Hire Slow, Fire Fast

The Candle Pour's Misty & Dennis Akers share their expertise and help business owners with how they might want to think about staffing and why who you hire is essential to creating an unforgettable experience.
Hire Slow, Fire Fast
Image credit: The Candle Pour

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

Hiring is the most important thing in a business,” said Misty Akers, co-founder of Tampa, Florida-based shop The Candle Pour. “If you don’t have the right people, the entire experience is missed.” In this week’s episode, we bring back former guests Misty and Dennis to dive further into the topic of hiring and firing—something we touched on when we first spoke with them on the show.

Misty and Dennis have gone through the hiring, training, retention, and firing process tenfold—and over time, they’ve been able to hone in on that process and how it fits into their overall business strategy. However, they didn’t start off as experts.

“When we first opened, it was trial by fire,” Dennis said. Initially, they were just looking for people with customer service experience. As the Akers learned more about their customers’ wants and needs, that shifted. “We’re not just going for somebody in a retail shop,” Misty said. “We want somebody that is building a great relationship with the customer.”

Not only did the Akers reevaluate the type of hires that would make their business model successful, they also established the simple motto of “hire slow, fire fast.” When an open position unexpectedly comes about, many business owners default to finding a replacement as quickly as possible. And while that may seem tempting, it can be troublesome in the long term. “You start interviewing, hoping to fill holes so you can take a break,” Misty said. “But I’ve learned that it only gets worse and it takes longer to find the right person.”

At the end of 2020, the Akers faced an incredibly difficult decision after they unexpectedly lost all four of their full-time employees—right at the start of the holiday season and amidst a global pandemic. Yet they stuck with their motto, pitching in the extra hours themselves and closing their storefront when necessary to accommodate their situation. “When we did that, we knew we were going to lose sales, but in the long term, we knew what we were doing was beneficial for the company,” Misty said. “We made the decision to have no business at all rather than an experience that would be off.”

The Akers also make sure to constantly communicate with their employees. If they notice something isn’t going as expected, they sit that employee down and address it. Sometimes that results in the difficult decision of parting ways, but when things are going smoothly, they make sure to express their sincere appreciation—something that may sound simple but is often overlooked.

The feedback and reviews they have received reflect the successful approach Misty and Dennis take in prioritizing their staff management. “Yes, we’re a candle company, but we are an experience, and our employees are the experience,” Misty said.

Here are a few additional key takeaways from this episode:

  • Don’t waste people’s time when interviewing. To mitigate this, Misty starts with an initial questionnaire with general questions about hours and customer service. If that’s not a match, it’s easy, and she lets them know.
  • Communicate and build relationships with your employees. In her interviews, Misty always asks the candidate what they need from their employer to be successful at the job. According to the Akers, nine times out of 10, they say communication. This demonstrates that employees want communication from their managers and owners—they want to know if they're doing a good job, what the expectations are, and the areas they need to improve.
  • Be a team. You, as a business owner, and your employees make up a team. No one is exactly the same, but everyone needs to mesh and get along.
  • Show appreciation. Every person wants to feel valued and appreciated, and sharing those sentiments with your employees can be the motivation that helps them perform at their highest level. Misty and Dennis always thank their staff, especially for the time that the pair has gained back to spend with their family.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Misty and Dennis, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

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