Retaining Good Local Workers

Image: woman on ladder with task-oriented sticky notes - Coast Women in Business

by Cynthia Sharon, Margaret Fox, and Terri Larsen

October 2019 Presentation at Coast Women in Business

Get ideas on retaining good local workers: employees, contractors, freelancers from our round panel along with other helpful tips on hiring, retention, and incentives.


Tips about hiring employees or contractors included:

  • Loyalty is more important than competence
  • Hiring deal-breakers (e.g., must be able to climb ladder, have smartphone, have transportation)
  • Create employee handbook and contract (with two-week notice if employees decide to leave)
  • Ensure availability for work
  • Preferences (e.g., expecting that employees have trucks though it’s not a deal-breaker)
  • Encourage employees to take a day off and not work at second job all weekend
  • CalChamber: put in what’s specific to your business and California law, and it will give you relevant documents – costs $200 membership
  • Put image in your life regarding what you want
  • It’s helpful to write down job description even if it’s just a two-person company
  • Check out Nolo Press: Write Your Own Employee Handbook
  • OK to have employees do skills test, but must have everyone take the test
  • Do a 10-minute call to get some things out of the way (i.e., phone screen – do you know Excel?
  • Issue: needing person to be very detail-oriented
  • Avoid hiring someone with a lien to pay
  • Use payroll services (e,g., Applied Underwriters, Paychecks, Quicken, Square)


Tips about retaining employees or contractors included:

  • Some employees were good carpenters, but weren’t good fit for the business
  • Respect: employees need to feel they’re respected (e.g., with paycheck)
  • They forget what you or they did, but they remember how you made them feel
  • Always need to be encouraging (e.g., cheerleader)
  • Be grown-up and don’t lose your temper
  • Thank employees/contractors and acknowledge them
  • Give people certain amount of responsibility to handle things themselves
  • Know if customers are unhappy – tell waitstaff to do whatever it takes to keep customers happy (including comping entire meal) – makes a huge difference for waitstaff as well as for customers – empowering them bring employees into decision-making process
  • Many employees are unused to making suggestions or decisions for a business – encourage to collaborate
  • It takes time to train employees
  • Tell employees that it’s your way, then explain why it works
  • If you explain too much, you might be perceived as belittling them or micromanaging
  • Never stop recruiting
  • We probably all start out as “control-freak” employers, but then learn to delegate and empower employees
  • Curate tutorials (e.g., video tutorials – millenials especially love them)
  • Figure out what activities need to be done in a specific way vs. what activities can be done differently by employees (e.g., say “We’re happy to hear of how you learned to do it, but this is how we do it here”)
  • Exciting to work as a team even if it’s day-to-day; it involves a certain vitality and lets everyone feel good about participating


Tips about incentives for employees or contractors included:

  • Cash bonuses
  • Extra vacation days
  • To keep summer part-time staff all through summer, give them high wages and $500 bonus
  • Local plumber gives five T-shirts and five sweatshirts; guys, especially, love it
  • At David’s restaurant (Fort Bragg, California), staff will wear T-shirts with your logo if you give them
  • At restaurants, staff could get 50 percent off for meals, which they’ll appreciate
  • You could gift staff a couple of nighs in San Francisco
  • If staff gets a raise, the good feeling lasts one week – converse: long-lasting resentment if they don’t get a raise
  • Tell staff at least 7 positives for every one negative

About the Presenters

Cynthia Sharon – A licensed contractor and former art therapist, Cynthia leads Dancing Dog Design Build, helping homeowners to bring their artistic vision to life. She earned a Master’s degree in marital and family therapy from College of Notre Dame, in Belmont, California, and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and studio art from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Margaret Fox – Currently, Margaret is Culinary Director at Harvest Market and runs Hummingbird Haven of Mendocino, a B&B in Mendocino. Previously, she owned, cooked, and baked at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino; she included favorite recipes in two cookbooks she wrote, Cafe Beaujolais and Morning Food. Before that, she ran a B&B in a 12th-century Austrian castle.

Terri Larsen – As data visualization thought leader, she has created figures, animation, and imagery for publications and presentations. Terri runs three companies:, Paneless Window Cleaning, and Larsen Livery & Transfer Co. Terri earned a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Master’s degree in molecular biology from San Diego State University, and Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis.

About Coast Women in Business

Coast Women in Business supports the business community on the Mendocino coast. We meet monthly to foster entrepreneurship and professional development on the Mendocino Coast and beyond. Membership fees are $50 annually or $10 per drop-in meeting.

Note: We welcome all – all races, all genders, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations.

Your first meeting is always free, and we offer a limited number of need-based memberships—please inquire. We’re sponsored by the Women’s Business Center at the West Business Development Center. We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting!

Please contact us with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

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