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Switching from Multi-tasking to Batch tasking.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Tue, Dec 01, 2020 @ 11:01 AM

Gone is the day of management gurus telling us to try and save time at work by multi-tasking. This one time fad has been proven to not only not work well but in fact slows your productivity down.

When you try to multi-task your brain must shift between lots of different activities constantly moving between the left and right side of your brain loosing focus. It has now been proven that multi-tasking slows a normal persons IQ down by around 10%, the same as if they were overly tired or were legally drunk.

Batch tasking is where you take similar tasks, group them together, set a block of time dedicated to the tasks and focus on doing them all at once.

Things like:

  • Making phone calls, business or personal
  • Reading e-mails
  • Answering e-mails not at the same time as when reading them
  • Setting appointments
  • Research. Like doing estimates calculating cleaning square footage.
  • Writing quotes
  • Submitting quotes
  • Writing blog posts
  • Scheduling social media posts with a program like Hootsuite
  • Making videos
  • Writing your monthly customer thank you cards

When you limit distractions even for small amounts of time, like 15 minutes, to focus on one set of similar tasks your brain can work at top capacity.


If you can not set up the same amount of time each day that is ok. You might only need to pick just one day a week and do as much as possible in pre-set time. There maybe tasks you only have to do once or twice a month. Whatever you need to do is fine, there is no right or wrong.

Here is my normal routine with time set for bulk tasks daily, weekly and monthly.

7:30-8:00 Get to my desk, look over my to do list for the day. Open all computer programs I might need for the day, this alone can take 10-15 minutes in two different web browsers on two separate screens. Opening them all now saves time later when I may need one.

8:00-8:30 Help answer phones and with any first customers in the show room. Glance over my e-mails for new orders or anything pressing that I need to make a task on my today to do list, flag e-mails that I need to reply to later.

8:30-9:00 If I have new e-mail or online orders I fill out an order sheet for each one. I will fill as many orders as I can later in one block of time instead of stopping to fill each one or as each new one comes in.

If no new orders, check Facebook, See if I have any direct messages or was mentioned in any posts that I need to address. Check the daily birthdays and say Happy Birthday. Some days this small task can be moved until noon or later if the store is busy or with phone calls.

9:00-10:00 This is my first block of time where I can focus on what ever is a top priority on my daily to do list. Today it was to finish this blog post I started yesterday. Many days it is to enter into Salesforce any new contacts from new orders or that I spoke with the day before. Updates to the websites, Research and searching for useable photos or taking photos and uploading them.

10:00-11:00 Revisit my e-mails. Delete any junk that got through, move any to other folders that did not go to one directly. Answer any e-mail that will only take a few minutes, ex: send out requested data sheets or SDS's, contact a new customer after their order has arrived to ask if they have any questions. If time work on my to do list or anything as it comes. Once every few weeks this is also the time I will run to Costco for office restock.

11:00-12:00 this is when I start to batch process morning orders, enter them in the computer, pack them, print shipping labels etc. If nothing to ship out, I restock the showroom with product or just work on my to do list. Always have general tasks you can do if your to do list was short, I may do research for future blog posts. Read industry magazines check out other company websites.

12:00-1:00 recheck e-mails and this is when I answer any I had flagged from earlier in the day that will require a longer amount of time. Finish up shipments if an hour wasn't enough. This is also when I can go pick up any soap stock that is critical to ship out.

1:00-3:00 This is my largest amount of variable time. Some days I have scheduled online webinars to listen to. If it is the few days before the 8th of the month I will be working on our monthly video submission. On a Monday or Tuesday I am checking and contacting any new customers out of Salesforce who have had time to get and try our products from the one to two weeks prior to make sure things are fine. With these follow up phone calls or emails is when we ask for reviews and testimonials. If it is near the end of the month I am checking for any open accounts for payment or scheduling posts in Hootsuite for the next few weeks or month. And at some time in these 2 hours I catch my lunch.

This is when my little timers come in handy. I have a set of 10, 15 and 30 minute sand timers. These help me stay focused and not let time get away from me like when I am out on Pinterest looking for new pins. If I did not use a 10 or 15 minute timer, those few set aside minutes can turn into an hour!

