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How To Hire A Winner - The Advanced Nutrients Way


Release Date: August 11, 2006. Not Embargoed.
Subject: Hiring Good Employees/Corporate Community Service
From: Advanced Nutrients: Abbottsford, British Columbia, Canada

Contact Information: Company Founder Robert C. Higgins: Phone: 604 854 6793. Email: When you contact us, please provide your full contact info, along with the media outlet you work for and your deadline dates. Tell us if you need photos or other logistical support.


Finding good employees is always a challenge in a tight labor market.

Advanced Nutrients, a hydroponics products manufacturer in Abbottsford, British Columbia, is located in a booming region with a very low unemployment rate. Finding good workers in a place where hamburger flippers get $14 an hour is rather difficult.

That’s why Advanced Nutrients executives use creative methods to find quality workers. In some cases, they’ve made quality workers of people who had no skills.

For example, when Advanced Nutrients co-founder Gino Yordanov was leaving the company headquarters in Abbottsford two years ago, he witnessed a man screaming, yelling and pounding his fists on cars.

The 20-something young man was acting in a “crazy” and somewhat dangerous manner, but Yordanov, who is a former member of the Bulgarian National Judo team, walked up to him and asked why he was upset.

“My life is totally messed up,” the agitated man replied. “I lost my job. My girlfriend left me. I got kicked out of my apartment. I’ve got drug problems. I’m sick of it all. I want to die.”

Yordanov recalls that he was troubled by the man’s lack of hope. Yordanov was raised to believe that when adversity arises, a man soldiers on to overcome it. Yordanov’s can-do philosophy led him to leave his home in Bulgaria, land in Maritime Canada in the dead of winter knowing no English, and become co-founder of the most successful hydroponics company ever created.

“I see why you’re pissed off,” Yordanov told the man, “but pounding your fists on cars and screaming outside my office is not going to fix your problems.”

The man calmed down enough to have a rational discussion with Yordanov, who made an intuitive decision: he offered the man a job.

“My company makes the best hydroponics fertilizers in the world,” he told the incredulous man. “Right over there behind you is our manufacturing facility and warehouse. If you want to fix your life, show up there tomorrow morning ready to work. If you do well, you’ll be part of a company that’s bringing higher standards and better products to the hydroponics customer.”

The man looked at Yordanov like he was crazy. He couldn’t believe that this no-nonsense business executive was offering a job to a down and out loser.

The man told Yordanov that he was grateful for the offer, but that he had no change of clothes, nowhere to sleep, and no transportation. He didn’t see how he could hold a job.

Yordanov said the man could sleep in a security trailer that Advanced Nutrients had for guards who protect the company from competitors who’ve tried to steal company secrets by breaking into Advanced Nutrients offices.

He took the man (who said his name was Dale) to a restaurant and fed him. Then he got him some toiletries and a couple of changes of clothes, brought him back to the furnished security trailer, and advised the security crew to keep an eye on him.

The next day, Dale was waiting in front of the warehouse when Yordanov arrived. He said he had slept well for the first time in months.

Yordanov brought Dale inside the warehouse and introduced him to a supervisor and co-workers. Dale was assigned to putting labels on Advanced Nutrients products.

He did that job satisfactorily for two weeks and was promoted to the shipping department, which needed extra help because Advanced Nutrients was experiencing a sharp surge in orders.

By the end of the month, Dale saved enough money to move out of the security trailer to a small apartment near the Advanced Nutrients facility.

Today, two years later, he is a valued warehouse employee. He is clean and sober, has a vehicle, is purchasing land, and is dating a co-worker.

The days when he pounded on cars and wanted to die are a distant memory.

“I’m not the same guy I was,” he says proudly, “and a lot of the credit is to Gino and the company. No telling what I’d have done to my life if Gino hadn’t helped me that day.”
Dale’s life-changing experience with Advanced Nutrients isn’t unique. The company has a policy of helping people with little training or who are in marginal circumstances. Company founder Michael Straumietis recalls that several years ago he was looking for a talented graphic designer to create the company’s colorful product labels and branding.

He heard about a very creative artist named Jason, but when he contacted Jason’s home, he was told by a friend of the artist that Jason was in a halfway house due to drug problems.

Mike went to the halfway house and talked to Jason and his caseworker. He also looked at Jason’s graphics portfolio. The portfolio was impressive, but Mike was worried about Jason’s work habits and substance abuse.

After consultation with the caseworker, he offered Jason a job, with strict policies about performance, attendance, behavior and personal conduct. Jason knew that this was the biggest opportunity- and the biggest challenge- that he had ever faced.

Jason felt that he had been given a second chance in life. He created many of the company’s award-winning logos, labels, posters and branding images while earning his way out of the halfway house and building an impressive portfolio of commercial work.

“When Mike walked up to me and said was I an artist, I had no idea what to expect,” Jason remembers. “I figured he was a counselor or something, not an employer. And I never thought I’d be able to get back to my graphics career. But it worked out for both of us. I’m proud when I see my work on Advanced Nutrients labels. I owe the company a lot.”

Advanced Nutrients is in a tough market for employers, with near zero percent unemployment rates in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver where the company’s main facilities are located.

Straumietis says that along with hiring and helping people like Dale and Jason, his company has expanded its facilities to overseas companies where it provides employment and tax revenues to impoverished economies in India and Eastern Europe.

“One reason that business magazines write about us is because we use the latest business practices and are always thinking progressively,” Straumietis notes. “Our strength is that we bring creativity, integrity and a win-win attitude to hydroponics, hiring, and how we do business.”



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