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Shop Talk by Dennis Bergendorf – July 2009

Some Full-Time Tips on Hiring Part-Time Help
The type of person to hire is just one part of the puzzle.

WHETHER YOU RUN A BUSY SHOP in a big center or a smaller, essentially one-person operation, there are almost certainly times when you can use a little extra help. But who do you hire? The teenage bowling junkie who’s always hanging around your shop? The retired (or laid-off) guy who is good with people but hardly a walking encyclopedia of tenpin knowledge?

For some operators, just getting an extra pair of hands in the shop is enough. You’d like someone to do some of the boring work: plugging and cutting, sanding and polishing, even tidying things up. But the experts say making your part-time help an integral part of your shop can pay off. Dave Remp, who runs Lightning Strikes in Orlando’s Colonial Lanes, says he wants his part-timers to “be involved in customer service as much as possible. If I need to be out for a while, the store can function fairly well.”

Remp has employed 15 part-timers over the years, but now has two: an 18-year-old and his own father-in-law. “They work with customers a little differently, but it’s a good mix,” he says. Part-timers start off with the dirty work: “Things like cleaning and polishing, resurfacing and gluing inserts. Later, I teach them to fit and drill,” he says.

That’s the procedure followed by Tom Taylor, who runs the Triple Crown shop at Mike Aulby’s Arrowhead Bowl in Lafayette, Ind. At first, his new hires merely observe him, learning his sales techniques. He also wants them to learn the products. Then it’s on to plugging and cutting, as well as sanding and polishing. When it comes time to drill, they start with a few old practice balls. Then they move on to real balls: their own. “If they foul up a customer’s ball, they may think I’ll just replace it. If it’s their own ball, it seems to hit home a bit more,” Taylor says.

So, what qualities and characteristics should a manager look for? Consultant Jamie Walters suggests that a business that’s tech-oriented can benefit from a teenager who has been a good student. And Taylor says he wants someone who’s good at math. “When you’re laying out a ball, math skills are an asset.” Then comes people skills, and that includes appearance (“they have to be clean”) as well as attitude. “You can’t be smart-alecky with people,” he says. A little good-natured kidding is okay, but the job is to make people feel good about their bowling.

Both operators agree that honesty and integrity is crucial, because you’ll occasionally leave that part-timer in charge of cash and inventory. There are a few drawbacks to part-time help, including scheduling, time spent training, and a possible lack of commitment. Taylor says his teenage help is often the young bowler who hits weekend tournaments. Remp, on the other hand, says that hasn’t been a major problem, and he knows that working around a schedule is a fact of life with any part-timer.

Hard costs can vary. At the bare minimum, it’s going to be around $10 an hour when FICA and other contributions are added (unless you pay under the table, something that is definitely not recommended). There are plusses and minuses, but if you hire right, and then utilize skills properly, a part-time employee can be a wise investment.

*Posted with permission from Luby Publishing Inc.