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Good help isn't hard to find: customers help recruit new employees for Vermont retailer.

LARRY PERRY, owner of Woodstock Home & Hardware in Woodstock, Vt., has not pieced a help-wanted ad for more than 10 years, yet he easily maintains a full staff of 15 full-time and part-time employees for his 11,000-square-foot store. How? Perry relies on his customers to find the right people for him.

"I'm a firm believer that our customers will provide us with the best leads," he says. "They know our culture best."

When Perry conducted a hiring push earlier this year, he notified customers by creating a flier and attaching it to the outside of each shopping bag. The back side of the flier contained a short questionnaire for prospective employees to fill out.

"We attach it on the outside so it can't be ignored," he says. "And we put a teaser headline that can't be ignored so it doesn't get thrown away."

The flier contained a lighthearted but very specific and detailed job description. For example, Perry needed to hire two stock workers and the flier read: "DESPERATELY SEEKING ... Heavy Lifter--must be able to frequently and regularly unload trucks and load into customer's cars cases of paint and horse, cattle and poultry feed (50 lbs), 3 cubic foot bags of mulch (60 lbs.), mortar and concrete mix (80 lbs.), and the dastardly bags of Portland Cement (94 lbs)."

Perry ended up receiving six applications from local high school football players. He hired two full time for the summer.

On the same flier, Perry included a blurb for sales associates that read: "Think globally, act locally. Forget about world famine, change a life. What could be more meaningful than helping a mom with the leaky faucet hubby just couldn't find the time to fix? Work at our paint counter and bring color into otherwise dreary lives, and save marriages by keeping men from making just plain dumb color choices."

Perry also advertised this way for someone to run his home decor department and had an applicant with more than 12 years experience, whom he hired. "With the fliers we only get people who are really interested in working for us," Perry points out. "When we ran ads in the paper people came in who weren't qualified and it was hit or miss."

Of the store's 12 full-time employees, eight are women, according to Perry. "This has been the approximate male/female mix pretty much since we started 18 years ago, and has given us a huge advantage in our market," he says. "Our staff 'got it' that women were making the purchasing decisions long before the rest of the marketing world woke up to that fact."

In fact, Perry acknowledges that while he owns the store, everything runs smoothly because it's largely run by women. Earlier this year, the store's sign out front read: NOW APPEARING ... MARY O! AND THE HARDWARE DIVAS--making light of the fact Mary Oldenburg has served as the store manager for 16 years.

Sharing the spotlight and recognizing staff members for a job well done are among the reasons Perry has no trouble hanging on to good help when he finds it.

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Publication:Hardware Retailing
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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