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Autism Advantage

Business
Government & Organizations
Careers
Management & Marketing
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Hello and welcome to the Autism Advantage Podcast where we sit down with some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to proving how capable people with autism really are.Our team believes that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many businesses and this show is dedicated to proving that it is not only possible to employ people with autism, but in doing so you can create a business with real competitive advantages. The Autism Advantage Podcast will not only inspire you to see the possibilities but will also help teach how you can join the autism entrepreneurship movement.

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Hello and welcome to the Autism Advantage Podcast where we sit down with some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to proving how capable people with autism really are.Our team believes that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many businesses and this show is dedicated to proving that it is not only possible to employ people with autism, but in doing so you can create a business with real competitive advantages. The Autism Advantage Podcast will not only inspire you to see the possibilities but will also help teach how you can join the autism entrepreneurship movement.

iTunes Ratings

4 Ratings
Average Ratings
4
0
0
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0

iTunes Ratings

4 Ratings
Average Ratings
4
0
0
0
0
Cover image of Autism Advantage

Autism Advantage

Read more

Hello and welcome to the Autism Advantage Podcast where we sit down with some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to proving how capable people with autism really are.Our team believes that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many businesses and this show is dedicated to proving that it is not only possible to employ people with autism, but in doing so you can create a business with real competitive advantages. The Autism Advantage Podcast will not only inspire you to see the possibilities but will also help teach how you can join the autism entrepreneurship movement.

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Rank #1: Lessons From the Trenches – A Follow up conversation with Brewability Labs

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.

For the final three episodes of this season, we’re changing things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. Today, we’ll be talking to Tiffany Fixter of Brewability Lab. When we last spoke in season 1 episode 7, the company was dealing with red tape and hadn’t quite opened yet. Go listen to that episode for some background, and then tune in here to learn how much has changed!

As a quick refresher, Tiffany was a special education teacher who was disappointed to find out how few people with autism have jobs. So, having the entrepreneurial spirit that she does, she decided that she would do something about it! After a successful crowdfunding effort, Tiffany found a turnkey brewery and put down a deposit on it. That’s when they ran into some red tape -- and when we had our last conversation!

Now, Brewability Lab has been open for just over a year. Tiffany’s employees have experienced incredible growth since then, thanks in large part to the systems she has set up to facilitate the process. For example, there are braille labels on the bar taps so that a bartender who is blind can function at his best.

Because of their hidden location, Brewability Lab is still struggling to keep up with bills. The alternative to this location, Tiffany points out, is a downtown location that costs tens of thousands of dollars per month. In our conversation, she explains various other ideas she has for how to make the business more profitable, while making clear how difficult the financial aspect has been. This is a great reminder to entrepreneurs that you should always budget for the unexpected and expect your costs to be higher than your initial projections.

In our conversation today, Tiffany and I will talk about lots of other topics including various kinds of advertising and marketing, some tools that can help you drive more traffic to your business (and one strategy you should definitely avoid), and what advice we can give to entrepreneurs in the early stages of opening a business. Tune in, enjoy this final episode of season 2, and don’t forget to come back when we return with season 3!

In This Episode:

[00:54] - Tiffany takes a moment to explain what Brewability Labs is, and why she started it, for listeners who may not be familiar with the venture.

[01:31] - We hear about where Tiffany’s company is now, and how it’s been doing. She also talks about what she’s done to facilitate the incredible progress that her employees have made since the opening.

[03:17] - Money is still a struggle after being operational for over a year, Tiffany reveals.

[04:11] - What are Tiffany’s next steps? She explores both the reasons why it’s so hard to make any money in her business and the ideas she has for increasing profitability.

[08:44] - Tiffany has sold off everything she can other than the absolute necessities to be a brewery, she reveals. She then addresses whether she has sources to get grants from, and invites listeners to email her if they have ideas.

[09:43] - We hear Tiffany’s thoughts about opening a pizzeria.

[11:04] - Tom brings up two important points related to what Tiffany has been saying.

[12:15] - What has Tiffany learned from the brewery and transferring to the pizzeria idea? She talks specifically about the location issue.

[13:04] - The company’s advertising is pretty much word-of-mouth at this point, Tiffany reveals. She discusses whether she has considered online advertising.

[16:46] - Is there a common thread between the people organizing the events that Tiffany has been talking about?

[18:21] - Tom recommends Mogl to Tiffany and any listeners who are interested in doing more online advertising. Tiffany then complains about her experience with Groupon and explains why she’s no longer on the site.

