We spent more than $6,000 last month on paid advertising to hire new team members for our locations. Wait, what? Yes. Over $6,000. With federal supplemental benefits freely flowing into all of the different states’ unemployment benefit programs, it has created a unique situation for all of us small business owners.

Our payroll has also ballooned because of the ever-revolving employee door. We are seeing situations with team members that we have never experienced. New team members show up for training and decide by the middle of their shift that this job is not for them and just leave without telling anyone. Yes, this has happened multiple times at several of our locations. We have also hired several individuals who never show up for their first shift. Three weeks later we receive a letter from the state unemployment office stating that those who did not even work a full shift for us are now claiming unemployment. This is a short-term problem. When the federal aid comes to an end, the workforce will come back into balance.


It is interesting to see it from the political side as well. Recently I was asked to sit on a panel with various other business owners around the state in which I live. The topic up for debate was raising the minimum wage. There were several state legislators there asking us questions. I was amazed at how out of touch with reality several of the legislators were. They were throwing numbers around as if money just fell out of the sky. My first question to them was if any of them owned or operated businesses. Of course, their answer was “No.” It is really easy to spend someone else’s money. Spreadsheets with complex calculations look amazing on a computer screen or printed out with pretty little graphs. Unless you have been in the trenches and have lost sleep at night wondering if you were going to make payroll next week, you truly do not know how to read them.

The magic number being thrown around by many politicians is a $15 per hour minimum wage. They claim this wage will help wipe out poverty. I am all for wiping out poverty, but this is not the way to do it. Like I said, it looks amazing on a spread-sheet, but let’s put it into real-world play.

Jimmy is a high-school sophomore. He just started working at one of my locations. He is a great young man. His parents have raised him well, but Jimmy does not know the difference between an express exterior conveyor or an in-bay automatic. I do not expect him to, but he will operate both. New regulations require that I pay Jimmy $15 per hour.

Sam is the assistant manager at the location where Jimmy just started his first job. He is responsible for training Jimmy. Sam is awesome. He has been with the company for over eight years. If I call him and ask him to test the pH level on the surface of the vehicles exiting the tunnel, he will have an answer for me in under two minutes. Sam is a skilled laborer. Jimmy is not. Sam finds out that Jimmy is being paid almost as much as him and it does not set well with him. “Hey Boss, I found out Jimmy is making $15 per hour. I have been with you for eight years. I have two young sons and I am responsible for running a multi-million-dollar operation. I feel that I should be making at least $8 per hour more than Jimmy.”

I agree with Sam. He is worth that much more than Jimmy, but the math simply does not work. As I explained to the state legislators, raising the minimum wage so quickly and by a such a high percentage over existing rates creates another situation called “wage compression.”

A simple explanation of wage compression is employees being paid within the same pay range regardless of skill level. It creates a domino effect all the way up the line. You simply cannot adjust one pay level and leave the others as is. It does not make for a great workplace.


Politics aside, let’s get back to the current hiring situation. How do you take lemons and make lemonade? Here are few suggestions to help you find new team members in the current marketplace:

Old School

Put the “Now Hiring” sign in the front yard or up on the marquis sign. This is about as simple as it gets. We still do this and receive many applications from it.

Friend Referral

“Hey Jimmy, any of your buddies looking for a job?” We use this strategy as well. We pay a bonus to the referring employee if the new employee stays on for more than 30 days.

Free Ads (Non-Sponsored)

You can post free job listings on sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, Google for Jobs, JobCase, etc. Of course, your listing will be buried on these sites unless you pay to promote it, but potential new hires do read through the listings.

Paid Ads (Sponsored)

Depending on how much you want to pay, sponsored posts on the job sites will bring you applications. You will receive a lot of people who are not serious about finding a job right now, though. Learn how to filter through the “not serious” applicants, and eventually you will find your diamond in the rough.

Social Media Platforms

If your company has social media pages, use them to post listings. Your loyal followers will gladly help you find the next superstar employee.

Temp Agency

Offer free washes to the managers ofa few temporary employment agencies in your area. When you call looking for a new hire, they can help you weed through their staff for the perfect fit for your location.

Professional Employer Organizations

PEOs are companies that co-employee an employee with you. They share certain responsibilities and liabilitiesand handle all aspects of human resources. They are paid based on a certain percentage of the employee’s wage.

HR Firm

There are many national human resource firms that will help you find the right team members for your location. Many now work by the hour instead of a percentage of the new employee’s first years pay. Once they learn what you are looking for, they put their skills to work and can help find the right person for your company.


Once you have identified a qualified pool of applicants, it is time to interview your potential hires. If this is your first-time interviewing job applicants remember this is a two-way street and you are trying to make a match. Be respectful of the applicant’s time. Don’t take phone calls or read e-mails or texts during the interview. Have the job description written out and go into more detail about what the job entails. Discuss the pay structure, benefits included with the position, work schedule, etc. Ask questions that are open ended, not just simple “yes” and “no” questions. Make sure the applicant knows what is required for the position by the end of the interview. At the end of the interview ask the applicant if they understand everything about the position and answer any questions, he/she may have about your company.

After the interview process is complete, narrow down the list of applicants to the few you feel are a good fit for your company. Next, call the references they provided and have a background check completed. There are many online services that conduct basic background checks for a small fee. This is an area you should not overlook. You want to make sure you know the background of the person you are hiring, beyond what they tell you.

After the background check and calls to references are complete, you can decide which applicant is the best fit for your company. Call the applicant and offer the position. After the applicant accepts the position, schedule the first day of work and make it known what is expected of a new team member.

Now that you have brought the new team member on your team and he/she is going through your training program, have a little fun! People don’t like working for boring companies. It was a process to find the right person for the job, so make it a process of keeping them around, too. Employee turnover is very costly. With the right tools and attitude in place, you can develop a winning team, even in the current hiring circus.

Wash On!

Bobby Willis has been in the car wash business for more than 27 years. He owns and operates Cool Wave Car Washes in Virginia. He can be reached at bwillis@coolwavecarwash.com.