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Dirty Harry Got It Wrong

Forget what Harry said. Personnel (or human resources, as we now call it) is your company's most precious resource

December 29, 2015
Despite what Dirty Harry says, personnel is an essential part of your business

In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood plays the part of Harry Callahan, a renegade cop with a knack for wrecking cars and shooting up everything in sight. In one scene, after a rather destructive day on the beat, Callahan is relegated to a desk job. When the guy in the office tells him he is being assigned to Personnel, Callahan replies: “Personnel? Personnel is for a**holes.”

Not so fast, Harry. After 26 years of running my own remodeling company, I have found that the most important job in my business is what we used to call Personnel. Now we call that department Human Resources—and for good reason.

Take a minute to think about your company’s resources. You have trucks, tools, extension cords, saw horses, ladders, and hopefully some cash in the bank. These are typically what we mean when we say “resources.” But your most important resources are the human beings who are associated with your company. They may be family members, employees, subcontracted help, or all three, but every one of them is an invaluable resource. They are more expensive and more difficult to replace than other resources, so you need to take better care of them than you would any other company asset.

As the remodeling market keeps improving, the labor market will continue to tighten and the number of people available to your business will become more limited. As with other resources, the laws of supply and demand apply. Just when you land a few more projects, you’ll find that your labor pool is drying up. 

If you haven’t had a heart-to-heart talk with your team recently, don’t wait another day. They are most likely being recruited by your competition. Let everyone on your team know that they are valued and appreciated, and make sure they can see that they have a future with your organization. If they are unhappy or can’t see that future, they will leave.

On the flip side, if you don’t have the right people, or you have a weak link in your team, now is the time to let go of those human resources who don’t fit. This is not easy—especially if they have been with you a long time. But as I was once advised by an HR specialist, “You need to let go of what you don’t want to make room for what you do want.” Also consider that now, more than ever, the people you let go have a good chance of finding other opportunities that are a good fit for them.

It may seem a bit callous to think of humans as just another resource, and I’m not suggesting that you make rash decisions regarding other people’s lives. But you have to remember that you are running a business. You have a responsibility to your clients and to the entire staff of your company to manage all the resources of your business to make it as successful as it can be. Your humans are counting on you. 


Steve St. Onge is president of Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath and one of Professional Remodeler’s Remodeling Thought Leaders.

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