Q. Good help is hard to find, and even harder to keep. How do you attract and keep long-term employees?

A. "We’ve had good success with an incentive plan that shows our employees that we care and that we are giving them all we can. If the company meets a minimal profit goal (5%), everyone gets a cash distribution based on years of service and salary. After that, if the company exceeds the planned profit goal (10%), everyone gets an additional cash incentive based on a formula. We also reward employees for years of service with paid trips."

— Bill Medina

"I hire people who have been on their own, so they understand the value of building a business. Then I give them lots of respect and responsibility, and I back them up with drawings and documents — lots of information. Most important, I always ask their advice and collaborate with them on their projects."

— Sue Cosentini

"We built our reputation on fine craftsmanship, so we focus on keeping finish carpenters. We not only provide steady work, but we make the work interesting. The more highly skilled finish carpenters are, the more they want to be challenged, as opposed to just putting in baseboards and hanging doors. We’re also flexible with their schedules and their families."

— Glenn Farrell

"I try to be the good employer I never had. I give vacations and health insurance, pay overtime, and I’m generous about employee time off. And I have never yelled at any employee."

— Chuck Green

"Keep employees by treating them as equals, not subordinates. Spend some time with them away from work, like going golfing or to a ballgame. Find them by asking your suppliers who’s looking — they’ll tell you who’s happy and who isn’t."

— Steve Klitsch

"Besides good pay and benefits, offer employees steady work and sincere appreciation for a job well done. Create a team atmosphere with regular staff meetings where they can learn what you’re up to in the office. Be enthusiastic about the future of the company and let them know their part in that future."

— Mike McCutcheon

"It’s important to identify your expectations and to see that they are shared and implemented by all. This helps develop a sense of personal pride, positive company and employee recognition, and a perception of professionalism, not only within the company but in the community."

— Bill Gaver

"When you advertise, use your company name; otherwise, good prospects may not answer for fear the ad was placed by their current employer. Trust your people, be sincere in your praise, and provide practical but thoughtful incentives, like a gift of a new saw. Also, let employees know what the true cost of running a company is, like who pays the payroll when the company is losing money."

— Mike Weiss

"Good job descriptions with specific goals; good training for specific skills, like management or sales; letting employees learn from their mistakes; teaching time management; yearly evaluations to set new goals; and team building — the team is greater than the individual."

— Peter Feinmann

"Employees stick around because of my high-quality work and the overall high level of enthusiasm in my company. I also boost morale whenever I can — for example, I have a job-site kitchen-in-a-box that we use for coffee and lunches. We have better lunches on site than most offices, and it makes the crew feel special and important."

— Byron Papa

"I don’t expect my employees to stay that long. Rather than whine about it, I capitalize on it by actually encouraging my employees to prepare for going out on their own someday. This motivates them to learn and take responsibility, which pays dividends in productivity and trust. When they do finally leave, I now have a subcontractor I’ve trained for three or four years. I know what he’s good at and which jobs I don’t want him to touch."

— Rick Stacy