3:00-4:00 3:00 is our FedEx pick up time so I make sure the pick up sheet is ready and with the outbound boxes. Check Facebook and emails again and continue with my to do list or general tasks, again using the timers as needed.

4:00-5:00 In the last hour of the day is when I may look for and post Pinterest pins as this time is noted as one of the most viewed hours for Pinterest, make my to do list for the next work day. Send out any last e-mails to customers that requested contact. This is also when I restock any large orders of soap or other product that has been delivered during the afternoon. Print out batches of SDS's to replace ones I have handed out or shipped. If it is the last work day before the new month I try to go ahead and change out the cover page on all three of our Facebook pages. If not I do it first thing on the first of the month.

And of course at any time during the day I may stop to answer phone calls, answer chemical questions for in store customers or checking out customers shopping in the showroom which can break up even the best batch tasking schedule. But if I am in the middle of a set aside time, I may let any phone calls to my desk go to my voice mail to return at the end of the task time.

Having a plan with batch tasks will save you time in the long run. Have fun making yours.

Tags: Business, time management,, Tasks

Winter months are the time to restock and reevaluate.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 @ 09:25 AM

Many in the cleaning industry are either taking time off or have slowed way down so there is more time to get things done that can be overlooked during the busier times of your year. Here is a list of things you might want to look at during these slow Winter months.

  • Check all your PPE and make sure you have enough, including having backups. Out on a job when something breaks is not the time to realize you do not have another and may not be able to get a replacement right away.
  • That all PPE are in working order, ordering these items that you need while companies have sufficient inventory. Later in the year there may be shortages and you are not able to get an item right away or have to pay more for it where you can get it to have it.
  • Check and restock your first aid kits, spill kits, parts box for your equipment including tools and needed supplies. Again out on a job is not the time to have a hose bust and have to stop work to go get one.
  • Work on your website, check on your links to be sure they are working, read each page to be sure that there are no changes you need to make. Add more content. Content is what drives people to your site, update and add often with proper tags.
  • Check your website analytics to see where visitors are coming from, think about ways to improve and increase that traffic. Knowing that you are not getting the most traffic from the area you are spending the most on can allow you to reallocate time and funds.
  • Work on all your social media content and connections, you might add a new stream if you are not already using all of the ones your customers are. Never tried Pinterest or LinkedIn, now may be time to try one.
  • Go over last years and set up this year’s budget; equipment, advertising, supplies and mandatory expenses. Spending too much on equipment repairs, maybe time to invest in new or increase spending on preventative maintenance, like oil changes.
  • Check all monthly expenses to see where you might be able to save; insurance, utilities including phones, etc. Do not just accept yearly price increases to your expenses, price shop each year.
  • Make an advertising calendar not just for the expenditures but for what and when you want to make social media posts. Set up and use a program like Hootsuite to do this.
  • Go over or start a referral program. Using current customers to find new ones can save you up to 75% of the cost of new customer acquisitions by other means.
Let us know in the comments what besides these we listed that you do in the slower months to make your business more productive during the rest of the year.

Tags: Business, Tips, Tasks

Creating a Customer Packet

Posted by Linda Chambers on Wed, Aug 02, 2017 @ 09:12 AM

You can create a number of different customer document packets for customers; Intro packets, Commerical job packets, but the one I feel is a must for the residential contractor is the "Thank you for scheduling" packet.

So why make and send a "Thank you for scheduling" packet?Sounds strange but sending your first time or even a repeat customer a small email packet of information just after scheduling but prior to the cleaning is a great customer service that will put you heads above the competition and here is why:

1. They get all the information they need from you up front without having to ask for it, or heaven forbid, forget to ask.

2. You create set boundaries and expectations from the start. The information to give them can educate the customer, allow you to work well together and they can know exactly what to expect.

3. It gives a fantastic first impression that you are a true professional. It can make them feel like VIP's and valued by you.

4. It gives them something to talk about even before you have done any service for them. You don't think they will mention this to family and friends and talk about what you are going to do for them. This positive word of mouth exposure is really valuable.

So what should be in your packet?