[20:56] - What would Tiffany say to other people who are looking into starting a social enterprise?

[22:30] - Tiffany addresses the question of whether she has thought about doing any type of internship programs. Tom then offers some recommendations about opening a new business.

[25:22] - The extra costs that come up in a business are really scary, Tiffany reveals, using the example of transportation.

[30:13] - Tiffany offers suggestions on what listeners can do to help her business, from making a tax-deductible donation to spreading the word to contacting her with any leads or advice on moving forward.

Links and Resources:

Brewability Lab

Tiffany Fixter on LinkedIn

Brewability Lab on Kickstarter

Brewability Lab on Indiegogo

Tom D’Eri

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Mogl

Groupon

Jan 20 2018
31 mins
Play

Rank #2: Diversifying Impact – A Follow up conversation with the Chocolate Spectrum

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.

For the final three episodes of this season, we’re changing things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. In today’s episode, we’re featuring the awesome Valerie Herskowitz, founder of The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy. If you haven’t already heard her in the fifth episode of season 1, go listen to that now and then come back here!

You may remember that Val was inspired to expand her sweet hobby into a business as her son with autism, Blake, was graduating from high school. After expanding their chocolate venture online, they opened a brick-and-mortar cafe just a couple of months before our previous conversation. All of the employees had autism or were otherwise differently abled.

Since our last conversation, there has been a huge change in the training side of things. Val explains that she has mostly just gone with the flow with the business, following the opportunities that presented themselves, instead of having a huge long-term master plan. She explains in this conversation that it occurred to her that they should see if the coffee industry could possibly be something that would work for individuals with autism. With the right equipment and support systems, they found that their employees can be very successful in this role.

The strongest revenue stream has continued to be online shopping, while retail continues to be weak and disappointing in terms of walk-in traffic. The levels haven’t reached what they expected, which Val attributes to location. In response, Val sends out flyers and came up with the idea of developing a Facebook page just for the retailers in her shopping center. Another strategy for increasing their revenue has been branching out into wholesale.

In addition to talking about all of this, Val speaks with great detail (and passion) about her new training program for teens with autism, explaining why it’s so necessary. Tune into this great episode to hear this and much more!

In This Episode:

[01:05] - For listeners who didn’t hear our previous conversation, Val explains what The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy is and what inspired her to start the company.

[01:50] - How has the company grown over the last year since our previous conversation? In her answer, Val talks about the company branching into coffee.

[06:45] - Val discusses taking the skills that their employees were learning in their coffee training program and put them into an employment situation.

[08:30] - How many people are working at the satellites Val has been describing, and what is her vision for them?

[11:05] - Tom clarifies: Val is using her primary location as a hub and for training, with satellite operations around it to increase distribution and employ more people.

[11:27] - Val talks about how she plans on managing all of this.

[14:35] - We back up a bit to hear how “home base,” the Chocolate Spectrum retail store, is doing these days.

[18:18] - Tom has a couple of suggestions for ways that Val (and listeners, of course!) can market online. He recommends using Mogl and geofencing.

[21:36] - Val shifts into talking specifically about employee growth, and discusses certifications for training and placing people in the community.

[24:53] - The biggest thing that Val’s company provides is teaching their employees how to be employed, since they don’t typically have experience in what is involved in the process and what the expectations are.

[26:04] - Val has always wanted to work with teens, because she feels like the process of teaching the skills that she has described should be started younger. Tom then elaborates on the need for this kind of training.

[27:35] - We learn that Val was able to secure a separate grant for teen training, and will be working with the first group of teens this year.

[28:57] - The biggest challenge Val has experienced with the teens she’s worked with so far is having them learn to work together.

[31:10] - The last thing Val is developing right now to increase their revenue is a wholesale business, which she describes.

[34:12] - How can listeners support Val? In her answer, she talks about a piece of advice that Tom’s dad gave her that she didn’t really believe before.

[36:58] - Tom shares his thoughts on why people who have been touched by autism don’t automatically support businesses like The Chocolate Spectrum and Rising Tide Car Wash, instead of bigger businesses.

Links and Resources:

The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy

The Chocolate Spectrum: shop online

Valerie Herksowitz

Valerie Herksowitz on LinkedIn

Tom D’Eri

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Mogl

Geofencing

The Loving Push by Temple Grandin

Special Treats

Jan 20 2018
39 mins
Play

Rank #3: Growing Smart – A Follow up conversation with Katie’s Snack Cart

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.

