Interview: Lynda Liner on Entrepreneurial Recruiting

The following is an interview with Lynda Liner, Senior Executive Recruiter with Victoria James Executive Search, for my Entrepreneurial Planning graduate course. Lynda and I have known each other since 2015 when she recruited me for a position in a small business. We discuss entrepreneurial recruitment for A-Players.

Q. Please share with me a little about your background and experience recruiting.

A. Thank you, David, for the invitation to share insights into the recruiting industry.

My early introduction to recruiting was joining a well-known international retained executive search firm as Assistant to the Administrative group that allowed me to learn the industry literally from the bottom up and benefitting from support from mentors while advancing and working each layer of recruiting: research, strategy, candidate development, interviewing, client management – total experience and education in Best Practices and Values I continue to apply today. The CEO of the recruiting firm gave me advice I’ve never forgotten, “Always remember, recruiting is a contact sport.

Things happen when you engage with people.”  And has influenced my dedication to the best possible experience and service to our clients and our candidate professionals.

Q. Your areas of expertise, as I understand it, are in the sales and marketing disciplines. In your experience, how important is it that entrepreneurs find the right talent for roles in these disciplines in a startup? Why do you believe this to be true?

A. The “right” sales and marketing talent will ultimately be responsible for the forward success of an organization. A start-up would initially focus on sales and marketing as the backbone and frontline of an organization and primary management partnership to establish a solid foundation on which to build the organization’s mission, philosophy, culture and simultaneously developing a strategy and action plan for their product or service.

To confirm the importance of identifying the right talent for sales and marketing, in my experience, having placed numerous marketing professionals in middle to senior management roles, I’ve observed large and small companies, from start-up and established, realize positive outcomes, e.g., increased revenue, brand awareness, acquisition, other - as a result of successful key position placements.

Most recently, we placed a Vice President of Marketing with an online business service company that has enjoyed moderate success for ten years without any dedicated sales or marketing presence. We worked with the CEO/Founder in a consultative capacity to translate his thoughts and ideas into a position overview/job description incorporating long and short-term goals, objectives, expectations, experience/skills/attributes for their highly critical hire who will be responsible for tripling revenue, analyzing product, website and brand, budget, and every marketing touch point. After a select number of candidates, numerous one-on-one meetings, within three months we found their ideal Vice President. All parties are pleased and looking forward to an amazing future.

Q. What is your process for finding those A-Players that entrepreneurs need to build and grow their business?

A. Relentless, hard work! Not kidding.

Although in today’s technology environment, everything is possible and the information is immediately available. Staying current with resourcing tools, applications, and platforms is critical. We also manage a growing in-house community of marketing professionals. We have an open registry and approximately 20,000 profiles that are regularly updated so we are in constant communication with our sales/marketing population by email, blog, social media, website postings. In addition to internal resources, we use outside resources where applicable such as LinkedIn. Our firm specializes in all things under the marketing umbrella from traditional to digital and all things about to be new. When a client seeks our recruiting experience, it requires the knowledge of all aspects of marketing functions to better serve both client and candidate.

In general, recruiting relies on those skills at the core of experience: sourcing, relationships, influence, resilience. In an evolving world, recruiters must be social media savvy and technically proficient as the hiring process becomes more and more complex.

Q. What are the top things an entrepreneur or startup founder should look for when hiring a recruiter?

A. Trite but true, great recruiters have a passion for their craft.

They have a Consultant Approach. Great recruiters take a consultant and partner approach to supporting a client and filling an important position whether a manager or CEO. The more a recruiter asks for information and details the more they bond with a client and know the position, the better prepared he/she will be to represent your company to the target audience and act as your brand ambassador.

They are outstanding communicators. Working in the “human resource” business requires a recruiter to be a great communicator, no matter whether face to face, on the phone or via email.

Listening is a skill. A great recruiter is an excellent listener who is respectful, diplomatic, empathetic, professional. Listening for what isn’t communicated is also a skill and is acquired through experience.