• A copy of your estimate and or agreement for service spelling out what you will cover and what it will cost. You can also, if you want, list add on services and prices that they might want to add. (Even if you have already offered them before during the estimate) • A list of what to do before you arrive (ex: Close windows, move furniture, remove potted plants) and if you have a fee, the extra cost for your crew having to do it instead, or if you might cancel part or scale back service because they did not comply.
• A guide listing the service they've chosen and what steps they may see you doing while working. (ex: Where you will park, how many workers should be there, where you will run hoses, pre-wetting plants and bedding areas, covering plants, or what ever your normal routine is) Helps prevent them from stopping you mid action asking, Why are you doing that?
• Common Q&A's customers have asked. Helps speed things up, and again so they are not stopping you from working to ask these when you get on site.
• Business information including office hours, phone numbers, and listing your cancellation policy one more time.
• Links to your website, and social media accounts.
• Link to your survey, to be completed once the work is done. (Make sure you have a nice automatic thank you email set up to send when they do.)
• Details of what your referral program is and how to participate. 

Setting up these packets to send out and using them can save you time, increase sales and make you even more desirable to talk about once you have given them a great cleaning.

Tags: Business, customer service, information packet

Plan now for your businesses future after you are gone.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 @ 12:00 PM

Although when you first start a business this may be the furthest thing from your mind, but what would happen if you suddenly died? Or even if you were injured and you were no longer able to work your business?


What would happen to your family and their source of income?

Who would step in to run your business?

Would your heirs be able to sell your business and for what it is worth?

Now of course there is the issue of having insurance but beyond that do you have any plan in place for what could and would happen to your business?


What you need is called a Business Continuity Plan, which is not the same as a Succession Plan that I will cover in another post. 

  • It creates a guaranteed market and price for the business and its interests.
  • It allows the business to carry on as normal without stoppage due to your death or debilitating illness.
  • It allows the business to carry on as normal without interference from heirs, whether they are included or not in the plan.
  • It can provide liquidity for the estate of a deceased owner allowing the business to be turned into cash for the heirs.
  • It can provide an established value of the business for estate tax purposes.


There can be many different buy-sell agreements that can be set up according to you, your family, the business and employees needs.


There is the Cross Purchase: When a business is already owned by more than one party or partner where they have agreed that the surviving owner or owners are obligated to buy the interest of the deceased, and the estate of the deceased is obligated to sell at a previously agreed to price or by a continued payout to the estate.


An Entity Sale: This binds the business itself to buy the interest of the deceased owner, and the estate is obligated to sell, when the business is a corporation. This is sometimes referred to as a stock redemption agreement.


If the business is a sole ownership, you could plan to have an employee purchase. Where you may have one or more employees that have been instrumental in running the business and you as the owner would like to see the business to continue under their ownership. This agreement between the former employees and the deceased estate can be an outright purchase for a set price, or a gradual buy out allowing the employees to buy over time and the estate to continue to receive an agreed upon income until finalization of the sale or end of the terms of the agreement.


You can also have a Wait and See agreement. This type of agreement allows the flexibility in that the final decision to buy and sell is not decided until after the owner's death but the details of running the business until that time is spelled out in the agreement. This way the person in charge of the estate would oversee the terms of the agreement and the business could continue to function as normal allowing the business to stay a viable investment.


With a sudden death the hardest part maybe for the parties to find the funds needed to complete the purchase detailed in the plan. Here are some common funding sources and the unique challenges, though having enough life insurance is always the best solution.


Personal Funds of the Owners: Most business owners and partners keep the majority of their money already invested in the business so they may not have large sums of liquid assets available for the total purchase price.


Borrowed Funds: Many times banks may not be willing to lend money for a business that has lost the owner or a partner or the cost of such a loan may have a rate of interest that may be excessive that will be a burden to the business. Or the business may have already reached it borrowing limit.


Installment Payments: The heirs may not be able to get the agreed to sums from the business in payments and there is no guarantee to receive future payments if the business fails.


Life or Disability Insurance: Can be set up ahead of time to pay for the estimated costs of which ever plan you have chosen to use.


  • Insurance can be purchased separately from any another policy.
  • The policy can be purchased by the business.
  • The premiums are over time a small fraction of the benefits to be paid out.
  • The benefits are available right away after death or as soon as the policy allows with a disability.
  • Death benefits are generally federal income tax-free.


Do not leave the burden of running your business or the uncertainty of not having continued income for your family to deal with. Start now while you are able.

Tags: Business, business plan, Continuity Plan, Insurance

End of year check list revisited

Posted by Linda Chambers on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

I though I would revisit a post I did back in 2008 for the end of this year 2015.

