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Due Diligence

How many of us have interviewed with a prospective employer, accepted a job offer only to find out that the real life picture is dramatically different than what was described during the interview process?

You could say that candidates are at an unfair disadvantage. After all, employers typically initiate telephone conversations with your past employers to confirm your credentials. But what do you, the candidate, have to base your employment decision on, besides the employer’s description of the position’s responsibilities, their expectations and their current issues?

Someone who is currently employed and considering a new position is taking a definitive risk by not putting serious thought into their next move. That risk is tripled if your new job calls for relocating yourself and family members. But you can make an informed decision about your future and your family’s future if you take time to stop and think.

First, try to analyze the pressure points. If the laundry plant is part of a large “chain” and they are highly centralized then the home office will drive the “head count” which can create surprise layoffs. Although it may not affect your job security, it may mean you have to manage a leaner department without much say so. On the other hand a decentralized organization puts more power in the hands of your immediate supervisor, so be sure to meet with that person enough times to determine chemistry. Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could spend even a few minutes with that person on a very busy (stressful) day?

The independent family owned laundry operations can be a doubled edge sword. Hypothetically, you will have good access and visibility with the president, but what if he (or she) runs the company on an emotional roller coaster? An incompetent family member cannot be severance packaged out the door as easily as a long term traditional employee. A third generation laundry can be a pleasure to behold, with its history, community roots and loyal customers; you just need to evaluate the family’s long term commitment to ownership. Again look at the pressure points. If there are rumors of suppliers putting them on C.O.D. then confirm the rumors, as the pressure point may be the bank. Can you determine if the key family members are in sync? For example, if there are two brothers in charge and one promotes a mix of any possible new revenue coming into the plant, while the other brother prefers focusing on a niche, then there may be on going conflicts.

A plant visit, or even two at different times of day, is critical. You may already know what to look for regarding equipment upkeep and housekeeping routines. Try to get a sense of the morale of the production associates. Some issues are fixable, and maybe the position you are interviewing is to do just that. If position is on the sales/ service side then ideally spend part of a day out on a route or with a sales rep.

If you are flying in for a one time visit, try to arrange an overnight stay with a rental car. If you are interviewing at a food and beverage linen plant, then try to make a quick stop in at an independent fine dining restaurant. Try to find someone in authority and casually quiz them on the reputation of the linen supply company. Also, drive around the plant‘s neighboring streets – will it be hard to attract candidates to positions you hypothetically would hire for at this plant?

The plant may be currently broke and you are interviewing for a key management position to help turn it around. You know you can install systems, rally the troops, hold people accountable and upgrade the talent, but if you do not have financial authority over equipment and merchandise decisions then “at the end of the day” you may be feeling some ropes slowly tying up your hands.

Get a clear handle on the current departmental (s) budget and where they stand YTD. Is there good talent and knowledge in the maintenance department? Ask what percentage of their customers is under contract. Do they measure completeness, and if so what are the recent percentages?

If the opening is confidential then you have to respect the process and, with the exception of close family members, not disclose the opening to anyone. Preferably after the initial telephone interview, but before the plant visit, try to find some objective third party opinions. Carefully choose your words, especially if the position is confidential, but you need to fish around a bit to dig up information. Tracking down a past management employee or two is smart, just be objective with the disgruntled version. Vendor reps can be very helpful, especially if they currently call on the company as a customer.

With these discreet and delicate conversations try to get a sense of the company’s market reputation regarding product quality, delivery shortages, pricing strategy. Turnover in a key management position (e.g. three in two years) or in the non exempt workforce (production and delivery) can be red flags if there is a common denominator that you cannot fix.

Whether all your extra observations only reinforces your instinct or the entire decision turns on a compelling bit of information gleaned from your efforts, you will at least minimize any future second guessing. And if you accept the offer you will be one step closer to hitting the ground running.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Image First Picks Garment Tracking For Clearwater Facility

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Healthcare supplier of textile rental and laundry services, ImageFIRST™ Healthcare Laundry Specialists, has selected the Fujitsu WT-A511 Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID tags and Positek RFID to provide garment tracking solution at its Clearwater facility.