Transformation

What Happened To My Company
When I Shifted My Hiring Practices

I've made tons of mistakes as a business owner. I've worked with the wrong clients. I've let a company bully my team for way longer than I should have. I've not always been the best at planning the future of my organization. I've of course learned from each and every one of those mistakes the hard way, but the biggest mistake I've made was hiring the wrong people. And, unfortunately, I didn't learn from that mistake as quickly as I should have.

More often than not, I've rushed into a hire. I've looked for the skillset that I know we needed to drive our clients farther, and I've done a pretty good job of finding THAT skillset. To be honest, most of the hires have been out of necessity. Perhaps a team member is moving on to another opportunity and I need to quickly react. Sometimes we've on-boarded a new client and now need a team member that possesses a certain skillset QUICKLY. I've been hiring for skillset and necessity. This has proven to be completely, 100% wrong. I've read all of the cheesy quotes, hire for character, not skills, hire for personality, not skills and during one time period at my company, I completely, and foolishly ignored ALL of that.

The Cancer
 

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My company is fairly small. We have, at any given time 12 team members. We do have a vast network of contractors, but our core is 12. Being so small, I pride myself on knowing what's what with each team member. I look at them as family, I take the role of 'provider' to them quite seriously. I care about them. One morning I woke up to find a dreaded Glassdoor post. The post made some pretty heavy accusations. It expressed concern about transparency within the organization. It expressed concern about pay, about some paranoia, about how over-worked they are and how about how the owners, my wife and I, are cheap. It hurt. It hurt a lot and now, this post lives on online, and obviously, doesn't help the perceived reputation of my company. Rather than getting defensive, which honestly, was my first instinct, I realized that I could dig into this and learn once again. Was I being cheap? Maybe. Was I not being transparent enough with my team about financials or anything else? What did I need to revisit and pay more attention to? What I discovered next blew my mind.

After dwelling on this post for a bit, I decided to dig deeper. The thought of someone leaving an 'Anonymous' post really bothered me. I'm an approachable individual. I do tell my team time and time again to come and chat with me if they need anything, so why was this person hiding behind a veil? That's when I dug deeper. I had a cancer within my organization, and this cancer had spread already. I started poking around, and discovered a whole underground tone. A tone of negativity. A tone of US VS. THEM. A tone that disgusted, and troubled me. One example, my wife and I decided to take the team for a nice Christmas meal and I was really excited to give them each a small cash token of our appreciation. We probably invested about $1,400 that day, between the meal, the cash and the bowling that we did as a team afterwards. Granted, this bonus wasn't huge, it wasn't over the top, but to be honest, it was a sacrifice that we made for them. We did it to show some gratitude for them. It obviously wasn't enough. Posts went between these team members about how one's boyfriend get six times the Christmas bonus that she got, and it went on and on. Ouch. After digging even deeper, the messages between them got even darker and one, even went as far as to attack my youngest daughter with some snide comment. I had a problem. I had a spreading cancer. I had a cancer that if not stopped, could spread and contaminate my small business even farther. It had to be stopped.

The Cure

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Some of the gang moved on to pursue other opportunities, and I had to make some difficult decisions about another that just needed to go to stop the spread. After a really challenging two or three months, the cancer was cut out. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't fun. It is partially still going on as another ugly Glassdoor review got posted even 3 months after. Obviously, these past team members had felt wronged. They had felt as if they deserved so much more. They had felt deprived in some way, shape, or form. Despite leaving for other jobs on their own accord, they decided to keep attacking. They keep attacking a company that offered them a chance right out of college, they kept attacking a company that gave them advancement, even after a few months, they kept attacking a company that tried to take care of them with benefits that my wife and I make personal sacrifices to make sure that they are taken care of. The bottom line, I took it personally, and their attacks just proved to me that I did the right thing. They are now, all gone. I obviously needed to do some team member replacement, and I thought long, and hard about what I wanted my team to look like.

Here's what I came up with. I need a team who cares. I need a team who loves other human beings. I need a team of people who don't feel as though they are entitled to getting a raise 3 weeks after they started. I need a team who isn't looking for their next vacation a month after they started. I need a team who loves to work with others and not throw each other under the bus. I need a team who knows how to respect others and understands the flow of things in a business. I need a team of solid human beings. I got them.

The New Team

Just how would I build this new team of loving human beings? Time, patience, and intentionality. I needed to insulate my company and my clients from another outbreak. I did just that, but with a whole new interview process. I took the time to write up what my expectations were of each new, and existing team member. I approached interviews completely differently. I wanted to know about them. What makes them tick. What they feel. How they feel. How they care. What they're passionate about. What they aren't passionate about. How they feel about the world around them. Do they have the ability to care about the world around them? Are they considerate? Do they have a sense of entitlement? Do they LOVE to please our clients? Are they Debbie Downers? You get the idea. I interviewed humans, not producers. I went through a few and then I found them. One, by one. Kind, humble, eager, aware of other human beings and their feelings, understanding, empathetic, caring, loving, polite, and each had an understanding how they fit into the big picture. Oh, and by the way, they had skills, and what skills they didn't have, they were more than willing to learn. I now, have a team that gels. A team that cares. A team that understands their place in the world. I love my team, and I'll never have it any other way ever again. I'm not constantly worrying about what they're saying, I'm not worried about who is going to stab who in the back, I'm not worried about who is going to go rogue, and have a temper tantrum, I'm content, and so are they. And God forbid, one of them should decide to pursue something else, I'll do it again, the exact same way. I'll hire for character, attitude, disposition, compassion, humanity, and then skills.

Walking The Walk

I caused this mess, and as a CEO, all of it was on me. I was foolish to think that hiring for skill alone would fit the bill. I was foolish to think that people would simply conform to an environment and look out for me, and the company that pays their bills. I'm an idealist. I believe in people. I trust people. I trusted some of these people way too much, AND trusted that they were looking out for the greater good of the company, and not always themselves. I don't want to stop believing in people, but I've learned that the people that I hire need to actually believe in other people as well. They have to truly care about the greater good. They have to care about others first, and then be driven to use their skills to enhance our clients needs. I've been scarred, but through the scarring have now built a killer team of amazing humans who happen to have mad skills. Through this experience, I've learned a great deal and have taken steps to improve our company culture, workloads, and more. This whole experience was by far, a tremendous learning experience and for that, I'm grateful.

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We recently started working with a new organization that caters to the residential needs, and vocational placement of mentally challenged adults. I took a few team members to the site to get to know their organization a bit better last week. My team made me so proud during that visit. They were compassionate, empathetic, energized, and exhibited the love of other human beings like I never had previously expected. They were awesome, and I'm so glad, and proud to have them all. Mission Accomplished. THIS is what makes my organization tick today, and again, I couldn't have gotten here without going through a little bit of hell.

So, just a quick bit of advice, if you sense a cancer in your organization, don't hesitate like I did. Move swiftly to cut it out, and rebuild if you have to. Hire for personality, hire for culture, hire for humanity, hire for a well-blended team, THEN hire for skill, and teach whatever deficiencies exist. The payoff, in the long run is tenfold. Thanks so much for reading.

Tom