Like many of us, I started my cleaning and restoration company by purchasing a van and equipment and doing all the work myself. Many stay at this capacity, either by preference or simply not knowing how to take the steps required to grow their business beyond that of being a single operator.

The idea of growing beyond oneself can seem daunting; but the reality is that it’s pretty basic. One does not need a college degree to be successful in the business world. Heck, I’ve never even set foot into a college, except for recently to instruct in the chemistry lab. How’s that for irony?

Expanding is, for the most part, increasing your work load to the point where you need more vans, equipment and technicians to get the work done. This requires developing a great reputation, marketing expansion, having a referral program, etc. to bring in the new jobs. For the sake of this article, I’d like to focus on the most variable element in expansion - obtaining not just good, but great employees. They are a living, breathing projection of you and your company, and your company’s reputation and future depend on them.

I own a business in Bend, Ore., called Guarantee Cleaning and Restoraion Services, Inc. We have a carpet cleaning division, duct cleaning division, rug cleaning plant and mold/microbe restoration division. As I’m sure you can imagine, over the course of the 18 years I’ve had my company, I’ve had quite a few employees come and go. Some have been a fantastic experience, others absolute nightmares.

I’ve hired by posting “now hiring” ads on Craigslist and other sites, through temp agencies and the Employment Division. I’ve hired friends and referrals from friends. These are all pretty common methods of obtaining employees, and each have yielded mixed results for me.

Justin, who runs our rug cleaning plant and has been with me for seven years, and Calen who runs our duct cleaning division, are by far the best two employees with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. They were both hired via my preferred and thus far unmentioned method - to which I refer as “scouting and recruiting”.

There’s a gas station/mini-mart close to my home at which I would stop every morning for coffee, and again every evening on my way home for a snack, gas, and whatnot. Seven years ago, I couldn’t help but notice a particular gas attendant (here in Oregon we aren’t allowed to pump our own gas) who always exhibited a great attitude. He opened the door for me, was professional and was an all-around personable young man. I also noticed that the other customers enjoyed interacting with him.

After a few months of observing this level of customer service, I mentioned to him “hey, if you’re ever looking for a change in jobs, let me know”, and handed him my card. Over the course of the next several weeks, he’d ask me a question or two about the job, but I really didn’t think he was very interested, he seemed to really like the job he had. What I didn’t realize, was that he was sizing me up now!

It took some coaxing on my part, but he finally put in his two weeks' notice at the gas station and came to work with me. He is now the most talented rug cleaner with whom I’ve ever worked, and takes tremendous pride in his job here at Guarantee.

I found Calen the same way - working at a gas station close to the office where we fuel the vans everyday. Attentive, professional and, above all, well-liked and respected by customers and coworkers, he was ready for a career change and came aboard with us here at Guarantee. He has proven himself to be a fantastic addition to the company.

Like most things, when it comes to finding the right employees, there’s more than one way. Our office manager Anne, for example, was hired after combing through dozens of applications and countless interviews resulting from an online ad - and is by far the best office person we’ve had.

It’s the people within your company that are the most important internal assets of your business. So don’t limit your options to only those looking for you; go look for them. After all, the best employees aren’t always unemployed when it’s convenient for you!