Building a Team of Craftsmen Part 1 – Resolving the Hiring/Selection Quagmire

By Mario Guertin
President – PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President – Painting in Partnership, Inc.

I have been a Painting Contractor for the last 16 years. I started out as a solo painter. I have now retired myself from using the tools, except for training activities. I have a staff of 6 full-time and 2 part-time craftsmen, and a full-time Office Manager. In that time period, I evolved from ‘needing help’, to hiring ‘Painters’, to ‘building a Team of Craftsmen dedicated to consistently delivering on the Promise I make to my customers on every project we work on’. For many years, the hiring process was a quagmire of head aches, heart aches, frustration and pain. In the last year, I have finally to experience confidence, pride and peace about the process of hiring, selecting, developing and training the Craftsmen that make up my expanding Team. My intention in writing this article is to share with you the key steps I have taken to make this transition possible and hopefully guide you in that process as well.

This will be the first in a 3-part series on Building a Team of Craftsmen. I will devote the first article to the Hiring and Selection process. Right off, you might say, ‘Aren’t these 2 words synonymous?’ I purposely separated them because they are different concepts and they are done by different groups. In my company, I do the hiring and my team does the selecting! In this article, I will explain the steps necessary to creating a culture where where a Team is empowered to decide who is a fit for the Team or not. The steps are as follows:

    1. Define what you are selling to your customers.

      This is the first and most important step in establishing a powerful hiring process. It consists of the articulation of the Promises embedded in your particular way of doing business; the Promises that you are committed to fulfill for your customers through the efforts of your organization? For my Company, the Promise to my customers is: Peace of Mind, Pride in the Finished Work and Delight; no matter who is there doing the work! What is your Promise?Why is it so important to articulate your Promise? Because the Promise will give you essential clues on the makeup of whom you need to hire to deliver on that Promise. For example, who is best able to deliver ‘Pride in the Finished Work’? A true Craftsman you might say! That leads us to our next step.


    1. Define the Characteristics of whom you need to hire.The second step consists of answering the following question: what are the characteristics that someone must have in order to help you deliver your Company’s Promise? To go back to our example of the Craftsman, what are key characteristics you might want to look for if this is the kind of person you seek? An easy way to answer this question is to observe other craftsmen. What have you noticed about them and how they do what they do? Here are a few of my personal observations:
      • Would rather paint than do anything else.
      • Steps back to observe one’s work.
      • Derives satisfaction from seeing the finished work.
      • Likes to ‘feel’ the substrates with one’s hands.
      • Cares about detail.

      Let’s look at ‘Peace of Mind’ as an other example. What qualities must someone have in order to be a positive factor in delivering ‘Peace of Mind’ to your clients? How about:

      • Being articulate
      • Having poise
      • Having a good presentation
      • Inspiring trust

      You get the point? These characteristics will then serve as the basis for developing your screening process.


    1. Design Systems and Document themSystems are essential to producing consistent and predictable results. Ultimately, the most valuable result that systems enable you to achieve is the consistent fulfillment of your Company’s Promise. The other reason for the vital nature of systems is: your people need them to be empowered to be brilliant at what they do. When people do not have to worry about being successful, they are freed up to be CREATIVE! Systems should also be documented if you want to be totally free as a business owner, so that the business can run without you (for more details on SOPs, please refer to my article in the October 2005 issue of this newsletter).

      Listed below are the key systems that you must have in the recruiting process:

      • Copy for help wanted advertisement
      • Screening of applicants
      • Script for 1st phone interview
      • Script for face-to-face interview
      • Testing procedure
      • Background verification
      • Second interview script
      • Orientation procedure
      • Probation Management

      Because of space constraints, I will limit my comments to the Probation Management System.


  1. Set up a Probation Management System; you must inspect what you expect to find in a Painting Craftsman.Earlier, I made the statement that ‘ I Hire and the Team Selects’. Probation Management is the process that I have developed to ensure that the person I hire is a good fit on our Team and will be able to contribute to the delivery of the Company’s Promise. The Management Tool I developed empowers the Team to make the critical assessments necessary to determine if someone is going to be a good fit on our Team. If not, the system helps the team to raise red flags early so the person can be released (or self-released), usually within 2 or 3 weeks. It is important to note that if someone fails the Probation, the person is officially dismissed by me, with no explanation other than ‘it is not working out for me’ or ‘I am not comfortable’, so as to protect the confidentiality of the assessments made by the Team.

    I developed the Probation Assessment Tool out of sheer frustration. Most of you will relate to this story. When I used to hire someone, not having the opportunity to be around the new hire very much, I felt the need to rely on my employees to tip me off if someone was not a fit in some way. Whenever I would inquire, I would hear these famous words: ‘He is all right’ only to discover, a few months later, that this person had major destructive flaws that caused me to have to fire them in the end. In the meantime, I had to go through the heart ache and stress of going through the warnings, suspensions, documentation of the file, firings and occasional defense of a wrongful unemployment claim!. The probation Assessment Tool was my answer to this quagmire. A copy of it is available on the web site of the Craftsmanship Forum. Go the ‘Tool’ section of the web site at and you can download a PDF file of the tool.

It is important to note that the groupings and categories on my assessment tool were derived from the particular Promise I make to our clients. Depending on the particulars of your own promise, you will need to alter the categories accordingly. What I found by using this tool for about 2 years is that people are very willing and able to make ‘small’ assessments on items they can easily observe. This tool enables them to flag trouble areas quickly. Someone does not have to be perfect to make it out of Probation. But someone must have the essential ingredients we are looking for. The Team’s responsibility is to make those critical assessments. So, the Team is at least as invested as I am in the hiring process.

In this article, we have discussed Hiring and Selection as the first step in building a Team of Craftsmen. In the second article, I will discuss how to develop Craftsmanship in your company through creating a culture where knowledge is freely shared among the Team. In the third article, I will share ways the Team and your Company can be proactive in Training and the Development of Craftsmanship within your company.