Training Your Staff for the Long Haul


One of the biggest challenges of any business venture is “finding good help”. As you well know, it’s hard!

But it is also something that can be a make or break aspect of your success. You may be the best owner operator around, but most of your guests will never deal with you directly so they will never discover how great you really are! They will deal most directly with your staff, who will in turn, determine the reputation of your business. Unfortunately, consumers are sometimes used to dealing with poor customer service. But it should be our goal to provide such high-quality service that we stand out from the “other guys”. So how do we instill this in those who work for us?

It may take several weeks to cover so many aspects of finding and training the right staff, but bear with me. I’ll try to give you some new ideas to incorporate even if you have been doing this a while.

Where do I Begin to Look?

Before you look for staff, you need to determine what you are looking for! There are some general categories that you will want all your staff to possess and some specific qualities for some specific positions.

For example, you want a polite, courteous staff as a rule of thumb. Character matters so much when it comes to employees, so if they are interacting with your guests, make sure they know how to deal with people. Make sure they know how to work and can do it without having to be watched. Leadership is also key. You want to employ people who do the right thing even if they are the only one doing it! Followers tend to only live up to the standard they feel is minimal. Leaders give 100% because that’s how they are built.

I know, you are thinking this is impossible. And depending on your resources, it can be very difficult. But consider these guidelines:

*Start with a proven commodity and find your staff through them. “Birds of a Feather” right? Your best staff can be a resource for more good staff.

*Recruit rather than receive. Go out and actively invite the quality people you want rather than having to weed through the prospects from a general plea. You will get a huge response to a general plea because agritourism is fun! Unfortunately, employees who just want to have fun are not always the most attentive to your customers.

*Look for older as well as younger. College students can be a great resource because they usually have limited time, and weekends are typically free. They also usually have a bit more maturity and command respect simply because they have a little more life experience. We have used college students in positions that require a little more maturity and have had good success. There are areas where it is especially important to make a good first impression and it starts at check in. When you can’t man the info boards, cash registers or other highly interactive aspects, make sure you staff it with a suitable replacement. Don’t be afraid to use much older staff members in these positions as well. We used a retired gentleman to drive our hayrides and interact with customers on the wagon. A great asset and a crucial piece of our overall experience and the memories we are seeking to create.

*Connect with area leaders where young people are most involved. When we draw from a pool of quality people we will cut down on the guessing game of choosing the right staff. Teachers, 4 H Leaders and Church Youth Group Leaders are all great resources for finding quality staff. If you are proactive, you will eventually have a list of people you contact every year to see if they can recommend anyone that will be an asset to your business.

So, for now, consider the far-reaching benefits of choosing your staff carefully. This is basic, I know, but sometimes we just settle for plugging the holes and that will not pay off in the long run. We’ll stay with this for some more blogs and look more specifically at how to use your staff and how to train them specifically for your agritourism venue. Talk to you soon!


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