For the final three episodes of this season, we’re going to change things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. Today, we’re featuring Wendy Kohman, who you’ll remember from the third episode of season 1. (If you haven’t already heard it, go listen now and then come back to this one!)

In our last conversation, Wendy described how she came up with the idea of Katie’s Snack Cart, and why it was a good fit for Katie, her daughter who has autism. In short, the company sells more healthful alternatives to the junk foods that are typically available in offices. Workers with autism push food carts from desk to desk in offices, selling these foods.

Katie’s Snack Cart has grown wonderfully since it opened with just Katie and a cart. The company now employs six adults with special needs on the team. Their roles are split between baking snacks to sell and pushing the carts, which now operate in nine businesses. The employees are deservedly proud of themselves for their role in creating a successful small business.

When we last talked with Wendy, the products sold through Katie’s Snack Cart were premade products that they bought to sell, with the exception of Wendy’s banana bread. Now, they make lots of their own baked things, and employ several more people to help in the kitchen. This allows them to hire people with very different abilities, skills, and strengths.

Wendy also talks about the process of finding new employees, how work support roles have functioned for their employees, the ways in which the company has grown since our conversation a year earlier, how customers at their various client businesses react and respond to the social mission, and much more. If you’re ready for inspiration on how successful a small business supporting autism can be, even for someone without experience as an entrepreneur, don’t miss this episode!

In This Episode:

[01:00] - Wendy reminds listeners what Katie’s Snack Cart is, what the company does, and what inspired her to start the company.

[02:06] - We hear what’s been happening with Katie’s Snack Cart in the year or so since we first talked with Wendy.

[04:10] - Where has Wendy found these employees, and how has the experience of expanding gone for Wendy?

[05:37] - Tom reveals that they had over 600 applicants for their second store, but held people off until they had legitimate jobs for more people.

[06:38] - We hear more about the shift from prepackaged snacks to more of their own baked goods on the snack carts.

[08:46] - Wendy describes in more detail how she runs the operation, specifically in terms of having support people for her employees with autism or special needs. She discusses one of the complications, but overall thinks it’s a great choice.

[10:44] - Where is Wendy going to find clients, and how does she define who their potential (and ideal) clients are?

[13:14] - We learn Wendy’s plan for how to reach out to potential new clients, and mentions how important it is to do a trial run so that the business can see how much value Katie’s Snack Cart offers.

[15:55] - Wendy talks more about the customers’ reaction to the social mission.

[17:59] - Recently, the company went and Christmas caroled at one of their client businesses, Wendy explains.

[18:59] - One of the things that’s sold on the snack carts are cards featuring artwork by another person with autism. We hear about how this went, why Wendy thinks more cards didn’t sell, and why it was a great experience anyway./

[20:03] - Tom explains that a young entrepreneur wanted to sell pies at Rising Tide Car Wash on certain days, and had a similar experience to what Wendy described.

[20:56] - What advice does Wendy have for people who are looking to start a business? Her inspirational answer may be exactly what you need to hear if you’ve been considering opening a business of your own.

[23:05] - Wendy talks about a few simple ways that listeners can help out her company, as well as the autism community at large.

Links and Resources:

Katie’s Snack Cart

Katie’s Snack Cart on Facebook

@KatiesSnackCart on Twitter

katiessnackcart@gmail.com

Wendy Kohman on LinkedIn

Wendy Kohman on Instagram

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Jan 20 2018
24 mins
Play

Rank #4: Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

We’ve been making great progress throughout this podcast. In the previous episodes this season, we’ve talked about planning our second location, the interview and training processes, our successful opening, and the role of our employees who don’t have autism. Now we’re going to talk about digital marketing.

One important thing we’ve noticed that we’re lacking is continually engaging with our community and customers, and telling our story. We realized that, while many of our customers understand exactly what our company does, there are quite a few who had no idea. This was our fault for not being clear and outgoing enough with communicating our story, and so we decided to change that. We decided to do this through digital marketing instead of opting for standard car wash marketing techniques, such as door hangers or printouts.

We estimate that about half of the people who come through our car wash don’t know about our social mission, despite many million views on our videos online. Now, we’re figuring out how to tell our story to our audience, meaning anyone over 16 years old who lives within five miles of either of our locations.

To achieve this, we’re using Facebook, Google Adwords, Yelp, Waze, and more. We’ve been emphasizing sharing our story and mission, because that’s what sets us apart. Instead of just trying to compete on the standard categories of speed, quality, and cost, we’re giving customers something else to engage with. With that said, we also have great service; that’s why half of our customers keep coming back despite not knowing our mission!

