Sunday 25 November 2012

Toilet Paper effort.

Here is the fifth part of the insight into the world of talent search and recruitment processes. Don't forget to comment and check out the full version of the ebook here.

“One time, Ben went to a big bash at the Waldorf. Milten’s there. They immediately started talking business. He said to Milton, ‘how much are you paying for toilet paper?’ And Milton said so much. Ben was buying his quite a bit cheaper, and he knew that you want to be not just cheaper but right. Milton said ‘yeah, but that’s the best I can get.’ And Ben said ‘Excuse me,’ and he got up, left the black-tie benefit, drove out to his warehouse in Long Island, and started tearing open cartons of toilet paper and counting the sheets, because he was suspicious. He knew that Milton could not be paying too much by that wide a margin, and therefore that he must be getting screwed himself somehow on toilet paper.
                “And sure enough, the vendors were saying there were five hundred sheets per roll in one of these things. And there weren’t. He was getting screwed on toilet paper.”
                Buffett knew that he wanted to be in business with the kind of guy who would leave a black-tie party to count sheets of toilet paper.
Warren Buffett, The Snowball
 and the Business of life

  If Hamish Purdey were running a retail store he’d be leaving black-tie parties to analyse toilet paper. I meet Purdey in Ffastfill’s ground floor offices, a stone’s throw from their financial services clients and the square mile’s most incongruous landmark: A croquet lawn. The chrome domed, Australian CEO doesn’t spend much time playing croquet but has grown Ffastfill to a company with a seventeen million pound turnover and upwards of two hundred staff across four time zones.

  Purdey is quick to establish the culture of Ffastfill. “Commission carrying salespeople are a no-no,” he says and executives are expected to keep their phones on at all times. He’s quick to point out that scaling a tech business is not nine-to-five and building a world class team of technical staff, across four development centres has taken a great deal of work. This rhetoric, although interesting, doesn’t distinguish him a great deal from other ambitious technology CEOs. His attention to detail does.

  Purdey realised that retaining the team he had built was a priority in continuing rapid expansion. Salary was a key cause for concern, not least because of the well- documented ballooning salaries in offices next door to Ffastfill. The traditional approach would have been to download two or three generic salary surveys. Instead, Purdey and his senior team analysed the accounts of the ten companies competing or operating in derivatives to work out how much each firm paid in salaries annually. They analysed each company’s headcount, the type of employees and estimated what each employee was being paid. Having analysed the averages, it transpired that it wasn’t possible for their competitors to consistently overpay for Ffastfill’s talent. This kind of in-depth, laborious data analysis makes Purdey’s decision making far more effective.

As Purdey demonstrates with Ffastfill, rapid growth is often the result of “toilet paper effort:” Detail orientated, laborious effort that goes above and beyond a job description.  It may not be fun combing through ten balance sheets but it’s this type of effort that will help Ffastfill beat their competitors and even the competitors that don’t exist yet.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

First Who, then Woo

Hello and Welcome to the fourth chapter of the ebook. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who responded and shared their thoughts with us about the latest publications in our blog. Don't forget you can now find the full version of the ebook here.

“Hiring is easy and fast and is basically a retail operation. Recruiting is artful and slow and is essentially a direct marketing effort…. Recruiting raises the bar because it demands you have a job worth quitting for.”
Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog
“80% of participants believed that advertising vacancies were either not important or completely unimportant in sourcing A players.”

Phil Mochan is everything a serial entrepreneur should be: feisty, fun and, to the casual observer, slightly mad. The Scottish contrarian started his first business at age eleven, breeding mice. Thankfully, a career spent crisscrossing media and telecoms has been far more lucrative. After three successful exits he co-founded Digital Governance and is quite clear that adverts have not been the driver in sourcing quality engineers or commercial staff. “Nepotism is usually better,” he said with a half smile when we met at a bar overlooking London Bridge. As with much of Mochan’s off the cuff commentary its difficult to tell where the humour stops and the truth begins.

Mochan’s view of job advertising as unimportant is shared by 80% of our participants. With such a prevailing mood of dissatisfaction it’s odd that so many seemingly hard-nosed technology companies persist with adverts. The reason is based more on human nature than business objectives.

As we have discussed, technology companies often have unplanned immediate vacancies. Online job boards offer thousands of candidates-now! However, just because the method is easy and immediate does not make it effective. Yet, many recruiters and HR departments persist not because they are impressed with the candidates but because presenting some candidates to senior management is better than presenting none. In an economy that's stagnating, HR and recruiters are fighting for their existence, which engenders timidity rather than risk taking. The belief is that if you interview safe, available candidates you can’t be fired. Yet, innovation has no place for timidity. Technology companies that shy away from mavericks, jagged resumes, overachievers and inexperienced underdogs will lose.

To attract extraordinary talent you must make extraordinary efforts. When Wayne Rooney changes clubs does he post his CV on Monster? Star computer scientists or salespeople don’t either.

Job advertising makes some companies believe they can advertise, assess and still make happy hour. Unfortunately, giving your recruitment team access to multiple job boards is like giving car keys, cocaine and hookers to teenage boys: initially fun, eventually disastrous.

Instead of advertising the mantra must be: First who, then woo. Find your five-to-one candidates and persuade, court or seduce over time that your company should be their soul mate.  Advertising your vacancies is as seductive as a 3am visit to a kebab van and soul mates don’t like kebabs.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

365 recruiting

We hope you have enjoyed reading the chapters of the ebook by Rob Symes thus far. Today we present you with the third chapter of his inspiring work. Feel free to leave your comments below and let us know your views on processes of recruiting for technology and high growth companies. You can now also access the full version of the ebook here.

365 recruiting

 “After the game… early edition newspapers with SUPER BOWL CHAMPS in bold letters were being displayed on the field… It was a celebration, but the team builders in the group were still thinking what was next.
‘For whatever reason what stood out more than the parties and parades was the reality of how far behind we were’, Pioli says.”
Michael Holley. War room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the art of building the perfect team

American Football is a laboratory for studying recruitment. Soccer is not.
Both are worth billions of dollars, highly competitive and highly scrutinised but crucially American football has a salary cap. When a rich soccer team, like Chelsea, wants success they open their chequebook and just buy players. If those players don’t work, they buy more players. When money is no object, mistakes don’t matter which is why Chelsea can pay thirty million and a hundred and twenty thousand pounds a week for Andrei Shevchenko to fail.

American football teams can’t overpay for players because if they overpay in one position they will have to underpay in another. In the stark world of the salary cap, NFL(1) teams live and die on their player selections. As Bill Polian, Vice Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts, says when discussing his choice of Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf for the Colts quarterback position “If I had got that wrong…I’d be across the street, parking cars(2).” Five years after that selection, Manning was the named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. Leaf no longer plays professional American Football.

Foreign billionaires do not fund most technology companies. Therefore, like the NFL, tech companies live and die on selection. 

There are two crucial differences when assessing how NFL teams and technology companies recruit:
Ø   NFL teams source and assess candidates continuously throughout the year. Technology companies source and assess candidates intermittently usually when they have a direct recruitment need.
Ø  Although NFL teams have extensive scouting teams (the equivalent of internal recruiters) the General Manager (the equivalent of the CEO) is constantly involved and often drives the process. In technology companies the CEO and executive team are often removed from the process after deciding on a job description until they take part in a final assessment.

In Michael Lewis’s book, The Blind Side, College Head Coach Nick Saban flew hundreds of miles to visit star high school American Football player Michael Oher at his home. While trying to persuade Oher to play for Louisina State University, he charmed Oher’s mother by commenting on the material of her curtains.

If technology companies change their mind-set from stop-start to constant and their executive team from hands off to hands on, the competitive rewards are bigger than an NFL team’s payroll.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation: A tech  firm with 100 employees, double-digit growth and the expectation that they’ll need to recruit at least twenty members of staff during the next year.  Now I would prefer every one of these employees to be involved in recruitment but some might call this unrealistic. Let’s just use the senior team of five: the CEO, CTO, COO, VP of Sales and VP of HR. Let’s conservatively say they work 250 days during that year and instead of spending whole days on recruitment they just spend twenty minutes purely on sourcing prospective candidates. Ten minutes on building a relationship with a source, ten minutes on speaking to a referral. They do this every day, without fail.
Over the course of the year they will collectively have spoken to 5,000 prospective candidates and because it was purely through referral their quality is to some extent prequalified. Instead of advertising and scrambling for recruits they have a pool of 5,000.

Most companies will complain that senior executives don’t have time for this. NFL executives are busy too. But there is a quantum leap in effort, professionalism, thoroughness, attention to detail and assessment between technology companies and the NFL.
Most technology companies will continue to recruit B players because recruiting A Players is so damn hard. However, the smart tech companies will see this as opportunity

[1] The NFL is the National Football League, the professional form of American football.
[2] From George Anders book, The Rare Find