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Working It Out

Looking for workers in all the wrong places? Try this.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the August 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As the average age of the nation's population rises, the number of skilled laborers will fall, making it progressively more difficult for employers to find qualified workers. One often-overlooked resource is release programs sponsored by local courts, which allow nonviolent inmates to work outside prisons during weekdays.

Institutions such as the Mecklenburg County Work Release and Restitution Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, can serve as de facto employment agencies, uniting businesses with qualified inmates. Burgess Sales and Supply Inc., a Charlotte-based distributor of commercial wood and metal doors, hired a work-release inmate who had experience as a delivery driver. "We consider him a valuable employee," says Julie Broughton, Burgess' operations coordinator. "One of the main reasons we participate in the program is to help citizens who have been less fortunate. Most of them have families, and without the security of having a job while they're incarcerated, their families would have to get public assistance."

Hiring an inmate raises some human resources issues, though. One day, Broughton's work-release employee failed to report for work because he had been involved in a conflict and "locked down" as punishment. Still, Broughton was pleased with his work and hired him as a full-time employee when he was released from prison. "We made a great decision," says Broughton. "We'd do it again, but we haven't yet found another qualified employee. We're just waiting for the right person."

Wheeling And Dealing

The art of negotiation.

By Debra Phillips

Clarence Darrow knew just how to throw off adversaries during negotiations. What the famous lawyer would do--unbeknownst to said adversaries, of course--is place a thin wire through his cigars to keep the ashes from falling to the floor. Bewildered by the trick, Darrow's opponents were left not fully concentrating.

OK, this isn't exactly a widely hailed deal-making strategy--but it worked. And, as pointed out in lawyer Marc Diener's immensely readable Deal Power: 6 Foolproof Steps To Making Deals of Any Size (Henry Holt and Co. Inc., $9.95 paper), deal-making isn't just a science--it's an art.

Which isn't to suggest there aren't guideposts to point you in the right direction--and this is Deal Power's role. Diener's self-created system aims to make Darrows out of the rest of us mere mortals.

Contact Sources

Burgess Sales and Supply Inc., (704) 333-8933

Mecklenburg County Work Release and Restitution Center, 901 Elizabeth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204, fax: (704) 336-3533

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