Q. In your opinion, what are a few of the bigger mistakes entrepreneurs or startup founders make in recruiting?

A. In advance of hiring, failing to take quality time to thoroughly evaluate: company vision, company direction, company goals, and objectives.

Communicate exactly what is expected of the position and how the position will interact with the management team and or senior management.

Communicate the position’s authority and decision-making.

Communicate how the position interacts with the founder(s), if applicable.

Q. What’s the best advice would you give an entrepreneur about finding and hiring an A-Player for his or her business?

A. First employees are critical. Don’t rush the process.

Allow plenty of time to recruit the best possible talent that fulfills your requirements and expectations.

Avoid disorganized hiring practices. Establish a reliable process for sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding.

Look for previous startup experience or comparable business growth experience.

Identify marketing strengths depending on the position:
analytics, marketing automation, strategy, etc.

Measure previous career accomplishments. Do they align with
position expectations.

David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.

He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

Connect with him on social media below:

Is your startup hiring?

If it is, you are likely asking yourself who it is you truly need to hire.

You often have many needs, but you also have a limited payroll budget. The temptation is always to hire the most technically skilled person for the job, for the least amount of payroll. Getting the biggest bang for your buck sounds logical, but is it?

If you have started your hiring search by developing job descriptions that incorporate both hard skills and soft skills, you’re off to a good start. When those resumes start coming in for review, there are other things to consider. For example, are you looking for generalists or specialists? Do you want individuals with a small company background or big company background? How about experienced versus inexperienced? It depends in part on your business needs.

If your business operation has formalized processes and procedures, you will likely want to hire a specialist because they are likely to be focused on maintaining efficiency in their areas of expertise. If your business is more flexible than formalized, you might find that a generalist is a better hire because they can tackle almost any task with some degree of efficiency and effectiveness (Wasserman, 2012). Generalists bring a broader skill set that may help you get your business off the ground, but as your business grows the job requirements will likely become more specific, and you may find the need more specialists to support your day-to-day operations.

Related to the consideration of a generalist versus a specialist is the place at which the applicant’s prior experience has occurred. While some argue that those with a lot of experience in a small company are a better fit for a startup because they have been in the trenches and likely understand the challenges (Wasserman, 2012). Conversely, those who have a big company background can bring a wealth of knowledge about operational processes that might be beneficial to a startup (Wasserman). The experience that comes from each background can add value to a startup founder, but the big company versus small company experience is just one part of the equation.

Perhaps the most challenging question is experience versus inexperience (or limited experience). Some suggest that those with inexperience bring a passion for the job and the founder or manager can teach the specifics of the job. This allows the founder to hire someone with the necessary hard skills for the position, without committing significant payroll dollars that would otherwise be offered to a more experienced individual. An experienced individual, others suggest, often brings more overall skills, contacts, credibility, and perhaps stability; however, the downside is a bigger paycheck for that individual and the inability for you, the founder, to shape the company culture as well because those with experience have different expectations of the company (Wasserman, 2012). Experienced versus inexperienced hires may be one of your most significant considerations because of what these hires may bring, or may not bring, to your business. The benefit of each type of hire is not always apparent.

So, who do you hire? I can’t tell you.

Who you hire will depend on you’re your individual business needs. I can tell you this, though: Start by framing what you need this new hire to do. Then, ask yourself if you need someone who can be flexible and tackle many things or someone who has specific skills to get the job done. Next, consider the value of their background and the location of that experience (big versus small company) and, finally, develop a job description incorporating both hard skills and soft skills based on your prior decisions. And don't hire someone like you.

I can also tell you that framing your hiring decision solely by available payroll capital is short-sighted. There are many ways to frame a compensation package, and it’s not always about that bi-weekly paycheck. Focus on the fit. Everything else will fall into place.