We’ll dig into all of these topics in this episode, as well as much more. You’ll hear about why we focus our energy (and ad dollars) on Facebook instead of Yelp, what we do on location to drive home our mission, how we bumped up our Facebook performance, and what tools you can use while starting your own enterprise.

In This Episode:

[00:30] - Tom S. talks about digital marketing! He discusses the need to engage with customers and tell the company’s story.

[02:15] - For a company that has a collective 65+ million views on their videos, it’s amazing how many people in the local market don’t know about their social mission, Tom D. points out.

[04:02] - Tom D. explains that they’re finding the most effective way to get the word out is digital marketing. Tom S. digs into what this means, what techniques they use, and why digital marketing is so powerful now.

[06:42] - We hear about some of the interesting things that they’ve been finding through using digital marketing.

[08:31] - Another interesting thing that they’ve found is what type of content is engaging on Facebook. Tom S. talks about their experience with letting people in the local community know about their special offers.

[10:57] - Telling your mission in an authentic way is the best way to create lasting clients, Tom S. points out, and talks about some reactions to their Facebook post.

[13:30] - Tom D. draws out some of what Tom S. has been talking about. He points out that every car wash talks about price, quality, and speed.

[15:45] - Tom S. talks about the importance of targeting ads. They have found that their ad dollars are much better spent targeting women than men, for example.

[16:31] - We hear about something that didn’t work out very well for Rising Tide Car Wash: advertising on Yelp.

[18:01] - Tom D. brings up another point: what they’re doing onsite after driving customers into the store through digital ad campaigns. Tom S. then digs more deeply into their onsite marketing techniques and strategies.

[21:18] - We hear some tactics and advice for those who are starting their own enterprise. Tom D. explains that they use Canva to design things themselves. Another tool they use is Promo by Slidely.

[23:55] - Before signing off, Tom D. brings up one more point: Facebook content. He offers an example of a company that does a great job on Facebook, and talks about what they learned by observing how that company uses the platform.

[26:08] - Tom S. points out that nobody knows your brand and business better than you and your employees.

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Facebook ads

Google Adwords

Yelp

Waze ads

Split testing

Canva

Promo by Slidely

Gary Vaynerchuk

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee

Jan 20 2018
27 mins
Play

Rank #5: Typical Staffing Needs – Recruiting Training Deploying

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

In the first half of this season, we’ve already covered a lot of ground! We’ve discussed planning the new location, interviewing dozens of people in one day, the pre-training process for our new employees, the live training process, and the successful opening of Rising Tide’s second location. Now, moving into the second half of the season, we’re ready to talk about the other 20% of our staff -- the employees who don’t have autism.

These employees are incredibly important to the overall structure of the organization. They help coach and train the rest of the employees, and are generally the frontline for customer experience. They navigate the communication, explain the service, and set expectations. While they’re vital to our organization, it can be challenging to find typical people who want to work at a car wash and see the work as an opportunity to grow and have impact.

When we’re looking for our typical employees, we want two main traits: someone who has both grit (as defined by Angela Duckworth) and assertiveness, or the ability to advocate for their own and others’ rights. We always have two interviewers present so that we can have different perspectives on the interview. Once it’s over, we score the interview on a scale of up to 40 points. We typically hire people at 28 points or better; our all-time record so far is a 36. 

We’ve had a lot of good luck with two social archetypes. The first is opportunity youth. These people might have just graduated high school, or be a year or two out from it. They’re typically people who have found that college isn’t for them at this point, for one reason or another, and who often need a job to help support their families. The other social archetype that tends to work well for us is high school students looking for their first job. 

Listen to this episode to hear the details on all of these subjects! We also chat about the overall structure of our organization, how we scale culture with a framework called “disciplined compassion,” and why it generally doesn’t work well for us to hire college students or recent college grads.

In This Episode:

[00:31] - Tom S. talks about how the employees without autism are, in many ways, the backbone of the company who support its structure.

[01:58] - Right now, all but two employees on the management team are typical.

[02:38] - Tom D. points out that they don’t have any job coaches on their staff for a very specific reason.

[03:42] - We learn about some of the ways that they go about finding typical employees. Tom D. talks about the interview process and how they decide whether to hire a particular applicant based on a scoring system.

[05:23] - Tom D. discusses the role of talent in their roles for both typical people and people with autism. He then reveals that there are two typical archetypes that typically work well for them: opportunity youth and high school students.

[07:53] - Tom S. talks about where the company is right now in terms of their overall organizational structure.

