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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

Is COVID proving that efficiency is overrated?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Forget about maximizing profits. Don’t decrease friction – increase it. Oh, and efficiency? Overrated. Wait… what?

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Cut off man working on multiple devices, but lacking efficiency.

When COVID-19 took off in the U.S., shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and blow-up pools had many of us thinking the American manufacturing supply chain must be inefficient. How was it even possible that we didn’t – and still don’t – have enough PPE for healthcare workers?

But what if the problem is that the supply chain is too efficient? That’s what Barry Schwartzis, a professor of psychology at UC-Berkeley and author of “The Paradox of Choice,” argues. Streamlined supply chains, just-in-time deliveries, and little slack in the workforce are all part of the gospel of efficiency. But maybe all that efficiency isn’t really working out for us.

Storing huge supplies of masks in warehouses is, arguably, an inefficient use of money and space. But we sure could have used a stockpile when the pandemic hit.

When businesses run lean, there’s little room to hedge against potential disasters. Schwartzis suggests we focus less on efficiency and more on being prepared for all potential scenarios the uncertain could bring.

It’s all about “satisficing.” (Anyone else now have Elvis in your head singing, “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me”? No? Carry on.)

Satisficing = satisfaction + sufficing. It’s aiming for the adequate, not the optimal. Schwartzis calls it insurance against “financial meltdowns, global pandemics, nasty bosses, boring teachers and crappy roommates.” Sign. Us. Up.

He goes farther and takes that lesson to our personal lives. Don’t try to blow the return on your IRA out of the water. Set a goal that works for good and bad financial times. Don’t search for the best of all possible jobs. Find a job you’ll like doing even if you have the manager from hell. In short, look for the “good enough.”

Sound familiar to those of you who are parents? Amid all the talk of the Tiger Mom and the Helicopter Parent, there’s also been discussion of the Good-Enough Parent. You might want the coffee mug that says “Best Mom Ever,” but you don’t actually have to be the Best Mom Ever. Ditching “best” for “good enough” is like a magic elixir for de-stressing yourself and your kids.

Still, the idea that we can increase efficiency in our personal lives is so seductive. We all want to spend less time doing the things we don’t enjoy so we can spend more time on things that bring happiness and, yes, more money. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, seen the lists: Structure your schedule. Time your tasks. Organize all the things.

Being able to always find your keys certainly could reduce the amount of cursing in your home. We can’t just toss out the Holy Grail of efficiency.

So Schwartzis has another word for you: Friction. Slow down. Don’t move too fast.

“Building friction into our lives, as individuals and as a society, is building resilience into the system,” Schwartzis says. It’s like tapping the brakes.

For business, friction could come from companies seeing themselves as caretakers of their communities rather than just profit centers. Could that kind of corporate responsibility lead to fewer jobs eliminated in the name of efficiency?

For homeowners, friction could be in the form of kids, pets, neighbors or the community – making you see the property as more than just a big investment. Could that prevent skyrocketing housing prices by reducing speculation based purely on profit?

Sure, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s an interesting take on issues we’re thinking more about amid the disruption of 2020’s pandemic.

“To be better prepared next time,” Schwartzis says, “We need to learn to live less ‘efficiently’ in the here and now.”

That could be one of the more important lessons we’re learning now.

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Business Entrepreneur

Amazon sets eyes on couture with launch of online Luxury Stores

(ENTREPRENEUR) As of this week, Amazon is an online luxury retailer. Is this good or bad news for smaller luxury retailers?

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Amazon Luxury Stores logo

When I think of high-end fashion shopping, Amazon is not the first store that comes to mind. Groceries, random knick-knacks, and pet accessories for my adorable pooch are the items in my cart.

For years, the retail giant has tried taking over every single market. This year, they came one step closer to realizing drone delivery to customers. And now, they have their eyes set on couture.