With the year winding down there are things to do before the end of this year to get ready for next year especially if this is a slow time for you.

Do a Business Wellness Check. CheckingCosts.jpg

First take a look at the cost increases you had during the past year and make sure that your prices are still in line with the changes. If not now is the time to make the rate changes for next year. You may be able to use the sales pitch to lock in next Springs contract now allowing them to lock in today's pricing before next years price increases. Just be sure you can still make a modest profit at the old price. It never makes sense to work just for works sake it, you must be able to make a living at this.

In fact price adjustments are something that you may need to do twice a year or quarterly depending on how volatile the year is for your vendors. Even if the new pricing is to just to your new customers during the year.

You need to see where your major cost increases were and make the needed adjustments now. If it was in supplies are there ways you can save? Can you make better purchase decisions that will help you next year? For example is there anyway to maximize your purchases? Can you buy 3 or 4 kits of product instead of 1 or 2 at a time and save some on shipping costs? Are there more affordable options for your supplies? Have you been using your products at their optimum? For example are you sure you are using the right concentration for the job or are you using more than you need therefore have been wasting money? Are you able to buy in bulk for consumables at discount or bulk shopping locations like Sam's, BJ's or similar companies.
If the higher costs came with labor was everyone used the most effective way? Can you tighten up your schedule, fit more jobs in, work faster while still maintaining quality? Do you just have too many employees or too few and are paying too much in overtime?

Next evaluate your equipment needs. If you have had to make repairs repeatedly on a piece of equipment during the last season, now maybe the time to consider replacing it. Many times Winter is the time of year when equipment vendors have sales or give discounts for end of season and to save on the price of taxes carrying that inventory over into the new year. It is hard to stick to a busy schedule when equipment failures put you behind and possibly lose you jobs and money. Would a newer piece of equipment make you more efficient thus saving you time and labor costs? Can you have a tax savings by purchasing a new machine and spreading the cost over the next few years?
What about the services your business uses, can you save there. Check your phone, insurance, accounting, any monthly bill. Check prices and look for less expensive options.

One thing to not forget to put on your business wellness check list is to make sure your business stays in compliance with your local, state and the federal waste water regulations.

Here is a link that I think will be helpful to many of you: This will allow you to find links and the information you need at one site. Increased awareness with droughts, water restrictions and tighter regulations you need to be in the know instead of on the receiving end of a warning or worse a heavy fine.

These are just a few items to put on a check list. Make yours as long or short as you need but be sure it covers all of the areas that effect your bottom line. Every cost to you and your business makes a difference in the end.

I hope you had a good 2015 and will have an even better 2016.

Tags:, business costs, Business, business plan

The new EMV chip credit cards and what it means for your business.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 @ 12:10 PM

I am sure you have started to hear all the hubbub about the new microchip credit cards. But some may have been hearing some half truths or misinformation, like your transactions won't be paid to you bank if you do not use the chip or that a card swipe machine will not work after the end of this year. While these are up front false, there are some parital truths in what they are trying to convey, so let me try to clear up a few points for you here.

The new debit and credit cards are called EMV cards for "Europay, MasterCard and Visa" that developed the technology used in Europe. With all the wide spread credit card fraud taking place the last few years here in the US this technology is now going to become the norm here as well, like it or not.

Fact: In 2014 the U.S. make up only 24% of the worlds credit card sales yet it was responsible for nearly 50% of all fraud worldwide. And the U.S. has had the most card fraud in the world for the last 5 years.

Unlike the magnetic stripe that could only hold  a set amount and series of coded information on it to be read or copied but any machine designed to do so the chip is in fact a  mini computer.EMV-Chip

That besides holding set information like your account number, name, address etc it is able to create a unique transaction impression code every time it is used that is only good for that one transaction and can not be used again to make a new transaction.

These cards are also called dip cards, meaning that the chip must be dipped into a reader for them to work.New_Chipcard_reader   Unlike the NFC "near field communication" or RFID "radio frequency identification" tap cards that only need to be tapped or brought within a few inches of a Wi-Fi reader to process a transaction. These have come under fire for being too easy to steal money by thieves using their own wireless machines and just brushing up to wallets and purses. These are not the same thing. But there will be some cards equipped with both the EMV and RFID in the same card chip.

