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How to Lure Top Talent

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Brian Sump Column_0917

When is the last time you went fishing?

As a kid I spent hundreds of hours on the water with my dad and whether we were fishing tournaments or fishing for fun, I learned to appreciate the fact that each day in the boat was uniquely different from the last. We might try a new spot, new tackle or talk about what was new in our lives. Our fish of choice was usually walleye, a delicious freshwater species, but anything was better than getting skunked. And although there were certainly days we caught nothing except a farmer’s tan, the time was always well spent.

If you’ve never been before, then you’ve got to try it at least one time in your life (and I recommend going with someone who knows what they’re doing because it can make a world of difference in the outcome). If you’re one who thinks fishing is boring or pointless, my guess is that you’ve never latched onto something that made your heart pound out of your chest. You know, like the Catfish Hunter in the movie Grumpy Old Men. See, I liken catching a trophy fish to making a spectacular, if not lucky, golf shot––you know the ones that make you come back again and again despite how bad you really are? In fishing vernacular, we call these unusually large fish “lunkers” and hooking one can make you weak in the knees, especially during a tournament. You might have a basket full of average-sized fish or no fish at all, but one lunker on an otherwise slow day can instantly change the outcome of a tournament and seal up a win.

Whether you love it or hate it, the sport of fishing actually closely resembles the art of building a successful business. How you ask?

First, let me take you back to when I was 23 and working in a network marketing company. Millionaires would stand on stage at the national conference and share stories about how they built significant residual incomes while working from home. It wasn’t the right kind of business for me long term but I did learn some valuable things in that phase of life. One example was a memorable phrase I heard over and over from my mentors called "sifting and sorting.” It's a concept that I initially thought was only relevant to the multi-level marketing industry, but I came to realize that sifting and sorting applies to brick-and-mortar businesses as well, especially in an economy where unemployment is hovering around 2 percent. We use this methodology to effectively hire staff in all of our companies and it has been instrumental in our growth. In fact, it is one of the only ways we’ve found to grow rapidly without compromising our culture, our profits and our reputation. Plus I can almost guarantee most of your competitors aren’t doing it well so it will likely give you the leg up you need.

Now let’s use the analogy of fishing to better understand how to place and keep quality employees in your organization (sifting and sorting).

To remain properly staffed with top talent, you always have to have bait in the water––that is, advertisements showcasing to candidates what you have to offer––and you can’t be afraid to use that expensive lure either. Cast often, cast with precision and cast the bait that best matches the fish’s forage supply (Hint: what are they hungry for?). When they take the bait, you set the hook and start reeling. You better have your drag set properly and your hooks sharpened because it may be a while before you get another bite. And I’ll tell you what separates the average fishers from the great ones: Most of us settle for anything that bites, even the bottom feeders, and this will get you into trouble more times that not. They don’t put up much of a fight and most of the time, they taste terrible. Some fishermen land a spectacular catch but they are either too aggressive and break the line, or they let out too much line and the fish spits the lure out. Some latch onto what feels like a state record or a tournament winner only to find out it was just a stick or an old shoe. And a select few actually get to net the fish of a lifetime and put it on the wall to commemorate the event. The truth is, you never know for sure what you’ve got until you get it in the boat but you can implement strategies to increase your odds of success.

Any seasoned fisherman will tell you that you must make a lot of casts into the water over time to catch a trophy fish. And similarly, the most seasoned and successful hiring managers will probably tell you that you must sift and sort through a lot of resumes and perform lots of interviews to find those rare, elite team members who can actually transform your business. It’s time to start revamping your job postings to match the profile of your ideal candidate. Learn more about the habitat where your trophy fish are living. Try some of the lures that have been sitting in the bottom of your tackle box, or better yet, go buy some new, better-smelling bait. Be strategic in where you cast the bait and be ready to set the hook when they bite. In the next two articles, I will share some specifics about the processes we’ve used to build and retain teams that are responsible for generating multi-million dollar revenues. In the meantime, happy fishing and good luck!

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