Nancy Ham | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nancy Ham

Background:  

WebPT is a rehab-therapy software solution provider, assisting rehab therapy professionals in their practices.

The Mistake:

I rushed the entire process. I rushed the interview.

I once stepped into a company that was in crisis mode and I needed to get a lot of things done very quickly. Then one of the executives unexpectedly left, so I was in double-down crisis mode. I needed to hire in a hurry. I thought I didn’t have time to hire a recruiter and do a search. That seemed really risky anyway because as much as you interview people and try to check them out, they’re always unknown. I thought that I could both accomplish my goal quickly and de-risk it by hiring someone I knew and really liked.

So, I rushed the entire process. I rushed the interview. I didn’t include the candidate’s team, for example. I was just listening for what I wanted to hear. I just checked the boxes because I already knew that I wanted to hire this person. I went into sale mode with the candidate and normally I don’t do that.

I also rushed over one point that turned out to be particularly important. The individual needed to move for this job and had never moved in her professional career. Because we knew and liked each other, I think we both rushed over the implications of the move. Lastly, I would normally spend a lot of time assuring that this was a good cultural fit with their boss, their peers and their team.  

Ironically, I was very proud that I had solved this problem quickly. I thought I had brought in a high-caliber person that checked all the boxes. But it was not a good result for either one of us. She moved herself and her spouse, with no time or easy mechanism to build a social network.

Neither one of us appreciated the fact that part of her success had been the power of the network she had built up in business over time. Previously, she could reach into her network and quickly hire somebody from a known candidate pool. Now she was in a new city, in a new company, with no network, either socially or professionally. 

Lastly, it just wasn’t a good cultural fit. There are regional differences. Because I was in a rush, we didn’t pay enough attention to the cultural and stylistic difference that was going to result from being from a pretty different region of the country.

I just checked the boxes because I already knew that I wanted to hire this person.

The Lesson:

You can’t be in a hurry. Hiring an executive is really the most crucial thing you do and it's one of the things that you do over and over again in your career, which is why I think it’s really important to learn from your previous mistakes. I don’t care if you know someone or have worked with them before – do a proper, thoughtful search. Be really inclusive. Make sure you give the candidates a chance to do enough diligence on the company, about the move involved and about the new community. I didn’t even fly her to the new community to check it out.

Something that WebPT does really well is screen for culture. None of these things is earth-shattering, but when you’re in a hurry and skip over over a few of them, it doesn’t work out well.

We all know how expensive hiring mistakes are. You see the numbers thrown around from just a hiring and training perspective; it’s easily a third of their first-year salary. When it’s an executive, the cost of a bad hire is so much higher than that. So, it’s a massively expensive mistake and luckily one that I’ve only made once or twice, out of the dozens of people that I’ve hired. But I’m still pained by it.

Follow WebPT on Twitter at @WebPT.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Ham

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