In 2003, Rick Perin and Elvio DiSimone knew it was time to get their company out of DiSimone’s basement. Over its first five years, DPI Construction Management, which specializes in building commercial interiors, formed relationships with a variety of regular subcontractors, and it had a growing client base. But now it needed room to hire office staff.
The business partners quickly found a suitable space in downtown Toronto, but finding new hires proved difficult. Perin placed newspaper ads and tracked down promising young industry stars working across the city. But, he says, “the right resumés just weren’t getting in front of us.”
After several unsuccessful attempts at hiring, it hit them—DPI doesn’t install drywall on its projects; it enlists experienced subcontractors. Why not approach recruitment the same way?
They hired a small, inexpensive recruiting firm but, DiSimone notes, they discovered you get what you pay for. “Next we started seeking out some of the top recruiting firms, and everything changed,” he says. “We were getting access to some of the top talent in the industry.”
Today, the company spends a fair amount of money on recruiting, and recruitment firms now call DPI staff to lure them away. “[Our employees] are honest enough to tell us, with no fear,” says DiSimone. “It’s a testament to the fact that our company is the place they want to be.” The business has maintained a zero staff turnover rate for four years.
Hiring top talent and keeping it are two different jobs. DPI has worked hard to create an environment that aids retention: The company offers the expected perks, like competitive pay, a bonus structure and a health plan, but Perin and DiSimone say it’s the intangibles that earn real loyalty.
For example, you’ll usually find four or five dogs hanging out in the office. It’s a simple policy that gives staff flexibility, so they don’t feel they have to rush home at the end of the day. “When you have that kind of atmosphere, people tend to work a lot harder,” says Perin.
Another bonus is the biannual company retreat, each spring and winter. In April 2016, the entire team went on an overnight trip to Ontario’s Blue Mountain Resort to take brewery and restaurant tours together. Last November, they chartered a bus and travelled to Niagara wine country for the day.
These retreats aren’t traditional team-building events, though that’s the outcome. “It’s to socialize and just become closer and more familiar with your cohorts,” says DiSimone. Perin adds that it’s much easier for people to work together if they actually know and like one another personally.
Such retreats for a team of 30 or more aren’t cheap, but maintaining DPI’s zero turnover rate demonstrates to clients that the firm can provide continuity on long-term projects. It’s paid off: Nearly 70% of the company’s clientele—globally recognized brands like Visa, Google, Under Armour and Nike—are repeat customers.
“We’re striving for 100%,” says Perin. “Think about how easy that would make my job. I wouldn’t have to go out and sell every day.”