How to Build A Winning Team to Grow Your Company

by / ⠀Startup Advice / February 4, 2011

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Getting the right people and putting them in the right seat dictates your success and ability to scale growth.  Filling staffing gaps by hiring average performers during accelerated growth is a mistake that’s easy to commit, but important to avoid.  A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 36 percent of employers who made a bad hire did so because they needed to quickly fill the open position.  Growth can’t be sustained without a team of A-players, but mastering the world of human resources is often outside the sphere of expertise of an entrepreneur.

In 2005, I learned this the hard way. Employee turnover and disengagement reached a dangerous high at I Love Rewards.  Recruiting, retaining and inspiriting A-players was and continues to be our top priority.  In response, I abandoned the dated practices we were using and built a hiring strategy that’s proved as effective as it is efficient.

Hiring should not be a rash decision, regardless of the urgency to fill a position, especially with costs-per-hire averaging more than $1,000.  How can you attract the cream-of-the-crop and choose the best fit for your company? Borrow from the strategy that helped create demand for I Love Rewards and continues to expand our biggest asset-our employees.

Set bait

SAS has on-site health care and summer camp for kids, Google offers free laundry and a climbing wall, and Zappos employees enjoy free vending machines and a life coach.  Most companies can’t afford these luxuries, but a round of TGIF drinks is a start.  Establishing an enviable corporate culture is a valuable tool in attracting talent.

Reach far and wide with your message.

Post jobs everywhere including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, job boards, and your own website. Make the job function as well as the company’s vision and values easily accessible.

The art of over communication has a secondary function.  It polarizes candidates, or ensures that the people who bite the bait are already passionate about what you do before you spend time on them.  By knowing who you are and putting it out there, you’ll attract like-minded people who share your vision, values, and culture.  Candidates will weed themselves out through self-selection.

Narrow down quickly

Consolidation is vital to saving time and the time spent on hiring adds up to thousands of dollars.  We average between two and four hundred applicants per open position, so making the process time effective is important.  If you have a huge quantity of applicants, which is likely with the unemployment rate hovering around nine percent, invite them to an open house.  Let candidates tour the office, mingle with one another, and participate in five-minute interviews with current employees.

Make current employees part of the process

Invite successful open-house candidates in groups of eight to twelve to a group interview session.  Spend half the time selling your company, because A-players (the top 10 percent of the workplace) will always have a choice and you’ll have to fight for them.  The group interview is all about finding those who stand out in the crowd and watching for people skills.  It serves to differentiate people who are competitive and assertive from those who are aggressive.

Allow the prospective employees to ask questions, then ask about five questions of your own.  We always end this interview by asking a candidate “if you were to be hired, who from the room would you hire next?”  This reveals what characteristics are most important to them.  People who have hard skills and are confident in themselves won’t be threatened to acknowledge other A-players in the room.

Test skills and dig deep

A lot of people fluff resumes and interviews can be inaccurate, so invite the remaining candidates to individual skills tests.  Present them with a relevant case study and see what they deliver.  This allows you to try before you buy and assess technical ability.

Although three interviews per applicant may seem excessive, a grueling process is necessary to find top performers.  We invite the final candidates back for a topgrading interview to learn their story dating back to high school.  Use a set of pre-determined questions and don’t let anyone off the hook.  The TORC (Threat of Reference Check) method pushes applicants to be more honest when answering questions such as what previous managers would identify as their strengths and weaknesses.   Candidates that can speak well about past patterns of success are self-aware and reflective, which will carry over to their role in your organization.

Hire smart or don’t hire at all

The cost of hiring a weak employee exceeds the price for leaving the position vacant.  Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh estimates that his bad hires have cost “well over $100 million”.  Time lost for training, negative impact on employee morale, and decreased productivity are just the tip of the iceberg.  Navigating the sea of prospects is a weighty decision and shouldn’t be yours alone.  Debrief, utilize multiple employees throughout the hiring process, and make sure everyone is on board before you commit to adding a new player to your team.

Razor Suleman is the CEO and founder of I Love Rewards, the leader in employee reward and recognition solutions. I Love Rewards works with North American employers to recruit, retain, and inspire employees, and drive results most important to business success. For more information, visit

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.