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What unique traits do executives seek when hiring?

Every business leader has different goals, and what they’re looking for in a candidate is even more diverse, so learn from these ten execs what makes them tick when hiring.

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Hiring practices of varying executives

If you ask ten executives what they look for when hiring that other executives miss, you’ll get some pretty interesting answers that are both helpful to job seekers and business leaders alike. Learning from others’ practices can shed light on your own, so we set out to find ten extremely different types of executives in various industries and asked them about their own hiring practices. They spilled the beans below when we asked them what traits they seek when hiring that others likely miss?

Can a candidate handle permanent whitewater?

Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons which has been connecting music students and music teachers for seven years said, “There are a few things that we’ve always looked for as a company. Number one, is the applicant genuinely friendly and smarter than most? Those are two traits that go a long way in the development of the type of culture that we want here and that demonstrate a candidate’s ability to work independently or in a group. We look for the ability to be comfortable with what I call “permanent whitewater.” In a start-up, there’s no smooth sailing. This is constant whitewater rafting. We’ll ask ourselves, does this person value safety too much? Would change make them uncomfortable to the point that they couldn’t perform? They need to be able to accept risk, to accept change.”

Cox added, “Finally, we’re looking for a cultural fit. Is this the type of person I would enjoy spending time with? We spend much of our time here at work together. If there are people who are wicked smart with great degrees from great colleges but they are unpleasant to be around, I want nothing to do with them. At the end of the day, I want to build something incredible with incredible people. Jim Rohn once said that you are a product of the five people with whom you spend the most of your time. We spend a lot of time at work and we want to surround ourselves with high performing team players to continually raise the overall intellect of the company.”

I look for personality

Scott Lerner, Founder of natural energy drink company, Solixir said, “The number one trait I look for is personality. I look for this more than experience and educational background. Does this person have what it takes to help drive growth with our company? To sum it up, does this person have the “it” factor no matter how young or old they are?”

Body cues and behavior are critical

Benn Rosales, Founder and CEO of AGBeat said, “When hiring, I am always looking for someone that is as focused on details as I am. I am looking at a candidate’s interpersonal communication skills, and at everything from how polite they are to their general demeanor. I’m looking for signs that their work ethic is superior and that their attitude toward making this company amazing equals my own. Body cues and behavior is just as important to me as what is on their resume.”

One in three employees have been entrepreneurs

Nell Merlino, the woman who started Take Our Daughters to Work Day and Founder of CountMeIn.org which focuses on women entrepreneurs, said she looks for “Diversity of talent, connections, ages, ethnicity and entrepreneurial spirits. Over one third of the people who have worked for CMI have started their own companies.”

Seeking will over skill

Iggy Fanlo, CEO of Lively (an activity sharing device connecting seniors with their family) said their company looks for “will over skill.”

“Having super talented folks is great; having world class experience is great, but we feel that desire and commitment is more important. In many ways, it’s just like Lively, where we feel the social side of aging (connection) is more important than the physical and medical,” Fanlo said.

The smallest things tell the biggest story

Noelle Federico, CFO of stock photography agency Dreamstime said, “I pay VERY close attention to details… incorrect spelling and incorrect grammar in resumes, template documents that weren’t edited correctly and still have the word sample text lines in them, if the applicant did exactly what we asked when submitting the resume and cover letter. During in-person interviews I look for things like chipped nail polish, runs in nylons, ripped or stained clothes, messy briefcases, unkempt appearance in general, strength of handshake, mannerisms when being asked a question, attitude toward a woman executive etc.”

Federico added, “All of these details will paint you a picture of someone that tells the “real” story… almost anyone can look good on paper and these days it is extremely hard to tell who and what is really over there until sometimes it is too late—however, those minor and small details will tell you if your applicant cares about their appearance and presentation, will tell you about their manners as a human being and how they treat other people and whether or not they listen and pay attention to details. It took me many years of going through the hiring process before I learned that the smallest things would tell me the biggest story.”

Ability to work in a fast-paced environment

Paul Aitken is the CEO of borro, which provides short-term personal asset loans against fine art, jewelry, cars, fine wine, etc. “I always look for new people who have the ability to work in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment. The environment here at borro is very different to most corporates. I would say that my management style is supportive yet demanding and so I expect people to come up with ideas, use initiative and try stuff out. One of the things that I find most enjoyable about setting up a new company is working with new people and building teams.”

