Reputation is everything to A. Steven Raab. And as chairman and CEO of The InSource Group, he relies on the reputation of his $30 million IT staffing company to draw in not just prospective clients but also prospective employees.
“Being in the business we’re in, people, in reality, are just about everything,” Raab says. “It’s always been about bringing the right people, attracting people and, more importantly, keeping them here once you get them in here.”
Smart Business spoke with Raab about how to build a great reputation for your business and how to use that to attract the best people.
Q. How do you create a solid business reputation?
You want to have the kind of culture that people are proud to work for. That starts with company values. When we started this business, my colleagues and I wanted to make sure that, if nothing else, our business always had a reputation of doing the right thing. Have a strong set of company values and an ethical basis for how you do things — the way you make decisions, the way you treat people, the way you treat customers. All of us want to be proud of who we work for — hopefully on the worst and really crappy day, they go home and say, ‘Truth be known, I’m really glad I work for those guys.’
Q. How do you communicate those values to employees?
They’re published, they’re on their desk, and they understand that we’re serious about those values. It’s being clear as to what criteria you expect them to use in making decisions.
We talk about [how] a basis for making a decision has to be on doing the right thing. We won’t be critical of anybody who makes a decision based on what they thought was right. When people start making decisions on how much it’s going to cost or how much it’s going to hurt — they know that’s not an acceptable reason to make a decision.
The other thing that’s important is that they see you making your decisions based on those same values and criteria. It’s trite to say, ‘Walk the walk instead of talk the talk,’ but people are about, ‘Do as I do, not as I say.’ They have to see you behaving in the way you expect them to behave, and it becomes clearer what kind of company you represent and how you want them to represent you and make decisions.
Q. How do these values influence how you hire?
Bring in people who have a reputation. Take people through multiple interviews and have multiple people talk to them, and you do the best you can to collect their experiences and behaviors. You can’t see character. You use your best judgment and ask questions that will help you gauge where their values lie.
Some of it has to do with how people look at you. You may not be able to do it as well on the phone [rather] than if you were sitting eyeball to eyeball across the table from somebody. See how squarely they look you in the eye, how quickly they answer a question and if they are searching for words that make you think they’re making it up.
I like to ask people to tell me about their worst and best experiences in business. It helps give me a sense of what they don’t like and the things they are very pleased about — do they have to do with money, their sense of pride, things that enhance their reputation? What are the things that disappointed them? Someone didn’t tell them the truth? Someone didn’t back up what they needed to take care of a customer? Those questions help you get a picture.
Talk to people about their hobbies and what they like to do. People who are involved in other things besides themselves is an indicator. People don’t have time to be working in nonprofits; you understand that, but do they coach teams, do they participate in their church — things that show they’re outward-looking and not inward-looking.
Q. How do employees’ opinions impact the hiring?
We’ll have them talk to some of our people because we want them to get to know us and what’s expected and how our people feel about our organization as much as we want to know about them. We want them to come to work not because it was the job that they could get but because of the opportunities they looked at, this was the best fit for them.
Our people’s interviews are important. If our people tell us that there’s something about a prospective employee that they don’t know about, we’ll look long and hard at their comment, and if there’s not a way to put it to bed, we won’t hire them.
These guys are out in the field every day, and as much as we like to think we’re enlightened managers, they know more about what’s going on out there than we do. Their input is valid.
Don’t ask anybody for their opinion if you’re not going to pay attention to it.
Appeared in Smart Business Dallas | March 2009
HOW TO REACH: The InSource Group, (972) 881-1313 or www.insourcegroup.com