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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.