The one problem with the new dip cards will be that a transaction will take much longer than a swipe since the computer on the chip must sit inside the reader for the entire transaction to collect information about your transaction before it can authorize and then create and send back the unique transaction code. When you understand how much it has to do the 3-4 seconds it takes is really not that long at all,Steps_for_chipcards but it is not as fast as a simple copy swipe of information like the magnetic cards. Plus depending on the amount or location the card holder may still have to enter a PIN or sign for the transaction to be complete.

Now let us move on to the liability part. In recent years card fraud was sometimes the responsibility of the card processing company that accepted the transaction or would ultimately rest with the bank of the card holder depending on the laws of each state and how much information was accepted before allowing the transaction. But after Oct 1, 2015 the liability will shift to the party that is allowing the highest chance of fraud. 

Merchants that do not have or use an EMV reader will be 100% labile for any fraudulent transactions. Processing companies that do not require an exact address and CVV match would be next and if both the merchant and the processer did their part only then would it fall to the issuing bank for that card to be responsible to pay for the fraud. Right now some processors allow transactions without CVV numbers by processing them at a higher rate than those with verified CVV's, but this has also recently been changing depending on the company.

Moving forward cards will still have a magnetic swipe strip and yes they can be used, just like hand entry, phone and online transactions will still be allowed, just understand that if this card has been cloned or stolen you as the accepting merchant will the one holding the empty bag and be out the entire amount of that transaction for not using EMV. Or if your processing company allows you to process that card without an address or CVV match you might be able to get all or some of the money owed from them since they let it go through without those fail safes, but the bank the card was drawn on will have 0% responsibility.

So what about a internet transaction. What if like us you take payment upfront or after the fact online? Well as long as you have supplied your processor with the correct card info of the card number and expiration date, the billing address info and CVV and the processor accepts all of these as valid, then liability falls to the processor, not you or the issuing bank for now. EMV does nothing to protect an e-commerce sale so this is where the liability most likely will still fail to the processing company and if they do their job of verifying what they can only then down to the issuing bank.

Banking institutions have been pushing for this change ever since 2012, when EMV became available, to try and reduce the hemorrhaging costs card fraud has been causing them. For example U.S. card fraud losses soared to over $5 billion up 14.5% in just one year from 2013-2014 for all U.S. credit card issuing institutions.

So you do not have to panic about the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline and spending money you may not have for EMV reading equipment. Just understand that you will be taking a risk if that card you except is a counterfeit or has been stolen. But since most of your customers are home or business owners the chances of them trying to use a card with stolen numbers is very, very small.

I hope this information has been helpful and if you ever have a question with your chemicals Soap Warehouse is here to help, please give us a call, 800-762-7911.

Tags: Business, Credit cards, Fraud, EMV cards

The Written Warning, what and how to make one.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Besides firing someone the one thing managers and bosses hate is having to write up an employee for breaking a handbook rule or company policy.

Here are things that you can have as a part of your written warning form.

First of course would be the full name of the employee receiving the warning. Some even list the social security number or employee ID number if they have one.
The date, maybe time this happened or shift number if needed and their job position.
Next what type of warning this notice is, first, second, or final.
Then what offense was committed by the employee. Can be a check box list or written in.

You then have a large space for what happened describing the offense or the companies side of the issue. The action plan as to what is going to be done to rectify the offense by both the company and the employee and to list what will happen with any future infraction of the same offense.

The form can leave space for the employee to rebut and make his or her own comments but not all states require that the employee be allowed to make any statement. Then comes the receipt acknowledgement where both the employee and the person says that they understand the warning from the company and sign the form. A copy is given to the employee and the original is placed into that employees personnel file. This point too depends on your state, some do not even require that the employee gets a copy once they have signed the form.

Here are a few samples of the simplest to the more detailed type.


You can find these and others free online here:


As I mentioned last week in my series of hiring posts a Written Warning form sould be a part of your program. Coming soon, the exit interview.


Tags: Business, Hiring, Warning Notice

To hire should you do background, credit check and drug test?

