Who ever thinks about where they will be 15 years from now? Who really thinks about tomorrow? At 32, I put it all on the line and became the fourth generation in my family to take the entrepreneurial plunge – starting my first company, CBI Group.
I was asked to share a little bit about what I have learned over the last 15 years of running my own business, CBI Group and the Outside-In® Companies. Perhaps I can pass on some wisdom you might find useful, or a musing that you find entertaining? For me this is pretty darn cathartic! Write it down. Get it out. And keep pressing play and come back at it again tomorrow, right? That is what most entrepreneurs do best. As Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.” These are my words to live by through thick and thin.
As I think back I get emotional. I have had servers stolen, office roofs collapse, 9/11 on my first day. I have had floods and fires on Super Bowl Sunday! Through all the good, bad and disaster, here goes 15 thoughts from reflecting on 15 years in business.
So my 32 year old self was full of himself. Glib and confident. Boundless and endless energy on reserve. Every problem in the business was one I created. I celebrated those early fiascos, they were fun to try and resolve. Everything was about the vision for what I wanted to build with that early team. We were going to reinvent and create a space in staffing and professional services. We vowed to make culture important (believe it or not when those words were foreign in most business’s large and small). I worked endlessly. For two years straight I worked every single day. My theory was an hour worked today is an hour I would get back when I exited the business. The exit plan was scheduled for year nine! Well, six years later I am still at it. Today it’s much more about the journey than the destination.
p.s. if you’re interested, here are my 10 musings from our 10th anniversary in 2011!
In five years, a majority of workers will be Millennials. Boomers are retiring or being replaced at a rapid pace of 10-13,000 per day! Everyone talks about how Millennials are going to change work for the rest of us. They have. But the change started long before they came on the scene in large numbers. The only point that matters is that many of us want to work differently. And have been working on it since Millennials were born.
Smart businesses have realized that most of us don’t work for a paycheck. We work for a purpose. Which is why so many of us care about working some place that has a mission!
They say Millennials only care about their growth and new skills. Haven’t we all grown tired of video games and smoothies at work? Food and tchotchkes barely, if ever, really mattered that much compared to how much I liked my job. But, chances to have new experiences? Lead new projects. Learn new technologies. That is what real talent has always wanted.
Nobody can lead like a 5 star general anymore. Command and Control is dead. Communication and ideas must flow freely. And decision making is distributed and pushed out to the front lines, putting decision makers much closer to the customer. This is not new, this is 20 years in the making kind of stuff. Millennials (and the rest of us) want leaders that can coach too and value our whole selves. So please, stop writing and talking about Millennials in the workplace. We get it, there’s a lot of them.
What is the purpose of a recruitment strategy? What is the point of any strategy? A strategy defines the big and important questions. Who, what, when, and why. Who is doing what by when? And why are they doing it? Your recruiting strategy hopefully creates an efficient use of company resources to provide the best talent your business needs to get the job done. Your strategy may even create a productive advantage in your marketplace!
So what’s the purpose? A recruitment strategy creates proactivity and clarity of purpose in your process of attracting and selecting talent for your business and aligns talent acquisition goals to the business goals.
A recruitment strategy starts with clearly understanding your company’s values in order to best define and understand the employee behaviors you want to attract. A recruitment strategy also clearly articulates a company’s purpose or vision for the future. A well executed recruitment strategy will also align employees to the specific behaviors that are encouraged in the company.
A recruitment strategy has the distinct purpose of deciding how talent will be identified and attracted to the business, how the employer brand will be marketed to talent and ultimately how candidates will be evaluated for employment.
Attracting talent relies on your recruiting brand. How will you position and describe your company and its brand in an authentic way? Where will you promote your company? This is where good job descriptions, score cards, job postings, recruitment technology, and recruitment partners come into play. Today, no one can be the best at their entire strategy.
Evaluation of talent is also a huge part of your recruitment strategy. Do you want your managers to talk with recruits about how they got into the business and oversell why you company is great? Or will you define the questions and role of your managers as you create hiring teams? Always define the team roles in evaluating talent. Set evaluation processes and standards to ensure talent is attracted and evaluated in a consistent way!
