How I drive my business with training
This article first appeared August 12, 2011.
Richard Kuipers has managed to turn his removalist business Two Men and a Truck from a one-man operation back in 1994 to a successful SME turning over $6.4 million.
Kuipers brags he has one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry, and says he achieves that by pumping money into making sure his staff are fully trained at all times.
How has your business performed this year?
There’s been a slow down in the economy this year, but growth is going to be about 8% or so. We’re really reliant on housing sales, because we’re basically removalists. So people are very wary on moving at the minute, and there’s definitely a downturn in housing sales. It’s also getting more competitive now, so the bigger companies have seen a downturn as well.
You put a big emphasis on training. Why is that?
It takes a long time to train people in my business. Operators have to understand the trucks, the logistics, they need to talk to people, understand what their specific needs are. It’s hard for a newcomer to just enter, take the phones, and then know all the technical details that need to be known about someone moving.
If you work out the cost of the training here, it’s expensive.
How many staff do you have?
We have an office staff of about 12, and then 69 full-time employees on the road. We also have about 80 people who work on a contract basis.
What type of training does your staff do?
We have to do all the office training as well, which includes things like occupational health and safety. That’s specifically for other staff, and we also do other types of training that supports that. My daughter did a management training course, and then we also have courses for the drivers and the contractors as well. The office staff must do insurance training.
Was this your idea, the training?
I’m very happy to do it, very much so. One girl who actually started with us was studying psychology – nothing to do with removals at all – and I paid her fees.
What prompted you to do that?
Because she had been with us for awhile. It helps her out because she was struggling during that time. And that type of thing is worth investing in. It’s really a small amount of money when you think about it.
Sure, and it’s a very nice thing to do, but very unusual for a business owner.
But it’s about loyalty. Employees stay here. We have a very good working environment, we treat everybody like family members. As a result our turnover is extremely low, we have basically no turnover at all.
Why do you place such a large amount of importance on these training programs?
It’s purely the cost of training staff. Because we put a lot of effort into this training we don’t have a lot of turnover.
Does it get expensive?
We just write it off. It’s really not that expensive, and I think it’s simply part of employing people. It’s really important.
We also do insurance training because it’s part of our responsibility for when we take bookings. But general office training is important, it gets people’s morale up, and we don’t get stalemated. It gives people a lot of trust in each other to do things. People trust you if you invest in them.
I also understand you give detailed work descriptions to everyone, is that correct?
We do that for everyone. They all have set work descriptions, we have KPIs for every employee. Every month they have those key performance indicators set, and so on, and if they meet them then there is a bonus involved. We have regular meetings to see if we can improve things.
What made you do that?
It’s important for employees to know what we expect of them. We’re a small office, so everybody has to know a little bit of everything. Having that work description document of their responsibilities is a good thing for them. It’s a bit of an open document, so we expect them to do everything that’s required. Keeps people accountable for what they do.
Do you have one too?
I do. I act as sort of the ambassador of the entire program.
Do you think other companies should try these sorts of programs as well?
Definitely. I think that employees expect it these days. And even if you want to get your employees into training, it doesn’t have to be related to the industry. As long as they are learning something. It opens up their minds and has some great benefits. It gets people to think outside the square and that flows through into your business.