Category: performance

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

All books are labors of love.

Some are also the fruits of a mission.

That’s the case with my new book, Hire Smart from the Start. It launches January 18 from AMACOM Press.

I wrote Hire Smart from the Start aiming to do nothing less than to disrupt the entire business of hiring.

Disrupt it for the good of the entrepreneurship economy. Because no company is immune to making a bad hire. Everything bad that happens at a company is fundamentally a people problem. This creates massive uncertainty for your colleagues and their families. Good companies fail all the time. Because too many CEOs are winging it.

Disrupt it for the good of all the incredibly dedicated people — the leadership teams, the operations managers, the engineers, marketers, product, sales, client services people and all those who get left behind and miss out on turning entrepreneurial dreams into realities. They deserve better.

Disrupt it because there is a better way. Every leader can read this book and they can make people and culture their strategic competitive advantage. They can make leadership their legacy. And, if they have current success, they can take their success even higher. There is a brighter future. They should know that they can live and they can fight. There can be a new tomorrow.

Sound like a lofty mission? Maybe even a grandiose one?

Let me explain.

For more than two decades I’ve poured my heart and soul into the art of the hire. I started as a humble associate in a traditional placement firm. I found success there because I was hungry and hardworking—at it every morning while most folks were still thinking about their first cup of coffee—and maybe, just maybe, because I truly cared about the people I placed, and the organizations I placed them in.

But there was nothing unusual about my modus operandi. I cold called; I scanned the listings; I cold called; I collected resumes; I cold called; I matched skill sets with role specifications.

Meanwhile the world around the placement firm was plunging headlong into change. The Internet. Search engines. Google, cell phones, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, data-driven analytics, social media. The entire nature of business and marketing was in flux.

Yet, curiously, the hiring process went on much as it always had: post a role specification, gather in the resumes, match the skills with the job description, run an interview to check the candidate didn’t have two heads – et voila!, some random “new hire” was born.

I knew things had to change.

Seizing opportunity, I became an entrepreneur, and over the next decade I helped to pioneer the Online Recruiting industry through two amazing ventures: HotJobs and Ladders. Those experiences taught me so much. They taught me what it’s like to risk everything on a business venture. What it’s like to build out a company of 650 employees from scratch. What it’s like to take a company to an IPO and watch the value soar.

In the end, I knew deeper transformations were afoot, and I was hungry to do more, to really get at the heart of what hiring meant in the new economy.

So I struck out on my own, as a trusted advisor to boards and CEOs of high tech startups with enormous growth potential, helping them extract and secure extraordinary talent—the right talent for them. People who would flourish in their enterprises; people who would make sure those enterprises flourished.

That venture tested everything I knew and confirmed the strategies, their value and how any leader can create the most important things in business — a common purpose, shared values and clear objectives to achieve their mission. These three vital principles formed the basis of Hire Smart from the Start:

  1. People are everything.

No matter how important you think your business concept or branding or technology might be, your fate as an entrepreneur will be decided by the leadership team you assemble. Your people strategy is your company’s operating system. The quickened pace of our economy means that teams must work seamlessly to provide agility and speed. Old-style firms could “eat” a few bad leadership hires and keep moving along in their own, cumbersome, hierarchical way. Not so today, when competitors can come from down the block or across the ocean, and startup funding flows from a greater variety of sources than ever before in capitalism’s history. A strong leader can establish a strong vision, and that’s crucial. But only a well-tuned team can Get. It. Done.

  1. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Entrepreneurs are susceptible to blind spots when it comes to the human dimension. They tend to be innovative and restless, relentlessly driven folks with a single-minded focus that is usually tied to a sense of personal significance. They tend to see HR as a nettlesome necessity and hiring as a chore. But experience means so much in this respect. I travel the country speaking with seasoned entrepreneurs—women and men who have built billion-dollar businesses and reached the pinnacle of success in their fields—and uniformly they echo the truth of Point 1: People are everything. These high-powered entrepreneurs draw inspiration from great, human-centered change makers like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, and they look to business leaders like Richard Branson. They have learned to build and trust their teams. The ones who succeed are the ones who have awakened to the value of personal growth and crossed the critical chasm from entrepreneur to leader. They understand that while personal growth is linear, team growth is exponential.