A recruitment strategy defines the following:
Often, managers keep C talent in roles too long. Here’s why networking can help.
First, it’s important to understand what today’s economy and labor market look like:
Yes, we are now in a market where happy workers are moving around and ready for their next challenge!
In a candidate’s market, what do managers do about hiring for their team/department/division? I know what they do. Complain to Human Resources and to their boss that they are not seeing enough talent for their openings. I hear this everyday from customers. And we tell them the same thing every time. Failing managers count on others to find talent for their organizations. And then blame HR or Talent Acquisition teams.
This is why failing managers keep average or below average talent. In survey after survey, managers admit they keep sub par talent because they have no one else to do the job. Which is another way of saying that they don’t intend to do that job either. They are simply happy with the notion that someone is doing the work. But the failing employees are not happy! The employees are missing time, or making mistakes, and causing havoc with the rest of the team. Aren’t leaders responsible for budgets, productivity and results? Of course.
So why not network to go from being an average or failing leader to one who networks and fills their own jobs? This is what I call keeping your sofa full. (Check out chapter 7 in How to Hire A Players by Eric Herrenkohl.)
Failing (C players) managers blame others and do nothing.
Winning Leaders (A players) get out out to meet talent at trade shows, industry events, chamber meetings, or at civic and social clubs. Leaders get out to build their network. To meet people. To offer help and create value. But they are always working on building their bench and know who their next hire is going to be!
Which type of leader are you?
In thinking about what sets the best candidates apart from the average ones, here’s why networking pays off for the best candidates, but doesn’t work for the average ones.
The best candidates understand that networking is not an event. Instead, it’s something you do with regularity, like the slow and steady drip of the coffee pot each and every morning. Networking is not what you do when you’re unemployed and looking for your next gig. Or something you do when you’re in sales and your need to reach your monthly sales quota… The world we sees you coming, you need something, right? Well, you’re the last person the room wants to meet.
The best candidates can network because they do it consistently in their company, in their industry and in their local marketplace. They know networking helps address many professional needs at one time. That networking allows you to learn from others. And is a way to meet people (and for people can meet you). Yes, relational capital. Check out Ed Wallace, The Relational Ladder for more good stuff on that!
The best candidates build relationships with the people they meet, which leads to opportunities to help/serve/do something for others. It is in this act of service that the best candidates distinguish themselves. When you know someone, you can build trust, respect and even like them. And the best candidates learn to accumulate these relationships and develop a network of connections that have been cultivated to develop mutual benefit and gain. The more a good candidate networks and serves, the more the they can count on their network to reciprocate.
To be the best candidate, practice these simple steps:
So yes, the best candidates are great at networking. And they are in demand because of it. These candidates can land any coffee meet up or job they want in their network. How do I know? Think of the best candidates, they usually fit this mold!
‘Silo Mentality‘ is “an attitude found in some organizations that occurs when several departments or groups do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same company.” (Investopedia)
The key phrase I’d like to point out in the above definition is “do not want to share.” Why? I’ll get to that, but first let me set up where I am coming from.
No Silos is one of our Outside-In® values. We like to brag about being one team where politics, title and departments do not create barriers to doing business for us. With multiple brands, teams and functions this value symbolically declares our equality — regardless of title or role — to everyone internally and externally in the business.
But I am here to say that we have silos, and probably always will. There are a few sources of silos that are unavoidable. For one, it is only natural for people to imprint strongly or bond with a team, a client, or group of people (when you start in the same orientation class, for example). Folks are always going to find some commonality to silo around. Everyone looks to self identify — where we live, who we know, what we know and of course who we work with or share information with. We tend to discriminate or create silos when we don’t know others. It is easier to not help or not share when you are strangers. So with strong relationship bonds, silos are naturally created.
Another example of unavoidable silos in business are organizational functions. The operations, finance, HR and sales teams (and so on) are by nature separate functions that create silos for a number of reasons: knowledge/expertise, common projects & goals, shared leadership, or even the fact that people sit closer together. Work is organized in such a way that you spend a lot of time together working on similar work, and therefore barriers are created between one functional group and another.
