Recruiting through Mutual Respect

January 21, 2007

Case categories include: Human Resources   

By Robert Sher
Nearly everyone in the Valley is struggling right now to recruit top talent.  Rather than hire recruiters and dive into a bidding war, CEO Eric Scheible of ProCM (a Scheible-Rassieur company), solved his hiring needs by reaching into his past.

Being self-funded and making a shift from a software consulting company to a product-based company, he needed maximum efficiency with every payroll dollar.  A team of 20 power hitters would do the trick.  He could have tried to build it offshore to save money.  He could have hired young bucks that would work 24/7 and throw their entire lives at the project.  But he didn’t.

Know what you need
He decided to make his own “dream team” – a collection of people he’d worked with over the years that he knew were top notch.  Over the past 27 years, Mr. Scheible, 50, has worked at Hewlett Packard, Tandem Computers, Informix and Siebel Systems.  He dug deeply and deliberately into his network.

He looked for:
• People that he had personally worked with and respected.  This instantly cuts through the fog of interviewing:  those that interview better than they perform, as well as those that perform so much better than they interview.  This meant no babysitting.  Once they understood their role, they’d be off and running.
• People that he felt really respected him and his leadership.  While money is important, being a part of a team that you enjoy with a leader you like trumps pay nearly every time.
• People that loved to rally behind a worthy goal.   Mr. Scheible had a software product that solved much of the pain created by SOX and a market window that wouldn’t stay open forever.
• People that were mature enough to have a balanced life who could make a long-term decision to join the team and stick with it.  This meant that his team had a lot of grey hair, supposedly “past their prime,” but which he considered an asset.  It is alluring to hire a person whose only focus is work and neglects the other important areas of life.  But it often leads to burnout and instability at the worst time.  People who have a balanced life usually have the permission of those around them to “go work crazy” for brief periods when it is required. 
• People that lived locally, and would work in the same office like an old-fashioned team.  This meant that no turmoil from uprooted families would distract his team.
• People that were growing tired of being highly specialized in a larger organization and would like to have a greater breadth of responsibilities.
• People with enough money in the bank to be able to accept a below market salary.  Offsetting the lower salary was a piece of the action and a great working environment.

The power of your past
As Mr. Scheible started to network, he found that he had spent too long with his head down running his company, and struggled to find many of his old connections.  Luckily, a few in his network had continued to invest time in maintaining their links and they helped him connect to all the parties.  The dream team was soon put to the test. 

A prospective customer that would make an incredible reference account reviewed their product on a Thursday, and identified some modifications that would be critical for their needs.  A follow-up meeting with the CIO was set for the following Monday.  The team dove into the modifications, completing in three days what should have taken three weeks.  Monday’s meeting was a success.

Having a veteran team does have its challenges.  Older professionals can be set in their ways.  It takes a strong leader with a firm hand on the wheel and good interpersonal skills to keep them all on the same path.   Often they have a tendency to stick with what they’ve done in the past, and at times need to be pushed into uncomfortable territory.  More accomplishments in their past also means that their ego is more developed.  That can mean over-confidence.

Mr. Scheible’s technique isn’t just applicable to new projects.  It’s an important tool to use, especially in a tight labor market.  The most important note is to never – and I mean never – be too busy to keep track of the people you know that you respect and would like to work with again in the future.  Whether they bring you on board, or vice versa, staying connected with these people is crucial, and damage to your network can be hard if not impossible to repair on short notice when you need it most.

Also never make broad assumptions about categories of people and discount them as potential team members.  In the case of ProCM, the societal bias against people who are “too old” has worked nicely in his favor.

Takeaways:
• Spend time keeping your network healthy, and include all the people you respect from past workplaces
• Hiring people you know and respect is a great technique, regardless of age.
• At each place you work, leaving behind a legacy of respect and admiration will help you recruit a great team down the road.

Robert Sher is principal of CEO to CEO, specializing in assisting CEOs and business leaders as they navigate critical passages.  He is the author of The Feel of the Deal; How I Built a Business through Acquisitions.  He may be reached at Robert@ceotoceo.biz.

Company and Case Facts:

Company: Scheible Rassieur, Inc.
Person: Eric Scheible, CEO
Alliance Member since: 2006
Business Founded: 2000
Annual Sales Volume: $1.5 million in 2006
Head Count: 15
Service: Software services and SOX automation software
Typical Customer: Public companies who must comply with SOX
Written: January, 2007
Address: Scheible Rassieur, Inc., 1550 The Alameda, Suite 206, San Jose, CA 95126
Website: www.procm.com
Phone: 408-286-8885