This week, Amazon confirmed the launch of its high-end online designer fashion and beauty brand shopping experience, Luxury Stores. Currently, Oscar de la Renta is the first brand to launch on the platform, but more are on the way.

Available by invitation only to eligible Prime members, the store launched on Amazon’s mobile app. Eligible customers received early access to the designer’s Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections. The collection included “ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume,” according to Amazon.

If you’re a Prime member and didn’t receive an invitation, you can request an invite by visiting amazon.com/LuxuryStores.

Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta said, “Oscar de la Renta is thrilled to partner with Amazon for the launch of Luxury Stores.” He told Vogue that “somewhere near 100% of our existing customers are on Amazon and a huge percentage of those are Prime members. For me to get more mindshare with existing customers in addition to getting new customers—that’s the name of the game.”

According to The Verge, Amazon has over 150 million Prime members. With that big of a number and potentially huge customer overlap, we can all see why Bolen is so thrilled.

But what does Amazon’s break into luxury retail mean for smaller luxury retailers? Smaller companies are still struggling to keep up with the retail giant. With small brick-and-mortar stores fighting to stay afloat during the pandemic, could Amazon’s online Luxury Stores be an all-inclusive solution?

According to Amazon’s press release, the company doesn’t plan on only partnering with established fashion brands, but also with “emerging luxury fashion and beauty brands.”

“We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and we are inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands in Amazon’s store,” said Christine Beauchamp, President of Amazon Fashion.

Engadget reported that Amazon is taking a hands-off approach with Luxury Stores. The company will offer backend and merchandising tools support. Brands will have control over their pricing, inventory, and selection. With brands being able to have more control over their experience, maybe smaller luxury retailers will feel inclined to use this new sales outlet.

“It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers,” Beauchamp said.

Amazon has yet to reveal which new luxury stores will arrive on the platform. Hopefully, we will also see our local luxury stores on Amazon in the future, too.

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Business Entrepreneur

Small businesses must go digital to survive (and thrive)

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A study at Cisco reveals how digitizing small businesses is no longer optional, but critical to success, thanks to the pandemic.

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Black woman working on a laptop on a couch, running her small businesses' needs digitally.

As digital transformation efforts ramp up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study released by Cisco has highlighted some key insights into how small businesses will need to adapt in order to survive in the “new normal.”

The study, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), analyzed more than 2,000 small businesses across eight different markets, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, and France. Using a four-section index to assess a small business’s digitalization efforts, the research found that 16% of companies said they were “thriving and feel their businesses are agile and resilient.” While 36% stated they were in “survival mode.” Regardless of where they were ranked in the index, the study concluded that 70% of firms were in the process of ramping up digital transformation within their company due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC. “Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”

The study also highlighted several challenges associated with digital transformation. The three biggest obstacles that businesses seem to face during the process were digital skills and talent, budgetary issues (lack of funds or previous commitment of funds), and cultural resistance to change. Despite these roadblocks, 45% of companies surveyed stated that they expect over 30% of their business to be digital by 2021. And 32% responded that they are planning on developing a digital strategy. This included investing in talent with the right set of digital skills moving forward.

Those decisions fall in line with Cisco and IDC’s recommendations. These include creating a three-year technology road map and building a workforce with the right skills to succeed in a digital world. Other suggestions include finding the right technology partner, and keeping up with industry trends. Leveraging financing and remanufactured equipment can aid with cash flow and budget requirements.

As small businesses continue to adapt to consumer behavior and the whirlwind of ever-changing rules that have come with the coronavirus, digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the post-COVID world. According to the report, if half of the small businesses surveyed can reach the second-highest tier of the index by 2024, those companies could end up adding an additional $2.3 trillion to the eight markets’ gross domestic product (GDP), contributing to the global economic recovery.

As we approach the six-month mark of the pandemic, just when and how the “new normal” will emerge is still uncertain. But there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses — even if it’s faint green and contains zeroes and ones.

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