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The Unconventionals….Assessing Team Additions

October 10th, 2013 Comments off

One of the larger challenges of managing the Finance side of the organization, which includes A/P, A/R, Accounting, and in some cases, HR and IT, is the multitude of personality and skill sets needed for each position. In some positions, say in the case of Controller, there is a typically a defined educational or work history that is required.  In other cases, the position may allow some level of latitude in the candidate hire with respect to their work history or absence of certain credentials. I’ve had a number of these hires over the previous companies I’ve worked with and I call them The Unconventionals. Unconventional in the respect that if the sole qualifier was the content of their resume then they probably wouldn’t make it to the interview stage.

With respect to my background, I might have been considered an unconventional hire when I joined MGE since the majority of my experience was in the Retail & Apparel industries and not Technology. I was also going to be tasked with the implementation of the IFRS reporting for the North American operations, for which I had no previous IFRS experience. However, I had an executive team that saw past that and look at other accomplishments and my personality to know that I would get the job done. Not only did the job get done, but we excelled in our continued performance during the 3+ years I was with the company. Perhaps it was this experience that has prompted me to adopt a similar approach in the identification and hiring of candidates.

While working at MGE, I had an opening for a Financial Analyst position. This position would typically call for 2-5 years of experience. However, I was introduced to a potential candidate who really didn’t possess any substantial finance or accounting experience. However, what I recognized was that he was a Marine and had worked with munitions. What I saw was not a candidate, who didn’t have the requisite experience, but someone who had a great work ethic, an attention to detail, and a commitment to team work.  I knew I could bring him up to speed and could trust that he would be a great ambassador internally for the team. In the following years, I hired him into a separate company I had subsequently moved to as a Finance Director, and most recently, he secured his first CFO position with a small action sports company.

While tasked with the turnaround of a small footwear company in San Diego, I had the need to bring in a staff accountant that would also oversee A/P and A/R. I was presented with a number of well qualified candidates. However, the one candidate who had the least amount of experience, with predominantly tax preparation history, was an Olympic level track runner. Knowing the work ethic and dedication required for the athletic endeavor, I knew she was my candidate. Over the subsequent years she not only excelled at that small company of $30 million in revenues, but moved to a larger action-sports company overseeing all accounting for the Canada entities. During this time she also secured her CPA certification and has become the Assistant Controller for an OC-based manufacturer.

At my current company, I had a drastic need to hire a Business Operations Analyst that could support me in the implementation of operating systems, HR functions, and the myriad of other financial reporting I was responsible for. I had a candidate recommended to me, who had previously done some project work for me at DC. On paper, he was green and a recent graduate from UCSB. However, I knew that based on the project work he had done for me that he had a solid work ethic and would likely be a solid team player if given the opportunity. He also had great attention to detail, which was critical since he’d be working quite a bit independently and I couldn’t afford slips in this area. He’s not only done fantastic work, but become a respected member of the Cylance team as a result of his contributions and work ethic.

Ultimately, these candidates have a much higher burden to perform as they have to be willing to go the extra step to earn the respect of the surrounding team. They’re held to the same level of accountability, and if they don’t perform, are also subject to potential dismissal. Although there is a first for everything, and I’m prepared to, I have yet to hire a non-performing candidate I’ve had to dismiss.

While perhaps unconventional, these hires are a direct reflection on me and my ability to deliver on the commitments I have made to the rest of the Executive team or the Board. The hiring of these candidates are a reflection on my department and my effectiveness in assessing candidate potential. When I take this approach, I have to have a comfort that any candidate I’m willing to support will be able to deliver and excel after I’ve brought them up to speed. Not only deliver on my requirements, but also be resourceful enough to potentially support other members of the Executive team. While I do all I can to keep my turnover low and promote internal candidates, there’s nothing more satisfying then seeing these same folks depart into a more prominent position.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael