Businesses Aim for Talent with Personalized Benefits

Boston Business Journal
April 11-17, 2008

When Jeremy Brandt decided to launch 1-800-CashOffer in 2006, he knew he needed Fortune 500 talent to run with the vision.

With little more than the success of his last startup and a notion to use marketing savvy and technology tools to connect home sellers with residential real estate investors. Brandt attracted a heavy hitter: Dev Horn.

Horn is one of the founders of Verizon SuperPages, a business that now gene rates more than $250 million a year and has served as an executive at several other fast-growth public and private companies.

Brandt said that as a smaller company, 1-800-CashOffer would never have been able to afford Horn’s salary, but by offering equity profit sharing and a strong corporate vision, the company was able to lure him aboard in October 2006.

“The company would not be where it. is today without him.” said Brandt, CEO of Texas-based 1 -800-CashOffer,

The company is launching a Boston office in April and will use the same strategies to attract new executive talent to its ranks.

“Very good executives are looking for something they can be passionate about. They want to be a part of something big and not just a 9-to-5 ‘job,'” Brandt said. “Most experienced executives have a plethora of options available to them. As a business owner, you must be able to sell potential hires on why your company is or will be the best.”

What Brandt proved was that smaller companies can offer executives several advantages over larger organizations. At the C-level, the opportunity to align your leadership philosophy, vision, mission and values with an organization is a particularly attractive proposition, according to Peter Polachi a partner at Polachi & Co. Inc., a Framingham-based executive search firm.

“Small companies must first understand why their employees enjoy working for them. Money is often not the top reason they are there,” Palaclu said.

“There are usually at least a few benefits offered, that your bigger competitors do not have.

These benefits can include more opportunity for career growth, decision-making processes with fewer levels of approval, less paperwork, reduced infrastructure and opportunities for more social bonding, Polachi said. Other benefits may be stability, unique products and services, or flexible schedules.

Once you have determined your company’s unique value proposition, the next step is to communicate it with employees, said David Sanford, executive vice president at Winter, Wyman & Co., a staffing firm in Boston. Everyone at the company, he continued, should have a similar “elevator speech about the firm that sends a unified message during interviews and public communications.

Of course, recruiting is just one part of the process. Retention also is important, and the en vogue strategies for small companies go beyond money, health care benefits and vacation time, recruiters said. As with recruiting, small businesses can take a more personalized approach to retention by surveying the employee base, Sanford said.

“Baby boomers may want retirement planning assistance. Those in midcareer may be looking for training opportunities. Parents of young children may request flexible work schedules. Others may want the company to support community service initiatives,” Sanford said. “Create an environment where it is comfortable for employees to tell you what will keep them happy — and at your company.”

As Randy Whitcroft sees it, small companies need to step back and take a look at the big picture before expending effort to develop recruiting and retention strategies to woo Fortune 1000 executives. Specifically, he said, smaller companies need to determine if hiring a big gun is actually the right thing to do.

“Executives that may have done exceptionally well in a larger corporate environment, with layers of support and infrastructure, may crash and burn in smaller, fast growing companies, said Whitcroft, a director of the sales leadership practice at Peak Sales Recruiting, a Toronto-based recruiting firm that has placed several positions at Boston area tech companies. “These kind of mistakes can be fatal, especially for smaller companies.”

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