So yes, companies and organizations will always have silos. There will always be groups of friends, project groups, account teams, functional departments and leadership at every company. Let’s go back to the phrase “do not want to share” in the definition of silo mentality. There is one thing that separates a company with silo mentality and one without: it’s the willingness to share information.
If you sense a Silo Mentality at your company, dig deeper into the why. 1. Are people unwilling to share information with other teams? 2. Are there rules from leadership that prevent information sharing? Or 3. Is it the organizational structure that makes it hard (but not impossible) to work across teams and departments?
At Outside-In® Companies, we have experienced a lot of organizational change lately as we get organized for growth and scaling. As we define roles and put infrastructure in place, we are experiencing some of #3. But what I can tell you, is that our issues with silos are not as severe as the stories I hear about from companies that experience #1 and #2. How about needing to fill out an actual form that must be approved by each department head to receive permission to talk to another department? So much for collaboration at the water cooler or getting together for happy hour to create, solve or address business problems, large or small.
Or this recent one. Sales and Account Management teams refused to include the Service team in the customer conversation. These departments misconstrued who owns relationships, and maybe most importantly who is involved with delivering an experience to the customer! Imagine trying to get anything done!
So yes, at the Outside-In® Companies, we do have Silos. But our Silo Mentality is not because we are unwilling to share with our team members or because we have rules in place that prevent cross-team collaboration. In fact, with No Silos as a value, cross-team collaboration is encouraged. The No Silos value is about building relationships because you can. And encourages reaching out across silos — without rules, forms, sign up sheets or leader’s permission. Regardless of a one leader’s behavior, one can always talk to or work with whom they want.
Now, back to the question at hand, “Is ‘No Silos’ an achievable goal?” No Silos is an aspirational value. It’s impossible to have No Silos in a business. But you can reinforce a ‘No Silos Mentality’ and adjust your organizational structure to break down barriers that prevent departments or teams from working well together. The mentality or mindset is achievable, and one we always strive to improve upon.
Does your company have a Silos Mentality? If so, you have a leadership problem. Yup, I said it. Silos exist because leaders allow it, can’t address it, or are rewarded or incentivized to allow them to exist. So dig deeper to find out the why.
Although Outside-In® is a regular topic in my blog, the definition tends to elude some readers. By definition, Outside-In® is when a business is customer-centered. It is a philosophy, a culture, a way of thinking that impacts the way a business and its employees operate. When you’re Outside-In®, you are always listening to your customers’ needs and wants for opportunities to improve, drive change, or try something new for your customers.
I know many leaders that pride themselves on focusing on the customer exclusively — kudos to them. But how many leaders truly turn outward first, then build a company that does the same? A leader’s focus on the customer does not necessarily translate into every employee. Outside-In® suggests that leaders don’t have to hold the customer’s wants and needs on their shoulders alone. In a world that is moving faster every day, isn’t it better to have everyone in the organization listening and reacting to customers, instead of just one or a few?
Outside-In® companies should and can run like one, big, constant focus group. Imagine a focus group that never ends, where employees get to ask the questions and observe the customers’ behavior. What if these observations were collected and cherished every day and that company decisions and plans were driven based on all the customer insights collected? In an eternal focus group, every employee sees the impact the company has on the customer and when that impact is negative or unproductive, each employee has the opportunity to recognize how the issue could be addressed.
Last year, Comcast NBCUniversal awarded employee ideas in the company’s internal ‘Shark Tank’ competition, The Idea, which challenged employees (139,000+ globally) to come up with the next big idea to make the company better. Employees responded to challenge, submitting 200 submissions within two hours of the program’s announcement, and nearly 3,000 ideas in the end. All employees’ suggestions “for enhancing the customer experience or driving innovation and new business opportunities.” Maggie Suniewick, a Senior VP for the company and organizer of the competition shared, “We have so many talented and engaged employees with really good ideas — they just haven’t always known how to share them more broadly.” The Idea winner, Nathan Kalish agreed with executives inspiration behind the competition, “We have to look to employees and consumers to identify needs and challenges,” he says. “And if we want to adapt and grow, we need to respond.”
