire people who appear bright, energetic and eager to learn. And much of this can be determined in your very first phone conversation, even before you know what they look like.

I always hammer into my coaching clients that you need to RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT, whether you actually need someone right now or not. That’s what professional sports teams do. They recruit year round. If a pitcher or a quarterback goes down, their replacement is always one phone call away at all times. And that’s the way it should be for each of your employees. Every single employee you have, from the top to the bottom, should have his/her replacement just one phone call away. By continuously recruiting, you will have an entire file of eligible replacements waiting to receive that phone call. And that fact alone will take a tremendous burden off of YOU and it will prevent you from hiring the wrong person when you get in a jam and need someone fast. (Plus, it can be a powerful motivator to your other employees when they know their replacement is sitting on the bench waiting for a chance to get in the game!)

You need to not only make every effort to hire the right employees, but it is imperative that you find ways to keep them motivated and nurture them along, seeing to it that they stay on track and happy. If you ignore them, sooner or later they will either fall into a rut and become less and less profitable and you will be faced with the decision of keeping or replacing them. Or, they will become restless, bored, dissatisfied and eventually leave you for greener pastures.

There certainly should be clearly defined guidelines and processes for employees to follow. Don’t assume anything. Give them a specific set of blueprints to follow and then hold them accountable to it.

There is no doubt that the single most important — and taxing — responsibility of any business owner is to find, hire and keep good employees on the payroll. They will define your company, your brand and ultimately, your success and the success of your business!

Don’t wait until you are in dire need of a new employee to begin searching for one. Take the hiring process seriously. Devote time to it year round. RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT. Have a file of quality résumés and good candidates pre-screened, already interviewed and ready to go at all times. If you will do that, it will take away a tremendous amount of pressure and probably save you from making another bad hire that you have to live with. And that will ultimately make YOUR life a lot easier…and your business a lot more profitable!

The author is a pest control marketing consultant and president of Coleman Services, Roswell, Ga. He can be reached at www.pestcontrolmarketer.com or by calling 770/993-0004.