“You win in the locker room first then on the field”
I’m sure at some point you have heard that expression in sports. Cliche`as it may seem, I tell you from experience, truer words were never spoken. The same holds true in the sport of business. You win in the office first then in the marketplace. My consulting work with client turned business associate, Chris Parisi, CEO of Turf Dawg USA, reflects this. I began working with him in 2008 as he built his sports footwear accessory from the ground up.
There is nothing more important to the success of any organization or team than the relationship between recruitment and culture. With a startup, the right culture fit sets the tone for everything you do moving forward. How do you ensure the right fit? It is not an exact science and there is an art to selecting the right team members. Parisi has a keen awareness of this. Our work together provides a blueprint.
Five keys to help you shape your startup:
Recruit for work ethic and passion first- experience second. With a start up there is twice as much work to do. You need teammates who can count on one another. Experience in the field can be gained with time. Passion and work ethic typically cannot, so recruit people who bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm to the job. According to Parisi, Our passion is the fuel that sustains us when we encounter obstacles.
Recruit for resilience first- winning second. You cannot afford to recruit people who expect to walk into a situation where they think they will simply win right away. You need trailblazers who are mentally tough enough to venture into the unknown. Parisi explains, The company began with a direct sales model and success was limited. In order to grow revenue our team had to blaze new trails: recruiting retail partners and team dealers as well as partnership with a national charity and its celebrity spokesman.
Recruit for flexibility and agility first-salesmanship second. Only one Turf Dawg employee has a true sales background and sales experience. Isn’t that what got him hired? His background as a versatile football player impressed Parisi more than his success in pharmaceutical sales. Customer development is a commonly misunderstood concept with startups. The traditional sales professional isn’t going to be the right fit 99% of the time. With a start up, employees tend to perform multiple roles until there exists a track record of performance. Then the subsequent role of clarity can accompany it. Unknowns and change dominate the day to day operation. This is something many sales people are not comfortable with.
Script a recruit profile. What does your ideal teammate looks like? The Turf Dawg DNA looks like this: 1 part Magellan (Explorer), 1 part Frank Lloyd Wright (Architect), and 1 part Steve Jobs (Innovator adept at creating niches).
Ask the right questions. This will help you get the right DNA match. For Parisi the following questions are his barometer: How did you attack new problems in a previous job? How have you introduced new products to your customers? What were the steps and why? What would your first step in this position be?
Additionally, every staff needs a shade of grey–as in grey hair. A mentor with wisdom and historical perspective can provide insights. Others lacking that perspective cannot see. A key ingredient in the success of University of Florida football program involves that shade of grey. In 2003 former coach Urban Meyer hired Hiram de Fries, a retired lawyer and oil executive to be the team’s chemistry coach. His job description: to make sure everyone is always on the same page on and off the field. Two National Championships and four conference championships later Meyer indicates that he thinks de Fries was more important to the Gators success than anything else. Clearly aligning vision with values and strong mentoring are mission critical. As you recruit and construct your team be on the lookout for your chemistry coach.
Building a business is a constant struggle but a rewarding one. As a leader you need to focus on the vision while keeping your teammates engaged, motivated, and positive about the immediate future.