Secrets of 2012’s fastest-growing company executives (part 4 of 4)
Together they shared more than an hour’s worth of great insights, best practices and advice for companies big and small, old and young, with a focus on how they have accelerated innovation, driven culture, cut costs and sped up revenue growth for their businesses.
This is the fourth in a four-part series highlighting some of their best insights from that breakfast.
Question from the audience
Did any of you feel like you had a challenge around hiring the right people, and if so, how did you deal with that? Or was it all really about getting the people you already had onboard?
Since we were starting basically from scratch we didn’t have to get that many people onboard. We had just got rid of our third partner. The other two partners, were much more philosophically aligned so it was smooth sailing from there. So we were using it to find new people.
And specifically, which might be different from some of the others, we were finding kind of entry-level workers. We took some of the same things, some programs through a program called Topgrading. I think probably everybody else uses some part of that. It sounds horrible but we kind of watered it down a bit to how we could use it for entry level employees and we were able to find really quality employees; people who were able to convert into what we call—in the board room, not to them—is zealous people who believe our philosophy and really buy in to what we’re doing, and we’ve continued in that process.
We’ve run into the situation where we have a third branch that runs pretty independently and we’ve been wanting to bring someone on board to look at running that third branch. We’ve had trouble doing that. What we finally discovered when we sat down and thought about why we are having trouble finding a third person to join our management team, we looked at it and we said, “Well I took him down, we went through the Four Decisions workshop and I left that Four Decisions workshop with the thought that they’re not going to work out but maybe it’s because my philosophy is so locked down. Maybe I should open up and think more.
If I actually would have taken my intuition coming out of this Four Decisions workshop and said, “You know this person isn’t aligned with what we’re wanting to do; we’re going to run into problems down the road,” four months later we would not have been talking about severance packages and everything else.
I guess I would say there’s two aspects to the people that we’ve experienced. One is getting folks who maybe are “C players” off the team and on to the next part of their life. It’s been helpful through those very tough situations, again, to make it clear that this person just doesn’t line up with the rest of us; the way they think, they way they act. It doesn’t solve that problem itself, but at least it made it clear to me who didn’t fit in.
In the recruiting piece I sat with a designer that we wanted to hire and was able to lay it all out. This is me a little bit selling our business to how to get that key person to understand who we are and want to come work for our company. We still have to determine whether they’re the right person for us, buy my role in that was, “Here’s who we are. Why do you want to be part of our team?”
Really the core values fit is the most important part of this process. If you’ve got someone who is philosophically opposed to what you want to do and where you want to take your company, you’ve got to seriously think whether or not you want to continue the ride, as Norm indicated earlier there with his example.
Steve, do you want to address the Top Grading issue, because you’re doing a lot of hiring.
The book, Who, is fantastic; it’s is a short read; I’d highly recommend it. What I’d say for key positions, that notion that you get away from job descriptions and focus on outcomes, they talk about that. We were just doing some of that yesterday for two key positions. So I’d really recommend that.
Beyond that, we just tried to get a little bit pickier. I used to think that if we could be 50% successful in hiring people– in our business we have a fair amount of turnover. We always talk about how what we do is frankly not that interesting. It’s just not very sexy, or we’re not bringing clean drinking water to Africa or anything like that, so we try to be really good at everything else. The people, the environment, the culture, but we always can see that right out of the gate.
Joe was saying he’s trying to recruit and sell people on it. My experience is that I tend to be very good at selling people but that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it once they get in and stick around, so I try to be a little bit matter-of-fact and let them know what we do is really not that exciting, because I want to screen those people out and not have them screen us out three months down the road once you’ve put in all that time and effort.
And it’s just different; in different parts of the organization it is really hard to compete and hire IT guys right now in this town so we have a totally different approach there. We really try to differentiate on why an IT person would want to work in our IT department. I won’t bore you with those details though.
In terms of hiring and how to go about it, it did start with internal people; it did start with understanding everyone’s strengths and trying to position them in the right place to be successful and even make some adjustments in terms of people that did not have a role, or did not have the role we thought he had.
The second thing I noticed with this is when we are trying to hire key people to the organization, I do share a stripped down version of our overall one-page plan. I do not share some of the financial details, but at least the vision and what we’re working on; all those kinds of things. I usually tell people, “This is a two-way street here. I need to evaluate you on whether you are a fit for the organization but I want you to evaluate us as well. I want you to figure out if this is an organization that you want to work for.”