Building a Winning Business – Onboarding New Employees

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookAs anyone who has ever had an awkward first date knows, first impressions matter. Likewise, the amount of effort you put into effectively bringing someone new into your organization plays a significant role in whether or not he becomes a long-term employee.

  • At Intertech, we send a floral arrangement to a new employee’s home upon acceptance of our offer, with a note of welcome. The week before he starts, we send an e-mail explaining what to expect the first week
  •  Beyond the obvious orientation activities—lunch, HR forms, and meeting other employees—set the tone quickly by telling the new person about your company’s history, particularly through anecdotes and personal observations. This can be more challenging at large and long-established corporations, but even in those organizations mentors can tell new employees about their own relevant work experiences to make the culture come alive.
  • At Intertech, instead of a PowerPoint deck that talks about our history, I take the new hire around town to see the company’s milestones (such as the 800-square-foot house where our firm was hatched in my early 20s). Before or after our driving history tour, I talk about the company’s strategic plan, where we’re headed, our communications guidelines, and, most important, how the employee fits into our future.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “You only get one chance to make a first impression. Take the time and care to communicate with new employees, letting them know you’re confident that they quickly will become valued members of your team.”

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Thoughts since the Book

  • For some strategic hires, I’ve created an onboarding document that outlines our org chart, a breakdown of their team, key meetings, core responsibilities, logins/access to sites and systems.  This document was sent prior to the first day and made for a rapid transition.

Building a Winning Business – The Job Offer

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookWhen negotiating an offer, clarity and a deadline are essential. In negotiating, the person with the least amount of interest has the most power. When you’ve presented your offer, don’t hound the candidate. It makes you seem desperate. If the candidate starts making hefty demands, think hard about whether this person will fit in your organization over the long term. If you agree to bonuses and other perks, make sure the person understands what you expect in return.




  • If you require employees to sign a non-compete agreement, remember that you must disclose that at the same time you make the offer. Conversely, if you decide to pass on a candidate, succinctly thank the person for his time and frame the rejection letter correctly by stating, “At this time, given our interview process, we are choosing to proceed with other candidates.” This makes the rejection clean and gives the candidate no opening to try to change your mind.
  • Finally, put an expiration date on the offer. Give the candidate a reasonable amount of time to make a decision, but for everyone’s sake, provide a definite end date on the offer consideration period.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Once you’ve presented a fair offer with a clear deadline attached, give the candidate a reasonable amount of time to make the decision.”

Thoughts Since the Book:

  • Like a business deal or personal purchase, with a high-end candidate, know your “walk away number”

Building a Winning Business – Negotiating a Job Offer

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookWhen you’ve found a top-performing candidate whose skills, personality, and values fit with your organization, it’s time to negotiate an offer. I believe in the guidance given in the book ‘First, Break All the Rules,’ which advises that people be treated candidly.

  • When talking with a serious candidate, find out what’s most important to him by asking up front—is it time off, telecommuting, money, or something else? Take that into consideration when you make your offer.
  • Of course, there are no guarantees that candor will result in a happily-ever-after scenario. We’ve had experienced executives demand significant pay, bonus, and benefit packages. In some cases, we’ve agreed. In a few of those cases, we later let them go. There is no entitlement. If someone demands a lot, a lot should be expected of him. If he doesn’t deliver what he promised, then he needs to be let go.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Understand what a potential employee values before making an offer. If someone expects a lot, you should expect a lot in return.”

Thoughts Since the Book

  • While the example in the book is of a couple of candidates demanding a lot and not delivering, in the past couple of years, we’ve had employees with very solid compensation packages and deliver a ton of value for the firm.
  • Enough people value being able to do some work from home (WFH), that we’ve baked it into our SOP.  Whether it’s the flexibility to WFH or our sabbatical program, these types of benefits are hard for a much larger firm to match when a candidate is comparing offers (i.e. if these types work-life-balance benefits are not in place at a Fortune 1000 company, the odds of the large firm being able to quickly change their policies to match what we can offer is low).

Building a Winning Business – Only Hire Top Performers

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookMaybe this sounds like a tall order (especially if times are good and great employees are hard to find). Regardless of the business climate, making a commitment to hire only top performers is a strategy worth pursuing. It’s the only way to ensure that you can deliver the best service or product to your customers—and the only way I know to stay competitive, especially in an age of global outsourcing.





If you think you can get by with mediocre employees, you’ll soon see your profit margins eroding, since the only way you’ll be able to compete is to lower prices.

  • It pays to be picky. By this I mean, only hire people you rate a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In my industry, the data state that a top programmer will produce eight times more work than an average or poor performer!
  • Great performers are rarely unemployed or desperate for work. For this reason, it’s important to build a virtual bench of possible candidates who are exceptional at their jobs but who are happy in their current positions. Eventually things may change and they will be interested in finding a new position. Conversely, if a top performer leaves your organization on good terms and later wants to return, don’t hesitate to take him back. This sends a powerful message to everyone about your company being a great place to work.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Although it takes time and patience on the front end to find and recruit top performers, you’ll get this investment back with hefty dividends over time.”

Thoughts Since the Book

  • Without a doubt, this takeaway–along with daily huddles–are on the short list when people ask me which of the 70 takeaways to first implement.
  • Given a great plan or a great team, eight days a week, I’d choose the latter.  Great people are the difference.

Building a Winning Business – Bias in Hiring


Building A Winning Business — Section: Hiring

To improve your interviews with job candidates, be aware of your own biases and the tendency to make snap judgments. Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book Blink, chronicles the human tendency to make huge decisions in the “blink of an eye” based on a person’s appearance, the color of her eyes, or whether he reminds us of someone else.





  • Most of us don’t even realize we make decisions about others based on such shallow “information,” which is why we need systems to override our very human tendency to size someone up unconsciously and subjectively.
  • Here’s a tip for keeping biases in check. Make a note of your initial impressions and then set that aside. Try to keep your mind open as you learn more about the potential candidate and be willing to alter your original impression. Your goal should be to keep your initial impressions from outweighing other evidence about the person gleaned from a rigorous hiring process.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “It’s human nature to size someone up in the ‘blink of an eye,’ but savvy hiring managers consciously set their initial impressions aside and take the time to assess a candidate thoroughly before making a decision.”

Thoughts Since the Book

An in depth, five to 10 step, gated process with many people involved in the interview helps eliminate any one person’s bias.

Today, we also look for bias in the candidate.  A previous candidate was interviewing with one of our teams.  During the interview, he didn’t look at or address a female employee.  Clearly, we chose not proceed with this candidate.