[10:13] - It was right as they were about to open the second location that they started to see some issues with some of their typical employees. We lost two of our supervisors in the weeks leading up to the opening of the second location, and had to let go of a third right after the first week of the second location.

[12:24] - How do you ensure that you have the right culture fit when hiring typical people, and what are you looking for in the interview to make sure they’ll be successful? As he addresses these questions, Tom D. talks about how they scale culture.

[13:39] - Tom D. lists the six different pillars of disciplined compassion.

[16:12] - We hear more about exactly what prioritizing purpose really means. Tom D. then points out that another of the pillars is grit, which they mentioned earlier in the conversation.

[17:29] - The bonuses that they give their management are tied into these pillars. This incentivizes the employee to be aligned with these principles.

[18:30] - Tom D. shares a story of a young man who is just getting his promotion to assistant manager.

[20:17] - Tom S. explains that it would have been a disservice to this man to give him the assistant manager role before he was ready for it.

[20:59] - Another thing that Tom S. wants to talk about are the employees who are a slower, long-term play.

[22:54] - It’s so important to be disciplined in withholding judgment for the first six weeks (or even six months), Tom D. points out.

[25:36] - One thing they’ve found in their successful employees is that they have sustained engagement in what they’re doing, regardless of what the task is. Tom S. then talks about some of their recruiting sources.

[27:45] - Tom D. offers a note to anyone operating (or thinking about operating) a social enterprise.

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Hurricane Irma

Angela Duckworth

Extraordinary Ventures

Jan 20 2018
30 mins
Play

Rank #6: 2nd Store Open – Frontlines from 1st week

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

In the first four episodes of this season, we discussed our plans for our new location, the day of nearly a hundred interviews, our pre-training process, and how we proceeded with live training. With our amazing new employees trained and ready to go, we did it! We opened Rising Tide’s second location!

In this episode, we’ll be talking about the process of opening the new location. Now that we’ve finished up the first week of operations with both stores running, we’re ready to talk about how things went! Instead of putting all the new employees in the new location, we knew it was vital to have a mix of experience levels. We moved about half of our experienced employees to the new location, so each of the two locations is now staffed by half experienced employees and half new employees.

This meant our existing employees really need to step up and take on more responsibility and leadership, and they’ve done such a great job. The new employees have been fantastic too, as they learn all of the other parts of working with us that weren’t specifically covered in the live training shifts. 

Our approach involves three facets that we envision as being a pyramid. At the base is the process of cleaning the car. Once our employees understand this basic process, we move up the pyramid to the next layer: quality. We ensure that all of our employees understand just how clean a car needs to be. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is speed. This is the phase we’re currently in, as our employees learn to clean cars in 20 minutes or under.

Tune into this episode to hear much more about all of this! You’ll also learn about how we addressed some issues with some of our employees not understanding the need to be on time, why we see scripts as an important part of the business, and that some of our employees without autism have been more of a challenge than the ones with autism.

In This Episode:

[00:21] - Tom S. reveals that the opening of the second location wasn’t completely smooth, partly thanks to Hurricane Irma.

[00:57] - How are the employees -- old and new alike -- acclimating to the situation with the new location?

[02:26] - Tom S. digs deeper into the differences between live training shifts and full shifts now that the second location is open. He also discusses how they’ve addressed tardiness among some of the new employees.

[04:52] - Tom D. explores one of the strategies they used to correct tardiness.

[05:18] - We hear about the three-pronged approach involving the basic process, quality, and speed. Tom D. explains this as being like a pyramid, with the basic process as the base and quality as the next step.

[08:25] - The peak of the pyramid is ramping up the speed. Tom D. talks about some strategies they use to encourage their employees to work quickly and ensure customers aren’t waiting around too long at the car wash.

[09:40] - If you’re interested in creating your own enterprise, Tom S. offers some tips on where to focus your attention.

[10:36] - Tom D. compares the process of opening and growing the first store with the experience of opening this one.

[11:37] - Their employees with autism have been the least of their problems, Tom S. points out. He explains that everybody who they brought into live training has worked out and shown an eagerness to be a valuable team member.

[12:37] - One of their employees has some behavioral issues involving outbursts. Tom D. talks about how they’ve handled this.

[15:02] - Tom S. talks about how important it is to be direct and make sure employees know exactly where they stand.

[16:15] - Tom D. talks about customer reactions. Overall, the customers are really happy. He also explains that they’ve put together scripts for their employees to address different subjects brought up by customers.

[18:04] - One thing that they recognized very early on as important was the scripting, Tom S. agrees. This is why their greeter has been one of their most important roles.