Google is another example of a company that not only rewards employees but also their customers who uncover vulnerabilities in Google’s system. Last year, Google rewarded Kamil Hismatullin who discovered that he could delete any YouTube video file in minutes. Instead of exploiting this information, he reported the code he used to Google, who fixed the issue within a few hours and gave him $5,000 as a thank you. And just this week it was reported how much Google paid the man who bought the Google.com domain back in October 2015. What would Google do if they no longer had Google.com?!
There are lots of companies that practice the Outside-In® behavior of listening to customers to fix problems, make improvements and implement new ideas. And you don’t need to be a big company with a huge bank account like NBCUniversal or Google. Harvard Business Review notes one Japanese company Idemitsu, which gets more than a hundred ideas per employee each year without offering any bonuses. Imagine your company living with a customer-centric mindset 24/7! Wow, think of the money you could save. Or how much your company could make with new ideas?
I have a problem with the way you conduct yourself.
Yes, that’s right I do. You have called me repeatedly and asked for my time. I have emails from you, many I might say. I even got the snail mail brochure that is sitting on my desk under a pile of other papers. You have done a terrific job of making you and your firm known to me. However, not in a good way. I am a small business person. Without relationships, customers, even new prospects to talk to, I do not have a company to run. So, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this subject. I am, what I am going to call an “earning the right expert”. What is earning the right you might say? I hope you ask me that question or better yet read this post before you call and email for the 7th time on Tuesday at 1:30 pm. Yes, I even know when you are going to call me. And I make plans to avoid your call.
Earning the right is a core value of the Outside-In® Companies. Admittedly, I think we can do better at this one. Earning the right is what we must do for all of our relationships both internally and externally in our business.
Need an example? Try asking me what my problems are. Or consider investing in me personally. Everyone always has a car to buy, has a kid graduating, a neighbor who needs a vendor or vendor who needs a problem solved. Help me help you. Be authentic. Be Genuine. Invest in me first.
Your calls, emails, and letters will be left where they are until you ask me to share my story. And you actually listen to it. Yes, I probably need what your selling. I might even be actively looking for your product or services right now. I could make your month or your quarterly bonus. But don’t sell me your product or your company. Tell me your story. But ask me about mine. Earn the right first.
ps: By the way earning the right fits in every single relationship situation. This is about slowing down. Doing things right. Don’t be selfish. Or at least fake it a little, please. Folks that don’t practice earning the right sound like whiny teenagers demanding the car keys on a Saturday night! Earn the right in all your relationships.
Outside-In® Chronicles: a throwback post, originally published five years ago in January 2010
Leaders often ask me about how they can be a better leader tomorrow. What can they do right now to have impact on their business. I find the key is to know how to plan and approach leadership actions creatively. Still not sure what I mean? Leaders do stuff — they are in meetings, they make and take phone calls, they solve problems, etc. As a leader you could spend all day reacting to the world around you. In fact, it never stops coming. All day long the cell phone rings and the inbox fills up. Yet this is not leadership. And it’s certainly not planned, thoughtful leadership. Leadership planning is a way to have a real impact. To be proactive and creative in improving the lives of your employees and the productivity they can achieve.
No matter what industry you are in, you will inevitably have customers, employees, vendors and prospects in your day. The best way to plan? Let’s start by thinking about any employee. What do they need right now? A compliment? Recognition? A tough talk? Someone to listen? Training? Your job is to eliminate barriers for your employees while holding them accountable, to remind people that they have something to learn, let them know you’re there to help and that you care.
Still not so sure what to do? Think about your customers next. Who can use a proactive call from you. Have you pulled the team together just to talk about a customer when there is not a problem? This is where the real opportunity lies.
Do this homework assignment on a Sunday night.
Remember we all can get better, all of the time. And we will if our leaders can impact us in a meaningful way.
Need help to have real impact or want to share your ideas with others? Would love to hear more from you; we all have something to learn!