Mining for ‘The Next Great Hire’: Where Paul and Janna Lafrance find gold
“We want our company to be like a sports team”
By John Bleasby
I continue my conversation with TV renovation personality and DeWalt product ambassador Paul Lafrance and his wife and business partner Janna. They describe the mix of passion and skill they require when looking for new team members at Paul Lafrance Design.
You told me earlier about your passion for design and your love for people and their stories. How has this translated into search parameters for new team members as your business has grown?
Paul: This is the dilemma so many contractors face when the business grows beyond their ability to be on site all the time. Coming off the tools has been very difficult for me, because as an artist these projects are my creations. To put the building aspect in the hands of other people took me a while, and it’s taken a while to cultivate the right people to do that. There’s an expression that says, if somebody can do something 70 percent as well as you think you can do it, get them to do it. It involves letting go. It’s a very entrepreneurial mindset to say, “Nobody can do this as well as I can.”
Janna: You need to accept that maybe someone won’t do it as well as you can, and maybe do things a little differently. But we’ve always liked that idea that even doing it 70 percent as well as you frees up your time. That 30 percent difference is well worth it.
Is there a key element that makes your team successful?
Janna: It’s about connecting, I’d say. That’s always been an important thing for us. Skill is important, obviously, but there has to be that connectivity. We can work together because we like each other. I think one of the best examples is that we want our company to be like a sports team. We don’t want a group of people working side by side with their individual skills. We want synergy so we are actually supporting and complementing each other. We’re not going to see everything the same way, but we can work together as a team. A lot of roles get blurred in a sense because everyone can help one another, and that makes it a stronger unit.
That spirit of comradery is strongly reflected in your company’s website. How does that impact hiring decisions as you look through resumes?
Paul: Resumes to me are like Facebook. Everybody is trying to put their best foot forward. “This is the best me, this is all my skills.” But if someone doesn’t include a personal cover letter, I won’t even read the resume. It’s so boring. It’s like reading the front of a credit card. I’ll take a much bigger chance on somebody who has written something personal like, “I don’t really have all the experience that you might require for this job but my grandfather did such-and-such, and I’ve been rebelling against my father who wants me to follow the same thing. I’ve tried to go in a different direction but I really do want to do this and I’m passionate about it.” But that’s not the way things typically work. I’ve talked with many company owners who actually agree with me. There’s a shift happening culturally. We’ve have been inundated with the plastic for so long that now we want to hear the real story, we want real people. It’s really about authentic people who have a story and aren’t afraid to tell it. I think a lot of people that we have found made an initial connection in that way.
Janna: I’d say almost all of them. Initially it was built around the family. On the building side we had my brother and my sister’s husband and Pau’s sister’s husband. On the design side, there was another of my brothers and my other sister’s husband. It results in some challenges you might not otherwise have. What if things aren’t going well? What if someone is not producing? What if the company needs to take a turn and you’ve got to cut a few people? Now you’ve got this connection with them. It always makes those kind of things tough whether they’re blood relatives or not, because we connect with our people.
As business owners, how does that connectivity pay off?
Paul: You get more from people when they feel you actually care, and they enjoy doing what they’re passionate about. That’s not normal in most work places. You’re creating an environment where people are really free to be themselves.
Read more in this series about your ‘Next Great Hire’…..
Paul Lafrance Part One: Matching music, passion and creativity with a career in renovation
Naikoon Contracting expands high school bursary programs in North Vancouver