Terry Teal has a problem.
The owner of Plaza Pizza in Hermitage believes he has a great product and offers it at a good price, but he needs to attract more customers, particularly during the week.
Hays Montgomery also has a problem. The superintendent for Becdel Controls Inc, Niles, needs to attract more employees, but also to retain the ones he has, something that is difficult to do considering the amount of time his workers spend in attics, basements and ditches.
Teal and Montgomery tapped a very select group of consultants to help them with their problems: Nate Berry’s eighth-grade careers class at Brookfield Middle School.
Teal and Montgomery made initial presentations to the class outlining what they do and what problems they face. Teal followed up by having the students come to his pizzeria for a tour, and Montgomery by bringing one of his work trucks to the school.
On Oct. 24, the students presented their ideas to Teal and Montgomery.
Each of the six student teams made PowerPoint presentations. Some developed web sites specific to the businesses, and others shot a video; printed a banner and stickers; and created an employee survey.
A group that encouraged Teal to have in-store seating even made a cardboard mock-up of how the front of the store would look.
Students also recommended that Teal offer discount coupons and develop gluten-free recipes.
Many of the teams pushed Teal to develop a web site and a phone app, so he can take orders online. They said his Facebook page, which is rarely updated, was incomplete and pointed out that orders can’t be placed through Facebook anyway.
Teal said he has resisted creating a web site.
“It’s difficult to have the time to run a web site,” he said. “It becomes secondary to running a business.”
But, he acknowledged that he could imagine how he could improve a customer’s experience by having company information available by phone.
“Everybody’s on their phone,” he said. “I am a lot.”
For Becdel, the students recommended raising wages, improving the benefit package, attending job fairs, regularly communicating with employees to learn what issues they have and use their comments in business decisions, and tapping online hiring resources such as Indeed.com
Montgomery praised the students.
“You can tell you guys put some time and effort into it,” he said, adding that he knew his problem would be a hard one.
“It’s hard for me, so I knew it would be hard for them,” he said. “Our business is unique. We don’t make widgets.”
Student Sophia Hook said she enjoyed the project.
“I learned more about the subjects than I thought I would,” she said.
Student Sam Plyler said he came to appreciate the challenges Teal and Montgomery face in their jobs managing companies.
“I was like a complete outsider,” he said. “I have a lot of admiration for them.”