Benthall Brothers Inc.
New employees at building supply company, Benthall Brothers Inc., train with the Hayes boys for one simple reason—they’re the best.
“We’ll send a new crew out to them and then they’ll give us an evaluation and that’s been working really well,” says Benthall.
Vice president, Eli Benthall, says the “Hayes boys”, Robert and Tony, have been with his company for 10 years, and that they’re essential not just because of their expertise, but their role in finding and retaining qualified employees, a challenge for Benthal Brothers and companies like it.
The 73 year-old company sells exterior building supplies like siding, windows, doors and glazing to contractors near Evansville, Indiana, as well as in four locations throughout Northwest Kentucky. In addition, the company has several crews that will install these products, typically for larger customers.
Employees like the Hayes brothers stand out because they can handle work that is physical, and, at times, technical. Moreover, Kentucky is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, making outdoor work taxing. Benthall says that prospective employees may sound good when interviewing in the office, but can wilt and prove unreliable on the job site, or lack the aptitude to do more specialized tasks like bending aluminum siding to fit the contours of a house.
But the Hayes boys have another quality that allows them to excel: they’re open to new materials and approaches. That’s why they’re Benthall’s go-to team for complex projects like its Jagoe Homes account.
For this project, Benthall builds the exteriors of between 300 and 400 homes a year for Jagoe Homes, a residential development contractor, based in Owensboro, Kentucky. Projects involve bending plenty of aluminum, doing masonry work with manufactured stone, constructing elaborate porch columns and installing gutter-less house facades—all of which require different skills.
Benthall says flexibility is an ideal trait for siding specialists because any home can use several different styles of siding and a host of materials.
For example, he says it’s not uncommon for houses to have a gable with vinyl, “shake” style siding, an accent wall with manufactured stone siding and then more traditional clapboard siding along the other walls.
Though he says no single style of siding is especially difficult to install, Benthall has noticed that employees who lack experience can get intimidated by the need to switch between techniques and materials.
Finding new help the old-fashioned way
To find trustworthy talent, the company relies on word of mouth referrals from its most trusted workers. Benthall says this strategy works better than fielding applications through job boards, or even recruiting from trade schools, because employees don’t want to recommend new people who will make them look bad.
In many cases, new hires are relatives of existing employees. This is how the Hayes boys started working at Benthall Brothers—they were the nephews of one of the company’s most experienced builders, who retired after training his protégés.
These good experiences have taught Benthall to place a lot of trust in his senior employees. Just as he relies on the Hayes boys to train new siding installers, he makes it a point to promote talented tradespeople into management positions. Most recently he’s promoted long time crew leader, Jason Hughes, to the position of superintendent.
Benthall says Hughes will visit each work site and make sure that employees are showing up and that the work is getting completed on time. He’s created the new position in part to improve the efficiency of his crews and in part to show talented, long-standing employees like Hughes that they’re valued.
The quest for efficiency
Benthall also hopes to improve efficiency and boost morale by updating the company’s shipping and receiving facilities. He says the company’s warehouse is a building that’s over 100 years old and not convenient for handling large shipments of supplies.
“We’ve just been making it work up to until now,” Benthall says, “but we’re reaching a point where that just simply isn’t good enough anymore.”
The new warehouse will have enough space to organize materials so that supplies for window and doors can be placed together, which will make loading and unloading easier.
This push for organization reflects the company’s goals for the future. Benthall says his family’s company has been successful by staying up to date on trends in siding products and by reaching out to contractors for feedback on products. Moving forward, he says his goal is to simply refine those strengths with more structure on the back end.
“We’re in business because of the personal relationships we’ve formed, and now we just need to be as efficient as possible to stay in business,” he says.
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