[19:49] - Tom D. gives a shout-out to the company’s CEO (and his dad), John D’Eri, who really understands how to handle objections and how important scripting is.

[20:30] - In addition to the scripts, Tom S. points out that understanding and looking out for customer feedback is a big point of emphasis.

[22:00] - Tom D. touches on one more thing, which will be addressed in more detail in the next episode: the hardest thing so far has been the part of their workforce that isn’t on the autism spectrum.

[24:01] - A big question that they get from other autism entrepreneurs is how you get good typical support staff.

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Hurricane Irma

John D’Eri

Jan 20 2018
25 mins
Play

Rank #7: Hired! - Integrating Candidates into Live Shifts

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

So far this season, we’ve talked about some of our plans for the second location, our big day full of dozens of interviews, and our pre-training process. In that process, as we discussed in the last episode, candidates needed to successfully complete a specific task three times in a row with a time limit. Those who were successful moved onto the next step: being offered a job!

The next step is live training, which is what we’ll be focusing on today. Our employees, who are paid from this point forward, have the core skills they’ll need at this point but aren’t quite ready to be fully effective in their roles yet. We believe that employees in each role need around nine training shifts over the course of about four weeks.

To start this process, we let our current employees know that this would be happening and that if they were ready for a well-deserved vacation after their months or years of hard work, this would be a perfect time to take it. This helped keep our costs reasonable, and also ensured that we weren’t unfairly taking shifts away from our current employees.

During an employee’s first week, it’s critical to have someone shadowing and coaching them to make sure everything is clear and that the work is done well. This gives us a fantastic opportunity to let some of our more senior employees take on new responsibilities and take a step toward larger roles.

Tune into this episode to hear more about all this, plus to learn the details of how we structure the live training process, how we balanced the needs of new employees with those who have been working with us for a while, how much we pay our new staff members during the training process,

In This Episode:

[00:44] - Tom D. launches into the podcast by describing what their live training process is, and what its goals and purpose are.

[02:23] - Tom S. steps in to point out that one of the great things about Rising Tide Car Wash is that there’s constant feedback, coaching, and training. He then digs deeper into how they mapped out the live training process.

[04:19] - During this process, for the first few shifts, they have one new employee doing the actual production work while an experienced employee shadows them to oversee the work.

[06:37] - We hear more about the extra costs involved in the live training process, and how much new employees are paid.

[07:26] - Tom D. explains that this is the first time they’ve gone through this onboarding system with so many employees at once; they usually do it with a few, and this time, they’re doing it with 45 people.

[09:20] - It’s important to make the live training shifts as realistic as they possibly can be. Tom D. talks about how they balance this consideration with the need for having extra staff on hand to coach new hires.

[10:47] - Another important point in this process is that you have to test and reassign role assignments as necessary.

[12:35] - Tom S. points out that for many of these employees, this is a first job. That means that they may not immediately understand how to be a good employee.

[13:28] - Tom D. talks about the various types of teaching moments they have when there are some kind of issues with an employee’s behavior. He gives a quick example.

[15:37] - We learn about the importance of not making assumptions about people’s motives, or whether they’re a good fit, far too early in the process. Tom D. emphasizes that 90% of the time, the person doesn’t understand what’s being asked of them.

[17:03] - Tom S. brings up a bright spot they’ve seen in the training process: the sheer number of successes so far.

[18:02] - In response to what Tom S. has been saying, Tom D. raves about how well their employees have done. Tom D. then points out how enthusiastic many of the hires are to be working at the car wash.

[19:07] - The next step is actually getting ready to launch the second location, which is now just a few weeks away!

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Jan 20 2018
20 mins
Play

Rank #8: Almost Employed - Passing Pre-Training

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

If you’ve been tuning in this season, you know that we recently hosted our big day of interviews. We had close to a hundred candidates show up. Twenty of these didn’t have autism, and four were unsuccessful in the interview process for various reasons, but we ended up with over 50 qualified candidates who moved onto the next step, our pre-training process.

That’s what we’re here to talk about today! Pre-training involves asking our recruits to be able to do our most basic production process, which involves 39 steps, three times in a row in under six minutes each time. This pre-training process allows us to bring in people who we aren’t quite sure will be up to the task of working here, and gives them a fair shot at doing the job. It also sets our employees up for success.

