From problem to opportunity

For the first 19 years that South Shore Marine was in business, finding good talent was its No. 1 problem. The dealership was flooded with entry-level candidates, but had difficulty finding the kind of quality individuals it was seeking.

But in recent years, that has changed. In fact, since the fall of 2008, the Huron, Ohio-based company has upgraded 10 to 12 of its 30 employees, many from outside the marine industry, according to Tom Mack, president and owner.

“There are a lot of people who have been displaced and are looking for a place to call home,” says Mack. “The people we thought we couldn’t afford five years ago, maybe they’re interested in us and we can afford them now. There has never been a better time to upgrade your people than right now.”

In the past, because of the shortage of technicians, those with experience and skills often acted as if they had the upper hand, explains Mack, which isn’t a situation an employer wants to be in. In an ideal world, employee-employer relationships are win-win, he says. In fact, attitude is a much more important to South Shore Marine than specific skills.

Recently, the dealership hired a man with 15 years of experience in property management, apartments and commercial properties. He had plumbing, electrical and general handyman skills, plus he’d been a boater his entire life. Even more importantly, he had the right attitude, he was willing to adapt, and he was excited and passionate about working in a marine environment.

“A lot of those skills are interchangeable,” says Mack. “And one way or another, you’re going to be on the hook for training. I’d rather train someone’s skills than attitude. That could take a lifetime.”

It’s not that South Shore Marine has anything against those with marine industry experience. But he points out that sometimes it is harder to unlearn bad habits than it is to adopt new skills.

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