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Who would I hire? For startups or small businesses, I tend to hire people who are curious, flexible, self-disciplined and comfortable with decision-making, have the basic hard skills necessary for the job, and have a high degree of comfort with ambiguity. In most cases, these individuals are experienced, have one specialty area (or an area where they have several years of progressive experience and responsibility), and a mix of large and small company employment. In my experience, these attributes result in the best staff for me because of my style and how I lead and manage businesses in startup mode. Keep in mind these attributes may not work for you because you and I lead and manage differently.

___________________________

 

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References

Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founders Dilemma. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.

He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

Connect with him on social media below:

Are you building the right kind of capital for your startup?

In its original use the word, “capital,” referred to the number of cattle a person might own. The headcount of cattle and total assets of the owner were often synonymous in ancient Greece and Rome, so capital took on the broader meaning of “wealth” until sometime in the thirteenth century when it evolved to mean money advanced to an entrepreneur to start a business (Hodgson, 2014). Wealth created through goods and stock—assets that could be turned into cash for investment—became the primary definition of the word capital for more than 500 years.

In the eighteenth century, industrialization changed the economic structure. Labor, as well as money, became a critical factor in the ability to create wealth. Economist Adam Smith recognized the importance of labor in the creation of new products and introduced the idea that “capital” applies to people as well as things (Smith, 1776). Karl Marx expanded on the Smith’s idea, arguing that “capital is not just things or people, but a social relationship between people, established by the instrumentality of things” (Hodgson).  And the concept of capital grew again—financial, human, and social.

In modern economics, capital is typically defined as an asset that you can use to produce something that is economically useful to a business or an individual.  The word, then, has different meaning depending upon its context (Goodwin, 2003). The most common types of capital are:

  • Financial – referring to an investment that produces something of value;
  • Natural – involving the supply of natural resources in any form that plays a productive process in economic gain;
  • Human – referring to individual education, skills, abilities, and labor used in some combination to produce assets for economic benefit;
  • Produced (Physical) – relating to those physical assets (products or objects) created for sale by applying Human Capital to Natural Capital for economic gain;
  • Social – referring to the goodwill, trust, shared values and social knowledge that, in combination, facilitates a financial benefit.

Even with these different meanings, you still might think capital is synonymous with money. And it would make sense since if you’re a founder, you are spending a lot of time raising and worrying about financial capital.

Indeed, financial capital is essential to get your business off the ground and keep it going. However, human capital is required to strengthen your weaknesses and often to produce a physical product, and your social capital is necessary to attract employees, customers, advisors, and investors (Wasserman, 2012). For those of you that manufacture a product, access to natural capital supports your ability to create produced capital which is the output that generates the revenue necessary for you and your company to thrive.

If you consider the different context in which the word capital can be used, you might begin to reconsider which type of capital should become your priority. Should you still concentrate on building financial capital first? Maybe.

Of all the capital types, it might be more critical for you to first invest in building your social capital. Some argue that social capital—the trust and goodwill you have created with others—might make it easier to raise financial capital, develop supply networks, entice customers, and find employees willing to help you accomplish your goals (Wasserman, 2012). Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you a robust network of support is critical to building sustainable ventures. Your social capital and your personal network is an essential part of your success.

Maybe the ancient Greeks and Romans were on to something when they considered capital to be synonymous with wealth. Perhaps they understood that wealth was rooted as much in the social connection as it was in financial assets. Wealth is measured in many ways, but social capital may well be a good predictor of financial wealth.

What do you think? Is social capital the key to building wealth and financial success?

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References

Goodwin, N. R. (2003, September). Five Kinds of Capital: Useful Concepts for Sustainable Development (Working Paper No. 03-07). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from Global Development and Environment Institute: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/publications/working_papers/03-07sustainabledevelopment.PDF

Hodgson, G. M. (2014, 4 April). What is capital? Economists and socialists have changed its meaning: Should it be changed back? Cambridge Journal of Economics, 1063-1086. doi:10.1093/cje/beu013

Smith, A. (1776). Wealth of Nations (Annotated edition, 2003 ed.). Bantam Classics.

Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founders Dilemma. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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Photo by Arthur Poulin on Unsplash

David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.

He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

Connect with him on social media below: