Tell customers how busy you are and how other companies are using your product or service to get new business or make their problems go away. This makes potential customers feel like they need you as well.
—Andrea Wagner, president, Wagner Web Designs, Inc., Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Know the key publications and websites read by your prospective clients and advertise in them. Also, target your own newsletters to the industry where you anticipate having the most clients and provide thought leadership in any articles you write.
—RuthAnne Dreisbach, president, Dreisbach Design, Inc., New York City
My killer interview question is. . .
Opening question: “After our initial phone conversation and your subsequent review of our website, what is your understanding of our current open position and how is your past work experience relevant?” Closing question: “We’re interviewing a number of candidates for this position; please give me a couple of compelling reasons to hire you.” The answers to both questions should align.
—Chris Zawacki, partner, Greenhouse IT, New York City
“What was your most brilliant failure?” The person answering the question needs to describe a situation or an event and provide context or background. What they choose to describe and how they describe it can provide you with information about a person’s mental model, including their attitude about risk and their ability to learn from experience. What do they consider a “failure”? Ideally, they will have had an experience with a “brilliant failure” that they were able to learn from and channel into success. If they get that “deer in the headlights” look on their face, I know to take a pass.
—Maria C. Seddio, president, CorpTalk LLC, Westfield, N.J.
“Tell me your life story in 90 seconds. Ready, go.” The answer allows me to assess organizational skills, poise, salesmanship, etc.
—David Deutsch, president, David N. Deutsch & Company LLC, New York City
My best tip for motivating and retaining employees is . . .
Build your employee compensation plan around incentives. Employees who clearly see what’s in it for them when the company is successful will be much more motivated to go the extra mile.
—Chuck Graziano, president, The Alternative Board Bergen County, N.J.
Create a nurturing environment so that employees feel they have a stake in the success of the company. One of the things we do to create a nurturing environment is offer 100% free training in any discipline our employees wish to explore and free certification exams for technical disciplines. We also do a lot of “fun stuff” like converting our conference room to a game room after hours for videogame competitions, including cooperative games like Rock Band and competitive combat games like Call of Duty. Every Wednesday, we have “Super Wednesdays,” a night of dinner, drinks and general team building and training.
—John Kirsch, director of business development, Valiant Technology, New York City
Give employees the freedom to speak out about how things get done. Adopt their ideas when it makes sense and give them public recognition when their ideas make a positive difference. This feeds the desire for others in the company to get creative.
—Dawn M. Fotopulos, principal, Small Business How 2, New York City
Create visibility at every level. Employees at every level should know their responsibilities are critical pieces to the puzzle of the success that the company strives for. When you have an employee who changes his mentality from “employee” to “owner,” it shows that he knows that what he is doing counts, and the accountability that comes with that is immeasurable.
—Deidre Siegel, president and CEO, PEAR Staffing, Woodbury, N.Y.
The employee whose success surprised me the most was . . .
When a key employee’s job was eliminated due to organizational changes we made, he was given the opportunity to create his own job in the new environment. He just took the bull by the horns and taught himself what he needed to learn and is delivering amazing results on projects he gets involved with. Just as this employee had been productive, creative and a positive impact to our bottom line before the restructuring, he also demonstrated loyalty to the organization and to me as an owner. Loyalty is a two-way street — when you hire the right person, if the job goes away, the person need not. I learned to trust my gut that I had in fact made a great hire seven years ago, and even though this young man didn’t have the résumé we need now, he has the attitude, the ability and the desire to learn and was as excited about working to grow the business as any of us.
—Mardy Sitzer, president, Bumblebee Design & Marketing LLC, New York City
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org