  1. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Once you realize the single importance of your team, you need to understand what makes a hire right—how to find the folks who won’t just “do a great job,” but who will build enduring value for your enterprise and help achieve your mission. The key isn’t about skill set, or even a record of past success. Skills can be learned, and folks successful in one context can founder in another. The key, is core values, finding the people who share your beliefs, your priorities, your sense of how a business should run. Those are the people who will put everything they’ve got into your venture. The ones who will make the right calls under pressure. The ones who will help project the sense of unified mission that inspires employees and builds the type of customer experience no amount of marketing can buy.

We are living in an age of abundance. That includes abundance of talent and abundance of entrepreneurial activity. Never in the history of the world has there been a greater flow of resources to good ideas. For every talented candidate, there is a perfect fit. And when the right fits are made, people flourish—and so does the bottom line. Because ultimately the success of every entrepreneur will be determined by their ability to recruit and build culture to achieve their mission.

Recruit better. Achieve more. Make leadership your legacy.

Hire Smart from the Start.

PS – We need to do more than just build leadership values among today’s entrepreneurs; we need to help pave the way for tomorrow’s innovators. That’s why 100% of profits from Hire Smart from the Start will go to Room to Read, a fantastic nonprofit that is breaking down the barriers to literacy, education and gender equality for millions of children worldwide. World Change Starts with Educated Children.

How To Assault People With Your Resume

How To Assault People With Your Resume

Send them a seven (7) page resume.

Worse, write a long boring email that no one wants to read introducing yourself.

Worse plus, have a four (4) page cover letter in addition to the long, boring email self-intro.

The most worse, get someone to introduce you while violating the double opt-in email intro rule.

Regardless, I offer help. Kindness is so important. Especially, when people are in career transition and need advice. Here’s how I responded to Peter’s assault (yes, all of this really happened. Exactly like this. It happens every day. People think they are actually doing you a favor. I know! Crazy.):

Hey Peter — thanks for your note!

I want to be helpful to you.

Here’s my straight impression. Your email and cv are too long. Also, they lack a clear focus.

2 most important points to convey clearly:

What can you do? (no one buys the hammer that is also a screw driver — decide & commit!)

Who (what kind of company) can you do it for?

Trying to be all things to all people is not the answer. Also, writing a resume like a technical manual (list of your accomplishments) is less effective than writing it like a marketing brochure (benefits to the buyer).

If you get your resume professionally written, send that to me.

All the best,


Here is his original, cold outreach email (it came with an attached 7-page resume, and a 4-page cover letter titled CoverLetterSynopsis. The ‘synopsis’ was more than 900 words):

Hi Dave,

Thank you for connecting via LinkedIn.

I have been a venture executive in large companies/entrepreneurial firms and have experience with new ventures/startups, tech investment, international business development, marketing, strategic alliances, P3 and emerging tech/innovation. My career track has placed me at the intersection of energy/transportation/technology /innovation/alliances and venture capital.

I have worked in sales and corporate development, venturing and venture capital environments within large organizations, in consulting/professional services firms, with P3 public-private partnerships, with fledgling startups, with new technologies/IP and with new approaches/business models. Each of these experiences honed abilities to move from concept to commercialization; to act as a change agent, trusted advisor or interpretive manager; to work with global, multidisciplinary and multicultural teams; to structure strategic alliances among diverse groups; and to cultivate an appreciation for the long, complex sales cycle for consultative and iterative client engagements. 

In several of these roles, I have successfully identified, grafted and combined smaller companies’ technology breakthroughs with the wherewithal and staying power of larger companies, enabling sustainable innovation. I have also engaged in active scouting and evaluation of several emerging technology areas: energy-mobility, multimodal & autonomous transportation, smart cities, IoT, predictive analytics, connected home/health, digital lifestyle and block-chain, as examples.

Please see attached my resume/CV and cover letter overview.

I believe these skills and performance metrics are markedly transferable to opportunities you may be pursuing. I look forward to commencing a dialogue. Thanks again.

Best regards,


It all ended quite nicely:


Thank you for your helpful and candid feedback. I will get back to you with a professionally crafted resume for your review.



