Tuesdays at Ten: Smith Cheese

Smith Cheese
Smith Cheese
Feb 03, 2015

On the first Tuesday of every month at 10:00 am we moderate a live question and answer session on Twitter with a London, Ontario business who puts ability first in their hiring practices. On Tuesday February 3, 2015 we spoke with Smith Cheese in the Covent Garden Market, owned and operated by Glenda Smith.

All of my employees work hard, are very loyal, and we all have a barrier of some sort.

Kathryn Tull, an Employment Specialist from LEADS Employment Services, also joined us to talk about the benefits of hiring for Ability First. Smith Cheese was nominated for a Small Business Award at the 2014 Ability First Champion Awards as a business of under 50 employees that develops and applies the concept of ability first and best practices in recruitment, retention, and talent management.

Glenda Smith, Danielle Smith and Kathryn Tull standing in front of the Ability First Coalition banner.
Glenda Smith, her daughter Danielle Smith and Leads Employment Specialit Kathryn Tull at the 2014 Ability First Champion Awards.

Smith Cheese is a family business and has been in business for over 56 years in London. They have over 350 different kinds of cheese available, featuring both imported favourites and local flavour. It is a truly impressive selection, and Smith Cheese also carries many homemade sauces, dips, and other delicacies.

The cheese counter at Smith Cheese, showing a large selection of cheeses.
One of the cheese counters at Smith Cheese; featuring both local and imported favourites.


Twitter Transcript: 

Ability First: Good morning @Smith_Cheese! Can you tell us about your business? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: I have a cheese, pasta, sauce and dip retail store in the @CoventMarket in #LdnOnt. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Your Artichoke Caponata dip is a favourite! How many years have you been in business? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: The business was started by Grampa in 1959 but I have been running it for 27 years. #Tuesat10

Ability First: A #LdnOnt business with a very strong 56 year history - congratulations! How many employees do you have? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Currently I have 12 employees. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Did you have any prior experience working with persons with #disabilities? #PWD #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: No, but I've always tried to give people a chance. #Tuesat10

Ability First: And hiring persons with #disabilities was always part of your overall workplace philosophy? #PWD #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Yes, because everyone deserves a chance. #Tuesat10

Ability First: How do you go about finding the right person(s) for the job(s)? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Some trial & error. Kathryn Tull from @LEADSEmployment approached me to work together & it's been great. #Tuesat10

Ability First: How has Kathryn & @LEADSEmployment worked with you to hire and retain persons with #disabilities? #PWD #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: She screens candidates, sends me their resumes and then I interview & listen to my gut. #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: Glenda looks at a person for their ability, opens a door that may have been closed in the past #Tuesat10

Ability First: Which is exactly what we are trying to motivate other employers to do & @Smith_Cheese is leading by example. #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: Absolutely! They spread the word by leading the way by doing. #Tuesat10

Ability First: In which ways do you find this with process in partnership with @LEADSEmployment to be helpful? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: It saves me a lot of time not having to go through resumes and the majority of candidates work out. #Tuesat10

Ability First: What is the follow up process with @LEADSEmployment like? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: They check in daily with a new employee and then as often as needed. It's been really great. #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: @Smith_Cheese is open to job coaching and connects with LEADS when the employee needs some support. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Are you able to give an example of how they check in with you and your employees? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: One of our employees was having a hard time counting cash, so @LEADSEmployment came & worked on this with her. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Having that kind of free ongoing support must be a great resource for a small business. #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: It is and Kathryn has developed a great rapport with our employees. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Can you describe some of the positions filled? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Customer service & administrative tasks. All the signs you see are made by the employees. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Customer service is always great, plus the signs are so creative & make shopping at Smith Cheese an experience! #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: @Smith_Cheese hired a bookkeeper who learned a new program for the job and had the opportunity to see diversity in LEADS clients. #Tuesat10

Ability First: We agree, #PWD have so many different skill sets to offer employers. Were there any preconceptions you had about employing someone with a #disability? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: No. All of my employees work hard, are very loyal, and we all have a barrier of some sort. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Excellent point "We all have barrier of some sort." Does this loyalty translate to higher employee retention? #PWD #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Yes. I have great employees that have been with Smith Cheese for over 10 years. #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: Stats show employees who are differently abled are an untapped talent pool, which results in staying on the job longer, better attendance records, they are highly motivated individuals. #Tuesat10

Ability First: All great points and backed up with statistics: http://www.abilityfirst.ca/why-hire-employees-disabilities/statistics What do you think is the biggest misconception about hiring people with #disabilities? #PWD #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: That it will cost you money. I have made accommodations but they work just as hard as everyone else. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Can you give an example of an accommodation you have made? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: One of my employees is perfect - she works hard, is fun to be with but doesn't like to be front and center. Usually the staff rotates positions, but she's happier & more productive in the back. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Another misconception we hear from employers: they won't be able to fire an employee with a disability if need be. #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: It happens. Handle as you would any employee. Disability or not, some people just not suited to certain jobs. When it does I give @LEADSEmployment feedback & they help find a job the person is better suited for. #Tuesat10

Ability First: That's great advice for all employers to keep in mind. Thanks for helping correct this misconception. What is your advice for employers who see the benefits and would like to hire someone with a disability? #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Best way is through agency like @LEADSEmployment. They find candidates best suited for job & are lots of help. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Please finish this sentence, "I hire for #AbilityFirst because..." #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: I hire for #AbilityFirst because skill and enthusiasm are what is important. #Tuesat10

Ability First: Thank you so much for joining us & educating other employers what hiring for #AbilityFirst is all about! #Tuesat10

Smith Cheese: Thanks for giving us the opportunity to tell people why this program #AbilityFirst is so good. #Tuesat10

Ability First: And we appreciate @Smith_Cheese Partner in Employment Kathryn Tull from @LEADSEmployment taking part as well. #Tuesat10

LEADS Employment Services: Thank you for this opportunity to discuss Hiring for Ability First #Tuesat10

Ability First: Thanks #LdnOnt for supporting businesses that #PutTheAbilityFirst like @Smith_Cheese. Are you a #LdnOnt area business interested in taking part in a future #Tuesat10? Connect with us to find out more: http://www.abilityfirst.ca/do-you-have-question

We always appreciate those of you who join us for our live Tuesdays at Ten sessions, and welcome new voices to our discussions. We encourage you to ask questions, share your thoughts, and interact with our presenters. Please mark your calendars for the first Tuesday of every month at 10am as we continue to highlight various local businesses who successfully put ability first in the workplace.

We hope you’ll join us for our next Tuesdays at Ten, taking place on Tuesday March 3, 2015 with the London Waldorf School and their Partner in Employment Hutton House.

To review transcripts from past sessions please visit our Tuesdays at Ten archives.

LEADS Employment Services