It’s all in the hands: How to make an impression for one family-owned business

Lawrence Brothers Blog

You can learn a lot about a prospective employee, no resume needed. You may hear about them from a friend in the industry. They may be your neighbor. Maybe you even worked with them at another gig. But for Melanie Protti-Lawrence, president of Lawrence Brothers, Inc. in Bluefield, everything she needs to know is in a handshake.

Lawrence and her husband are third-generation owners of the metal manufacturing shop, which was started by her grandfather in the 1970s. Back then, the shop fabricated battery enclosures and boxes of underground coal mining equipment, but over the years, the company has diversified and now creates the metal boxes for a wide range of battery -operated heavy equipment machinery.

Lawrence Brothers is always looking for welders, but they also need painters and finishers who know the way around the shop. When a potential hire walks into her doors, Lawrence uses a trick that was passed down from her predecessors.

“One thing I always do, which is what my grandfather and father did, I shake their hand,” Melanie said. “If their hand is soft, they’re not used to using their hands for physical labor. A lot of blue-collar workers won’t have a resume and a handshake tells you a lot.”

Something that doesn’t come with a handshake, but Lawrence values in an employee, are the basic workplace soft skills that are critical for success. Showing up on time, attention to detail and knowing how to communicate within a team are all important traits in an employee.

Whether you’re talking about soft skills or technical skills, Lawrence is a believer in exposure and practice within the field.

“My 13-year-old son works with me in the summer. He’s into technology, building video games, engineering types of things. So, I give him the opportunity to learn,” Melanie said. “I told him it would be great to learn to weld. No matter what happens, you will also be able to weld. It’s going to be a necessary skill. That along with general hands-on skills.”

Lawrence reiterated the “start ‘em young” mindset by offering to open the doors of Lawrence Brothers to K-12 and other classrooms who were interested in learning more about the trade.

Lawrence Brothers, Inc. is a supporter of Southwest Virginia Community College and the statewide G3 Business Ambassador program. If you think you’re a fit for a role at Lawrence Brothers, Inc., visit its website to learn more.