We live to triumph and inspire another day!

How to Delight With The Double Opt-In Email Introduction

How to Delight With The Double Opt-In Email Introduction

Connecting your new ‘friends’ in business can be valuable. You must take heed in how this is done. Making unsolicited, blind, single opt-in introductions to please a new friend is a pretty big offense as a professional. It makes gross assumptions about the interests of your offended target. It puts all three of you in a precarious position of awkward social, uncertain territory and forces your offended target to either ignore you, privately message you back, or worse, school you on proper email etiquette with a strong possibility of public shaming in an email response that includes your new friend.

It’s better to ask than it is to assume that you know what your target contact currently wants, has time for, or any interest in. Your friend may not be a priority or interest.

So, be professional and conduct yourself with a level of executive decorum that makes people smile and admire your social grace, etiquette and excellence in social comportment. This is attractive to others and endears people to you.

There are two great ways to reach out to your target contacts. In both ways, you first provide context, color and thoughts. Either form of this simple email note ensures value creation and a successful introduction for the benefit of all parties:

VERSION 1 —  You write a direct note to your target contact (DO NOT COPY YOUR FRIEND):

“Hi Julie, I met Bob the founder of NewCo earlier today and think he has assembled a great team, strong product and great early traction with their AI SaaS engine. They’ve signed 8 big name clients and a bunch of smaller ones. Want an intro?”

If Julie says yes, then some form of this:

“Hi Julie & Bob, It is my pleasure to intro you. I’ve mentioned you briefly to each other and am certain you will both enjoy meeting up. I’ll leave you from here. Best, Dave”

VERSION 2 — Ask your ‘friend’ to send you a blurb along with any info that you can forward along with an endorsement or simple ask. This could be easier & faster for you and looks something like this:

Hi Julie — please see note below from Bob. NewCo is interesting and I like him. Feel free to follow up directly and mention my name or let me know if you’d like an intro? Best, Dave”

Success in business requires being selective about your relationships, making new friends, connections and nurturing your relationships. Cultivating important relationships over the long term requires you to conduct yourself in a way that makes others want to nurture your relationship back. Relationships are a place to give, not take. Be respectful of people’s time, energy & bandwidth.

And remember, the Golden Rule is golden for a reason.

CEO Spotlight: What To Do When Performance Numbers Suck

CEOs are responsible for driving the highest possible performance results. Of course, this task is much easier said than done. Teams miss their KPIs and MBOs for any number of reasons. Sometimes, despite the strength of your leadership, you know your own expertise in making it better is limited.

So how do you get performance back on track fast? Skillful leaders are able to achieve results through their team the same way a good coach builds team performance by leveraging individual talents and filling the gaps. Sometimes CEOs and coaches feel torn about what to do when it comes to making tough calls on talent. Here are your options:

  1. Train: You can send someone to get the training they need to improve individual and team performance. It’s a good idea to develop the skills in your team, but this option takes a significant investment in time. In the months that it takes for this person to learn new skills, he or she might have the theoretical or academic understanding of how to solve a problem — but the person will still lack the the years it takes to develop mastery. If your business is in high growth mode, any individual’s capacity to learn — no matter how strong a team member he or she might be — will likely be outpaced by the needs of your company.
  2. Outsource: You could outsource a problem area to a consulting firm. This might be a good plan for skills that are not strategic to your vision and goals. Keep in mind that this option is expensive and you are not guaranteed quality. If you need to increase performance in an area that is strategic to your mission and vision, then you need to build the capacity internally.
  3. Recruit: That leaves a CEO with the best option for developing capacity in a high-growth company. Recruit and hire a world champion to fill the gap your team is missing. And remember that hiring must be done with mastery. Dabbling in recruiting and making the wrong hire will only add to whatever problems you’re already facing.
  4. Nothing: The last option is to do nothing. CEOs do this all the time by choosing not to hire an expert. Sometimes it’s worse and they take on yet another set of responsibilities for themselves to prove their personal significance. This is the most painful option that often causes the kind of skull-crushing brain damage that creates suffering for everyone involved.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Make the right executive decision and remember that the best utilization of venture capital is to acquire the right human capital.

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