Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore


Planning hiring is a standard part of business planning. But too often we just plug in a standard title and some $$ in the budget and think it is done.
Want to hire the best matches for your needs?
Want to hire people who will succeed and stay?
Top Tips for Smart Hiring

Tip 1. Develop a recruiting plan for new hires – and use it for replacements also. Include these parts for each potential position:

desired attributes, specific skills, attributes to avoid, possible demographics
potential sources of candidates
application and selection process

Commonly we focus on specific technical or professional skills we are seeking and we might add ‘soft skills’ like good communications or ability to maintain confidentiality. But you want to really focus on the ‘whole person’ you need. In defining desired attributes as well as specific skills, you help yourself focus on cultural fit – the attributes needed to succeed in your organization and the position.

You may also want to realize what attributes you want to avoid. “Don’t hire jerks” is a recent push.  Many companies have tolerated jerks if they brought in revenue or were technically brilliant in a core field.

If you want to broaden the creativity of your group, plan for possible retirements, or know you are losing a key person; then you also may want to consider demographics. This is rarely a ‘must have’ but more usually a preference. You might want some maturity in one position and someone with a different industry background for another. I, of course, hope you will also consider hiring a veteran.

Tip 2. Consider potential sources of candidates.

Have your best people come from one or two specific sources?
Do you encourage employees to refer people for your open positions?
Are you working […]

Top Tips for Checking References Successfully

Some executives think that checking references is impossible. “No one will answer honestly” or “All I get is those automated systems” are common complaints. Many admit to not even trying to check references because they assume it will be useless and time wasted.

Yet, references can add significantly to your understanding of whether a candidate will succeed in your organization. And doing reference checks may protect you from problems, turnover, and legal risks.

Sure, you may need to call some people at home if they are unwilling to talk at work. Or you may want to stress that you want to hire the person but need to complete reference checks to do so to get more information.

How do effective reference checks happen?

Tip 1. One of the smartest things you can do is create a reference check format to help guide the conversation. This should include a bit about your culture and vision as well as the most critical elements of the job and of what it takes to succeed in your world.  Basic format:

Who you are and why you are calling.
Say you appreciate their time and that the applicant gave them as a reference.
Start with the easy questions of how the person knows the applicant and for how long.
Check where they worked together and what each did.
Talk about your organization and then ask about any soft skills that are important to succeeding – creativity or dependability or team work or whatever.
Discuss the job basics and ask how the person rates the applicant on the most important ones.
Move on to areas where the applicant could grow further and what it would take for that to happen.
Before you close, ask for anyone else who might be another reference […]

By |December 1st, 2014|hiring|0 Comments