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Lesson #15: If You Own a Business, You Need Employees; the Better You Take Care of Your Employees, the Better Your Business Will Become

My father had a cousin who owned an employee-recruiting agency. We used his company to find employees for Cadillac Ace. Back then, newspapers were the only way to advertise for employees, and there were thousands of listings. Don Halper and his partner would run their own ads, do the initial interviews, and then pick out the best prospects for their clients.

Unlike Cadillac Ace that had only one shift per day, GAYNORS’ hours were 10:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. daily and 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Sunday. Retail hours in the suburbs sucked. Employees had to show up at seven in the morning to get the store ready, and the lights wouldn’t be off until ten at night with last-minute customers coming in and taking their time to shop. I needed a lot of employees, both hourly and salaried.

I decided early on to focus on salaried employees, as they were exempt from overtime pay. Halper sent me over excellent candidates, and the hiring went smoothly. I hired two cosmetic artists for the makeup counter, four managers, an accounting clerk, cashiers, and stock clerks. I was the exclusive buyer except for mass cosmetics and fragrances for which I still needed a person. With less than two weeks to opening, I called Halper and asked him to dig deeper. He called me a day later and set up the interview.

Teresa was only eighteen years old, but I remembered what I was like when I was eighteen years old. Age didn’t matter, results did. Teresa worked at the vitamin manufacturer that we were going to buy from in high school and knew everything about vitamins. I knew nothing except that it was going to be a big category. She also worked at Cecille’s, another discount HBA store located a few miles away in Birmingham and bought cosmetics and fragrances. She had a falling out with the owner, learned about the job opening at GAYNORS, and was there in my office.

Truth be told, Teresa was one of the most stunning girls I had ever met. She had a “look” and could have come right out of Vogue or Cosmopolitan. Most intriguing, her makeup was perfect, and that is exactly what I was looking for in someone to deal with mass makeup and fragrances.

The interview lasted five minutes, and she started the next week. Little did I know then that she would become my life partner.

Now let me tell you a little bit about employees. When I was at MSU, there wasn’t a single class on dealing with employees. When you are an entrepreneur, the last thing you want to focus on is employees. All you want to do is focus on the big picture and results. Employees take a lot of time. You have to hire, fire, train, motivate, have empathy, give them time off and benefits, offer reviews, and that’s just the top of the list. I loved dealing with manufacturers and customers.

Employees not so much. However, I will say, turnover at GAYNORS was rare, and thinking back it was probably because I was so busy doing my thing, I let the employees do their thing.

But it wouldn’t always be so simple.

Life Lesson Tip: If you are a new entrepreneur and hiring your first few employees, read as many books on the subject as possible. Do your due diligence including background checks. Just as important, share your vision with the applicants and sense if they appreciate your vision. If they do, have them write on a piece of paper why they want to work for you. You want new hires to be nearly as passionate as you are for the success of the new business. 


Adam Harris was born in coal country, right in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. His father, Gregory, worked the mines every day and came home to his best friend, Jim Beam. Gregory had many frie


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