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.

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