Posted by Linda Chambers on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Most small business employers do not see the need to spend money on a background, credit check or drug screening if they have already done the other three steps we have already been over. But this could be a costly mistake not to. Small claims lawsuits where on the rise the last 10 years and they do not look like they will decrease any time soon. There are commercials on every hour of the day on television and the radio telling people it is all right to sue, almost like a God given right to do so and you have to protect yourself, your family and your business.


I will mention the main reasons here but please read this very good article I found by Less Rosen from the from a 2010 on line addition of their magazine: This article says it all.

1. There is no single place private companies can go to confirm or verify criminal records of prospective hires. Background checks once only a seldom seen practice are now even routinely done when renting an apartment or to be able do volunteer work at schools. Bonding companies are a great place to start.

2. Screening is legal but only if done for every applicant at your business as we discussed earlier about hiring procedures, or at least for everyone doing a certain job. Make sure it is also listed in your handbook with the guidelines spelled out. It should also include the guidelines for any follow up or random testing such as for drugs later as well. Such as a mandatory test for anyone driving a company vehicle and a retest for any driver that was involved in a traffic accident.

3. Screening is well worth the cost. It can save you anything from time lost from a constantly hung over worker, cost of damage claims of customer property, from insurance claims of stolen equipment, to the extreme of lawsuits from customers for criminal actions the employee did while at their location. It can even lower your insurance premiums. This is also why paying for your employees to be bonded, which will include a background check, can be a good thing and a great marketing tool.

4. Screening should not deter qualified prospects or slow down hiring. (Unless you hire by driving to a street corner and pick up day labor) Good workers understand the need for screening and most appreciate knowing they will be working for an upstanding company if hired, as well as most likely working in a safe co-worker environment.

5. Screening is not hard to have done. There are many local, regional and national companies that do this work, like bonding companies, that pay to have access to the records you need and the employees to find the records that you do not have the time or money to find yourself. There is even a professional organization for this work, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. You can find them here: and use their member directory to find one near you.

6. If you feel the need for the extra step of drug screening above a background check, it too must be administered equally to be a legal hiring practice. You can find qualified medical companies to do this just by putting in your city, state and the words drug screening in a search engine. Most companies work with established chains of labs like Quest and LabCorp to do the work or the healthcare company your business uses may also offer these services at discounted rates for their clients, just call them and ask. Some even have lower healthcare premium rates for companies that require testing for all employees because they know this should lower the number of claims for your business.

I hope that this weeks series of entries on hiring proceedures have been helpful to you and even if you may not or will not include all these steps into your routine hiring practices, that you have found some parts you feel are worth exploring or using in the future. Feel free to comment to any entry in our blog, mention steps you have found or currently use yourself that could help others and always feel free to e-mail us directly with questions or comments. Have a good weekend.

Tags: Business, Hiring, background check

What should go into your employee handbook?

Posted by Linda Chambers on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Well practically everything including the kitchen sink!


You need to include everything and anything you want your employees to know, understand, rules to follow, flow charts, lists, down to what will happen if the rules are not followed.

This goes well beyond just the hiring information or application we have discussed so far, as you will see. Some companies put their application as the first pages of their handbook, which is removable, giving the new applicant the opportunity to see and read the handbook before they even fill out or turn in their application. This allows the applicant to see if they could or would like to be a part of the company and follow the rules that are in place. I myself have gone through applications and interviews, to be offered a job that once I saw and read their handbook, I said turned down the job. Or ones that I was allowed to see their handbook with the application and did not even bother filling it out. This saves both you and the applicant valuable time and possibly money. Of course it is to say you should NEVER just pass out your application or handbook to just anyone that comes by looking for a job. I would never suggest at any time that you allow your handbook or even an application out of your office if the applicant has not already been hired. If you have a large business or one that hires crews seasonally you might also want to have a hiring seminar that you have advertised and booked applicants to attend that allows for you to discuss all aspects of the work you are offering even before a single application is filled out, all at one time just like I use to do once or twice a month for DirecTV technicians.