For this process, we divided our candidates into groups based on their scores on the initial assessment during the first interview. We then subdivided those groups to ensure all of our candidates were working in small enough groups to be able to fully participate in the pre-training. In these small groups, the candidates were taught to do the aforementioned basic production process and then asked to do it. Those who were successful will now move onto the next step, which is live training shifts.

In this episode, we’ll also talk about how we figured out how many people we’ll need to hire in each position, how we calculated when we needed to start the hiring process to ensure our recruits are fully trained and ready by the time we open the next location, and the costs involved in completing this pre-training process. Tune in to learn more!

In This Episode:

[00:25] - Tom D. starts off the episode by describing what pre-training is and explaining the role it plays in their employment process.

[01:57] - We learn why management being on the same page was so important as Tom S. describes the first thing they did in the pre-training process.

[02:51] - Tom S. goes into more detail about exactly how the pre-training process worked, including how they divided the candidates into groups and how they worked with each small group.

[05:40] - People with similar scores were matched up in groups, Tom D. clarifies. He then points out that throughout the process, it’s important to reinforce good behaviours with specific praise.

[08:47] - Prior to designing the recruiting process, they created a mock schedule to figure out how many people they would need to fill for each position. They then assessed how many shifts new employees were likely to need before being able to work on their own, and worked backward from there to put their dates together.

[11:53] - Tom S. points out that the way they initially came up with the mock schedule was based on their current figures.

[13:41] - We hear about the costs associated with this pre-training process. For group 1, the pre-training took place over the course of three days.

[14:37] - Through the pre-training, they’re clear with the candidates that passing the pre-training means they’ll be offered employment.

[15:47] - Tom D. talks about the differences between the employment process this time compared to the first time they did it.

[17:44] - Does Tom D. notice anything different as far as support staff and people overseeing the process?

[19:27] - One challenging part of the pre-training process was collecting reliable contact information for all of the candidates.

[20:48] - Even more challenging than that is telling some people that they aren’t suitable for the job. Tom D. offers a specific example of a gentleman who was too physically strained by the work.

[22:38] - Tom S. talks about what he found to be the bright spots in the training. He then discusses the next step, which is scheduling the successful candidates for live training shifts.

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

Jan 20 2018
24 mins
Play

Rank #9: Goal 80% Employees with Autism - Post Interview Results

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Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

If you listened to our last episode, you know that we were preparing for a big event: a day of hosting around a hundred candidates in the search for the perfect people to increase our staff and allow us to open our new location. In this episode, we’ll talk about how that interview process went.

For our interviews, we’ve developed an assessment tool to score the likelihood that an interviewee will be successful at this particular job. The process takes 15-30 minutes and focuses on whether the candidate is functionally capable of working at a car wash. We knew that a traditional, conversation-based interview style tends not to let people with autism really shine, so we focus on hard skills instead. This also ensures that the candidate knows exactly what they’ll be expected to do on the job!

For this interview process, we sent out a few emails to our list. Through that process, we had about 60 people (or a little under 10% of the total number of the people on the list) sign up. We then leveraged other contacts to get quite a few more candidates.

Of the 53 people from our list who showed up, about 20 didn’t have autism. (If you’re wondering how to handle people without autism who apply, and whether you can be sued for reverse discrimination, tune into the episode!) Of everyone who showed up and had autism, though, we had a great success rate! Only four people were unsuccessful in the interview process, so we we were thrilled to be able to invite a bunch of people to the next stage of the process.

We’ll also talk in depth about topics including how we managed this massive interview process while the business was still running, how our scoring system ends up working out with our new candidates, and why we had visitors from UNC-Chapel Hill and The University of California, San Francisco.

In This Episode:

[00:27] - Tom S. reveals exactly how many people came in for the interview process, then Tom D. discusses exactly what they’re looking for in the interview process.

[02:25] - There is a very quick verbal component in the interview process, we learn, but this usually takes less than three minutes.

[03:19] - Tom D. explains the way that they created their successful interview process was through trial and error.

[04:27] - We hear more about the specific numbers of the interview process, including how many of the applicants came from various sources (and how many of those applicants actually showed up).

[08:32] - Rising Tide also worked with a variety of community partners for recruitment.

[10:19] - Tom S. talks about the results of the interview process. They had a very high success rate for the candidates that came from their community partner recruiting sources.

[12:13] - Those numbers say a lot of interesting things, Tom D. points out. He then explains how they handle the people who show up and apply for jobs but don’t have autism, and discusses whether not hiring people without autism opens up the company to lawsuits.

[13:47] - Of the four individuals who failed, two were physically unable to do the job. The other two were cognitively unable to do the job by not being able to follow directions or stay on task.

