From The Editor | July 29, 2012

RetailNOW Education Preview: Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer

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Jim Roddy

By Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine & Jameson Publishing

Why title my RetailNOW presentation “Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer”? Here’s the short version of my story:

When I was young manager, I thought I understood the importance of hiring top-notch people. Then, at age 32, I got cancer. Being forced to step away from my co-workers for an extended period of time (with one of the options being stepping away forever) made me realize that the people you hire truly make or break your business. The lessons I learned when cancer knocked me down helped build me up as a hiring manager, and I apply those lessons aggressively every time I interview a potential employee.

The primary goal of my RetailNOW 2012 presentation is for resellers to learn time-tested best practices that can be implemented at their organizations immediately after the show. My secondary goal doesn’t have much to do with business. I want to motivate folks that when cancer knocks down you or a loved one, get back up and attack it.

I won’t outline my entire presentation here, but I will expand on one of the key hiring best practices I’ll discuss at RetailNOW:

No matter what position you’re hiring for, determine if the candidate is a good match for your company in four areas: skills, personality, character, and mapping. Candidates need to prove during the interview process that they meet your standard in all four areas or could quickly attain acceptable levels of performance. You need to learn what’s in the person to know if that candidate will meet your target.

What does it mean to learn what’s in the person (vs. what the person has done)? I like what hospitality industry expert John Taffer said in an Inc. Magazine interview. Taffer and his company frequently turn around struggling restaurants and bars, with people the core of the success. “Unless you focus on the human element, your company will struggle,” Taffer said. “You give me someone with the right [qualities], and I’ll give you a bar manager in three weeks. You give me someone who has been a lousy bar manager for 30 years, and in three weeks, you’ll still have a lousy bar manager.”

I think the reseller executives attending RetailNOW understand skills and personality. Let’s talk about character first, then mapping.

Don’t think of character as honesty alone. Honesty is an important character trait, but there’s more to good character than being forthright. A list of 18 Character Traits are listed in my new book (which is also titled Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer). Here are the six key traits:

  • Prudence: Doesn’t make reckless choices. Lacks prejudice. Keeps things in perspective.
  • Justice: Doesn’t advantage self, family, or friends at the expense of others.
  • Fortitude: Demonstrates moral courage. Does the hard thing. Encounters adversity or bears pain with a pleasant disposition.
  • Temperance: Exhibits self-discipline, emotional control, and thrift. Confronts personal failings; doesn’t excuse them.
  • Ambition: Is driven by desire to realize personal potential and improve self, your organization, and society.
  • Work Ethic: Channels action toward a defined purpose. Demonstrates initiative, determination to succeed, and quality workmanship.

If a candidate is skilled but lacking in these traits, they won’t succeed. Think about your worst employees of the past – I’m guessing they could have had fine skills but were lacking in character.

Mapping answers the questions, “Does the candidate have the psychological makeup to be inclined to perform the activities of your job consistently, independently, and above your company standard? Or do you have to relentlessly push the candidate to perform the activity?” Don’t hire an introvert if the job requires frequent interaction with customers. Don’t hire a creative free-spirit to keep your financials organized. Don’t hire as your tech manager someone who winces at the thought of a difficult conversation.

Here are two real-life examples for you – one a failure for my business, the other a tremendous success.

Karla had just quit teaching — the only profession she’d ever known — and we felt lucky to hire her as a writer for our magazine. She appeared to be on the road to stardom after just a few months on the job. She grasped the technical aspect of business writing, and her stories really popped off the page. Her vibrant personality was evident in her writing, her phone conversations with customers, and her meetings with co-workers and supervisors.

One problem: Karla didn’t like our job. I remember her coming to me to talk about her struggles. It was a pleasant conversation but she told me matter-of-factly, “I really like the company. The people are great. I just don’t like business or writing. And I don’t want to be in sales. Is there maybe another position in the company for me?” We talked through every position in the company, but she wasn’t mapped for any of them. So we invited her to stay until we found her replacement or she found work elsewhere. Karla eventually found success as an educational administrator.

Lucas had a thin resume. He graduated college just a year earlier, and his only job since then was as a minor league professional basketball player in Minot, North Dakota. Most employers would have tossed his resume in the discard pile, but I’m glad we interviewed Lucas for our open sales position. We learned that his key to athletic success (he scored over 2,000 points in his collegiate basketball career) were the character traits of Temperance, Work Ethic, and Persistence. For example, to improve his shooting, during the off season he enlisted the help of a coach who required him to touch a dot on the wall over and over (and over) until Lucas’ form was just right. His mapping was right for the job, too. Lucas thrives on taking calculated risks, and his entire family is involved in sales.

We hired Lucas 12 years ago, and since then he’s generated millions in revenue for Business Solutions magazine by working closely with POS distributors and vendors. You might bump into him at RetailNOW. During the expo hours, I’m sure he’ll be on the show floor talking shop with customers and seeking new prospects. During the evening, you’ll probably see Lucas in the casino. I told you he was mapped to be a risk-taker.

 


Jim Roddy is the president of Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine, as well as a board member of the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association). Jim’ first book, titled Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer, is available for purchase at www.HireLikeYouJustBeatCancer.com or Amazon.com. His RetailNOW 2012 presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 1, at 8:00 AM at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

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