Getting candidates in a different setting

Sanjay Sathe, founder and CEO of RiseSmart, which offers outplacement and career transition services, said that he likes to meet people in different settings.

“Certain behavioral traits do not display themselves in a formal office interview, so if you really like the candidate and want to progress with an offer, it will be helpful to meet the candidate in a social or casual setting. Their guard is down and they will be more open, so you should be able to gather more insight into the candidate and their personality. I also like to introduce the candidate to team members by taking them out for a meal together. That way you can see team interactions and you’ll have multiple people giving you feedback on what they learned. It is critical to invest more time upfront in the hiring process so you don’t regret the hire later.”

Sathe added, “Collaboration is critical in companies, and I try to get more information through all the touch points in the interview process. You might have the most talented person, but if they cannot genuinely collaborate with others and contribute to a team, you have a problem. There needs to be a sense of urgency in the candidate to be a part of your team. This is particularly important in a startup. If that self-motivation and inherent sense of urgency is not there, then it can be problematic. Make sure the candidate’s ego is in check. This can be a deal breaker. Organizations do not have places for folks with an “I, me, myself” attitude. The more senior you are in an organization, the more humble you should be.”

Two jobs from now

Donna Horton Novitsky, CEO of Yiftee (local gifts, on-the-go) had some unique insight. “I like to know what a candidate wants to do two jobs from now. That tells me what they should learn in the job I’m hiring them for and how we can help them meet their personal career goals. If all they want is a paycheck, I’m not interested. I like to see the ambition.”

Looking for a commitment to the mission

Nancy A. Aossey, President and CEO of International Medical Corps said, “There are many things that a C.V. won’t tell you about someone, so I try to look beyond the C.V. and focus on what motivates a candidate, his or her aspirations and what environment they would thrive in. I need to be able to have an authentic conversation with them. The work that International Medical Corps does can be very challenging, so I want candidates to have a good sense of what they are getting into and what kind of people thrive in our culture. I try to set the ground rules for the conversation and candidly explain the organization—its culture and challenges.”

Aossey also said, “I strive to choose people who bring talent and leadership to their own positions – but just as important, have the ability and willingness to groom others and bring out the best in them. I look for people who are willing to learn, so I try to get a sense of how they handle certain situations and whether they can reflect on their actions and how they learned from them. I’ll also ask, “If I were to speak to colleagues or supervisors who weren’t on your reference list, someone whom you didn’t always get along with, what would they say about you?” This causes people to think about themselves in a different way. If you don’t have self-awareness, you’re always going to be outward-looking and blame others for any difficulties. There are a million reasons why we might not be able to get something done, but the question is, what can we do about it? Likewise, there will always be difficult people to work with, but ultimately it’s a matter of taking responsibility and doing something about it.”

Aossey concluded, “Our work takes a certain personality, beyond a commitment to the mission. You have to look past the obvious skills that candidates might bring to the table and focus more on their approach and how they’re going to work with others in difficult situations.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business Entrepreneur

Snowpocalypse disaster 2021: How can businesses help their employees?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How did your business manage your human resources during snowpocalypse? How can you protect your team and prepare for the next disaster?

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Snow storm disaster, inches of snow where it was unexpected in front of a home and car.

The effects of Snowpocalypse 2021 will be felt for months. It’s not just fixing the power grid, paying off electric bills, or repairing pipes. Many employees lost wages because they couldn’t work. CNBC estimates that over 40% of Americans couldn’t last a month on their savings. Combined with the impact of COVID-19 across many industries, recovering from a 2-week loss of wages from the snowstorm disaster could devastate many Texans.

How does your business manage time off during disasters?

Larger businesses often continue to pay their employee’s salaries during disasters. Exempt employees have different rules over non-exempt employees, but we’ve seen many instances where larger organizations continued to pay employees, even though they couldn’t get into work. Employees with small to medium sized businesses often don’t have an option. These employees either take PTO or don’t get paid. While this might be legal and understandable from the business point of view, there might be other options. What can a business do when a disaster occurs when it comes to employee wages?

Know the law to pay employees right

I’m not even going to try to and sort through the multitude of laws that pertain to nonexempt or exempt employees. Every business should have a disaster policy that informs employees how their salary will be handled during the disaster, whether employees can stay home and work, choose to stay home out of safety or are forced to stay home and can’t work. Know the policies of the ADA, OSHA and FMLA to know what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer when disaster strikes. Make sure you’re paying employees according to state and federal laws.