[14:33] - Tom S. talks about the logistics of running this large interview process on site while keeping the business operational and still washing cars.

[17:07] - We hear more specifics about how the scoring system works during the interview process.

[18:35] - Visitors from two universities came to the hiring event to study who was (and wasn’t) successful, and what the outcomes will be over the next five years. Keep tuning in to future episodes for updates on this research!

[19:54] - Tom D. digs into what he feels are the key takeaways from this interview process. He also takes a moment to rave about how many people they were able to take to the next step of the process.

[23:03] - What has been the biggest difference between going through the hiring process the first time, about four years ago, and doing it this time?

[25:40] - The most challenging part of the interview process for Tom D. was telling the four unsuccessful candidates that it wasn’t going to work.

[27:37] - Tom S. briefly touches on the next steps for the people who made it through the interview process.

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Acuity Scheduling

Atlantis Academy

New Directions for Autism

Introduction to the ADA

UNC-Chapel Hill

The University of California, San Francisco

Jan 20 2018
28 mins
Play

Rank #10: Doubling in Size – The Pre-Recruiting Plan

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Welcome to season 2 of the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. In case you aren’t familiar with what we do, let me take a moment to catch you up! We run Rising Tide Car Wash, which employs several dozen fantastic people with autism. This isn’t a charity, though; we encourage independence and growth by expecting everyone who applies to be able to pull their weight, and we’ve seen great success already.

In fact, things are going so well that we’re working on opening a second location! In this season, we’re going to be doing things a little bit differently than last season. As we work on opening this new location, we’re going to chronicle the process for you in a StartUp-esque way. In other words, we want to bring you along on the journey all the way from the beginning of the recruiting process all the way through our much-anticipated launch.

We’ve been working on this second location for a couple of years now, and we’re finally ready to start the interview process. This will take place next week, when we plan on hosting around a hundred candidates at the current location. Once we select the people who will move forward in the process, we’ll work on training them. When we open the second location, we’ll staff it with a combination of these new employees and our existing, more experienced staff members.

Because we have so little turnover (less than 20% annually), we rarely have the opportunity to bring many new people on board. This makes us especially excited about the second location, which will allow us to deeply grow our community and get lots of new folks involved.

Listen to this episode to hear the details on all this and much more! And once you’ve heard this episode, be sure to tune in next week. We’re excited to share with you how the big interview process goes, and we’ll also take some time to talk about what the next steps are.

In This Episode:

[00:54] - Tom Sena takes a moment to explain what Rising Tide Car Wash is going to do next week, which is one of the largest-ever mass recruiting initiatives for people with autism ever.

[01:28] - Tom D’Eri talks about the overarching strategy in terms of getting the teams ready for the new location. Tom S. then points out that they’ve had the opportunity to push their current staff forward into stronger roles.

[03:36] - An important point is that the first location started about 4 years ago as a brand new thing. Tom D. talks about that experience, as well as the company’s expectations for employees.

[05:54] - We hear more about the company’s standards-based training and how Rising Tide Car Wash evaluates potential employees.

[08:23] - The company is looking to bring around a hundred candidates in for interviews next weekend. We learn more about how the hosts anticipate this process will go, and where they came up with the numbers of interviewees and employees they expect at each step.

[10:43] - We learn that Tom S. has been deeply involved throughout the whole recruiting process. He discusses how things have progressed so far, and how he encouraged more people to get involved.

[13:58] - It’s both a blessing and a curse, Tom D. points out, that they have very little turnover.

[16:02] - Tom D. talks about the community partners he has previously mentioned. He points out that the local school district is a great resource in terms of recruiting.

[18:23] - We hear about the great community that Rising Tide Car Wash is part of (and has helped to create). We also learn that two universities are involved in doing a study about the company.

[20:39] - Tom and Tom talk a bit more about the growth of the team and the anticipated impact of getting so many new people in the door, as well as what they’re excited to see during this process.

[22:53] - The best thing about the job is seeing the growth of people over time, Tom D. says.

[24:56] - We learn why it’s so important to structure the interview process in a concrete way that involves doing specific tasks within the work environment rather than using standard conversational interview methods.

[26:32] - Tom D. offers the example of a specific employee, Matt, who had hundreds of interviews but was never hired simply because the interview process didn’t play to his strengths. At Rising Tide Car Wash, he’s one of the best employees.

[28:10] - What are some of the potential pitfalls that might come up, such as distraction issues?

Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

StartUp

Acuity Scheduling

Jan 20 2018
32 mins
Play