A handbook must cover every employee equally in your business, being specific to cover each job position but must also include all general information to cover everyone from the boss on down. Here are things you should think about including:

The exact list or order of the companies hiring practices including the location of the testing facilities if used.
The rules in regards to the application and that all information becomes part of their permanent record and must be truthful.
A list of the job descriptions of all employee positions, with their specific one highlighted or indicated so they know the exact tasks their job will entail.
Include here the start and end time for work for the different positions, days of the week, reasons where overtime may me needed and how it will be paid.
A list of all the reasons someone may be terminated from their position.
That job performance infractions will be given, verbal then written warnings before termination except for things like theft, drug use, sexual harassment, battery of any kind, (list what ever you feel is necessary) which are grounds for immediate dismissal.
You can state what ever you rules you want to make for their payment of last wages, deductions if any and why, if theft or damage was involved etc.
In other words you can list in your hand book any rule you wish, so long as it is not illegal, and it applies to all if it is a general rule or for everyone that holds that same position if the rule is task specific. For instance you can not list as a reason for termination of not wearing safety gear for the bookkeeper, or failure to deposit funds into the bank for the window washer. But you could list removing company property, not authorized, from the premises for anyone.

You can include rules such as; when and if outside food can be brought to work, where and how it is to be labeled and stored. If some things like water in coolers on trucks will be supplied by the company but the cups to drink from will not. When and where breaks from work are allowed and for what reasons. How many days notice must be given for doctors appointments and if they will count against sick time or will be unpaid time off, etc. In fact any situation you can think of should be addressed in your handbook and if not steps that should be followed if no rule is listed, such as the need to first speak to a supervisor, owner or manager.

The last thing that is most important is documenting that the new hire has been made aware of the rules and understands them. This is done by having the new hire put their initials in blue ink on every page of the handbook with a company witness watching and that a final page states that, fill in the name, has read and understands all the rules and that any questions where answered to their satisfaction which is signed by both the new hire and the witness and that final page is removable and placed in their file with the handbook itself then given to the employee for their records and future reference. The handbook should also state that this copy is not to be shared, copied or sold and the consequences for so doing, like termination.

It is always good advice to keep a master handbook where your employees can access it at any time incase they can not find their copy or it is not available before they need to know the answer to a question or situation that comes up. You can and should make changes to your handbook as the need arises and all you need to do to make a change is to print out the new page for every employee, have them read and initial it with a witness, a copy should be made for them to take with them to place into their own handbook copy the origianl will go into their file.

In this day and age it is a good idea to have in your handbook explicit rules about the use of cell phones, are they allowed or only provided work phones for business only, on taking personal calls, taking photos with personal phones or business phones, social media accounts, what can or can not be posted to the business social media accounts. Should you even have your employees listed as friends on your business accounts. I say no but some companies do and have very strick rules about what can be shared or seen from these employees accounts. You do not need some employees friend posting porn to their wall and have it reposting to your business page!

Handbooks can be a simple or detailed as you wish them to be. I have seen some that were only two pages to ones that where so thick they where bound! Just make yours what you feel is best for you and your business. Tomorrow will be the last installment about background, credit checks and drug tests.


Tags: Business, Employee Handbook,, Hiring

The hiring interview and how to do it right.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

The interview is the one place most employers fail at the most. No matter how many times you can be told what not to ask or talk about, chances are at some point you will slip up and say or ask something you should not have. Well everyone is human but let us go over what to ask in an interview and see if we can get you to near perfection.


First you should have a script or list of questions you would like to ask in front of you to follow. If you go into an interview without a program you more than likely will get yourself into trouble or miss a critical point. I have been called after an interview by the interviewer because they forgot to ask a specific question. They even said "I was having such a good time talking with you I forgot to ask ______"

Have a separate blank page to write notes on, do not use the edges of the application. You can number it or have a system in place to remind you what that answer or note is in reference too. Of course you want to have the application in front of you to guide your questions and to get the information you ask correct.

You are not allowed to ask any question to force them to reveal their age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. But as we mentioned yesterday there are questions you can ask to get around the ones you can not ask. Many of these were already handled on the application it's self.