Consider options to protect employees

We’re not suggesting that businesses put themselves in debt to pay workers during a crisis, but Texas has experienced so many disasters over the past few years, it does make sense to think about how to help employees during those times. Critical time off (CTO) is one option as a benefit to workers during crises. By lowering stress during critical times, your employees come back to work ready to deal with your business.

Building trust with your team by helping them through a crisis can help your business keep your best workers. Now’s the time to look at your disaster response and figure out how to take steps to prepare for the next time.

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Business Entrepreneur

4 tips for acquiring a business: The why and how

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Acquiring a business can be a key part of your business’s future growth, but there are some factors you should consider before signing the deal.

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A meeting room with people shaking hands over acquiring a business

Growing businesses have multiple levers that can be pulled separately or in unison to continue scaling and expanding. And while many companies choose to grow internally, there’s always the option of acquiring other businesses to supercharge results and instantly expand.

Why Acquire?

Acquiring a business is certainly a complicated path to expansion, but it’s also a highly attractive one for a variety of reasons. This includes:

  • Increased market share. If you’re acquiring a business that happens to be a competitor, you can instantly increase your market share. If you currently own 20 percent of the market share and the competition has 15 percent, you suddenly catapult to 35 percent. That might make you the industry leader overnight!
  • Expansion into new markets. Sometimes you acquire a business outside of your industry or niche. In this case, it allows you to expand vertically or horizontally. This can improve top-line revenue and/or reduce costs and benefit profit margins.
  • Advanced tech and IP. In some situations, an acquisition is about acquiring a specific piece of technology or intellectual property (IP). This may prove to be the final boost you need to accelerate growth and initiate further expansion.
  • Talent acquisition. One of the secondary benefits of an acquisition is the opportunity to welcome new talent into your team. Whether it’s a seasoned executive or a highly effective sales staff, this is one benefit you can’t ignore.

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t the correct solutions in every situation, but they often make sense. It’s ultimately up to your team to sit down and discuss the pros, cons, opportunities, drawbacks, and possibilities of pursuing this option.

Helpful Acquisition Tips

Should your business choose to move forward with the acquisition route, here are some essential tips to be aware of:

1. Assemble a Talented Team

Don’t do anything until you first develop an acquisition team. This is a very important step and should not be delayed. (Many businesses make the mistake of starting the search and then forming a team on the fly, but this results in missed opportunities and foundational errors that can compromise an otherwise smart acquisition.)

A good acquisition team should include an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisor, a responsible executive, an attorney, an HR professional, and an IT expert. You’ll also want to bring on a public relations professional as soon as possible. This will ensure you control the messaging that customers, investors, and even employees hear.

2. Do Extensive Due Diligence

With the support of a talented dream team, you’re equipped to find the best acquisition opportunities. As you narrow your targets down, you’ll want to identify and implement a very detailed due diligence process for acquiring a business. This may include an extensive, objective analysis that consists of a letter of intent, confidentiality agreement, contracts and leases, financial statements, tax returns, and other important documents.

3. Make an Initial Offer

If the due diligence checks out, then it’s time to work on formulating an offer for acquiring a business. While the first offer almost certainly won’t be the offer that gets accepted, it’s the single most important offer you’ll make. It frames the transaction and sets the tone for the rest of the negotiations. It’s generally a good idea to offer no more than 75 to 90 percent of what you’re willing to pay. It should be low enough to leave room to inch up, but not so low that the other party could potentially see it as an insult.

4. Negotiate

Your first offer won’t get accepted. But unless you’ve totally insulted the other business, they should come back with a counter. Now is where things get really interesting. Negotiations ensue and it’s time to counter back and forth. The offer consists of a variety of elements – not just a price tag – so consider all of these variables in your subsequent counters.

Adding it All Up

As valuable as an acquisition can be, the process is often filled with friction. It’s up to your team to make the transition after closing as smooth as possible.

It’s very important that you respect the products, services, employees, and customers that the acquired business has. If you come into an acquisition and attempt to shake things up on day one, you’re going to get backlash. There’s nothing wrong with making changes – you now own the business – but be diplomatic and patient. Build trust, work together, and gradually introduce changes.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to choose the right software for your business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software products for your up-and-coming company? Use these questions to decide which kind is best for you.

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It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.

Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.

Determining Your Core Needs

First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:

  • Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
  • Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
  • Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
  • Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
  • Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
  • Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.

Key Factors to Consider

From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:

    • Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
    • Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
    • Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
    • Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
    • Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
    • Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
    • Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
    • Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.

Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.

Finding the Balance

It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.

You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.

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