Can not ask                            Ask instead
How old are you?                    Are you older than 21 and able to be put on our vehicle insurance? Only if                                                that will be part of the job.
                                             Are you older than 18 (or 21) to be covered by our accident/liability                                                            insurance or to operate certain equipment?
Are you a US citizen?             Are you authorized to work in the United States? 
Have you been arrested?        Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? Can explain                                                    you will require a background check for employment.
Are you married?                    No way around this one. But asking Are you able to travel? Could be asked                                              but only if job related.
Do you have children?            Do you have any responsibilities that could interfere with having to work late                                              or that could disrupt your schedule? Ex: Not to show up for work.
What country are you from?    No good one here and do not even ask about an accent.
Is English your 1st language? What languages are you proficient in? Especially if the job requires them to                                               be bi-lingual.
Are you in debt or have you
filed bankruptcy?                    You can ask them to submit to a credit check after they are offered the job,                                              as long as it is relevant to the job, ex: will be issued a company credit card.
Do you have a disability?        Can ask if able to physically perform certain tasks or job functions.
Do you drink or smoke?          But you can state that consuming alcohol just prior or during work hours is                                                prohibited and that you require a smoke free work place.
Do you do drugs?                   But can require all applicants to pass a drug screen and if listed in the                                                      handbook to except later random drug tests.
How long have you worked?    But listing the years when they attended school or to list the years they                                                    have been performing a certain job is fine.
What is your religion?             But you can ask if they can work on Saturday or Sunday and if they need                                                 any certain day off other than the listed company days off.

Now on to questions you could or should ask.

Why are you choosing this line of work? or Why do you want this job?
What have you liked doing most in your career, or past job?
What have you liked the least?
Why did you leave your last job? or What was the circumstances surrounding you leaving your last job?
Did you give notice? if yes Did you work out your notice?
What strengths would you bring to this position or job?
What do you feel you may need to learn to do this job well? Or do you think your already know everything there is about doing this job?
What would be your dream job?
Do you like to work in a team or be a leader of a team?
Do you feel comfortable working independently with only verbal instructions and no physical supervision?
What three good or bad points would your last supervisor tell me if asked about you?
What are you expecting out of this job?
Is this the only position in the company you are interested in?
What if anything do you think your last employer did wrong for or to their employees?
What if anything did a past employer do for their employees that impressed you?
Do you know what OSHA is?
Have you ever had OSHA training?
Do you have any type of certified training even if not in this field or industry?
Have you ever been asked to do something you did not believe you should be doing?
If so how did you handle it?
What are your career goals for the next 3-5 years?
How do you see us and or this job helping you reach that goal?
Why should we hire you over someone else?
Do you enjoy continuing education or training?
Are you looking to get continuing education or specialized training while working for us?
How have you handled past conflicting interpersonal work relationships? If they do not understand the wording of the question you could also ask
If you have not gotten along with a co-worker in the past how did you handle it?

Now I am not saying you should use all of these or if they would even be relevant to the job opening you have available but these are good ones and some I have even used. 

Other things to discuss when going over the application.

Ask about any major changes in their career path. Find out why.
Find out about gaps in employment not filled by education or other obvious reasons, such as military service.
Make notes to investigate any conflictions or contradictions you see or heard between the application and the talking with the applicant.
Feel free to discuss if brought up hobbies or how they like to spend their time when not on the job, being clear to not ask about family and personal relationships. They can offer statements but you do not ask. Try to keep and steer the interview conversation back to strictly business points.

Feel free to discuss the duties and responsibility of the job being applied for. 
Any question relevant to the job and the pay itself such as a stipend or per diem.
Questions about the company, the mission statement, programs offered, certifications, achievements, organization affiliations.
Opportunities for job growth, development and individual advancement.
What physical locations or area the company currently covers and if there is a chance or plan to expand or reduce this area.
To discuss the applicants qualification, abilities, experiences, education and interests.
Any problems the applicant has had with past employers or co-workers.

Be careful not to make blanket statements about your employment opportunities. No comments such as; "We would never fire someone who is working hard to get the job done." "People can work here until they are ready to quit as long as they are on time and work hard everyday." These can be taken as promises of continued employment if they get the job and are later let go.

This is still not the time for the applicant to ask questions about specific perks and the cost of things like health insurance, 401 plans. Not until the offer has been made and they have been giving a handbook than all questions from the perspective employee should be answered in regards to those areas. I have had applicants that get all caught up in wanting to know what they and their family can get out of working for the company even before we can decide if we want them to work for us. All you need to discuss is that if you offer a health plan, how much of the employee's part will be covered by the employer, if you offer a 401 plan, any continued education that may be available.

After the interview explain what the next step will be, favorable or not. Including when an offer of employment under the conditions that will be listed in the handbook will be made to the successful applicant.

Next post what goes into the handbook.

Tags: Business, Interview, Hiring

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