Why Great Hires Don’t Always Have the ‘Right’ Background

As most experienced business people will tell you, hiring the right employees is critical to your success. After all, employees are the engine of the company and in many cases, the face of the brand for customers, potential customers, vendors and business associates. But how do you select the right candidates for the job?

Admittedly, there are many different approaches and strategies when it comes to hiring, and plenty of advice on the subject. But the approach we take at my company Saxbys has proven very successful as we’ve grown from a single café in Atlanta to 29 locations across 10 states and more than 400 employees (First tip: we actually call them team members).

The Secret to Hiring Great People

Our strategy – and our competitive advantage – is to be in the people business, not the product business. By doing so, we can focus on finding team members who allow us to compete and excel.

That is, we don’t care if our new hires know anything about coffee (which is our business). I realize this might sound counterintuitive, but to explain: I’ve found that the key to finding great people is having a clear understanding of the characteristics you’re seeking in your next hire. I’m not talking about technical skills or résumé experience, but the specific personality traits of a candidate. Instead of looking for people based on expertise, we focus first on finding candidates who are outgoing, disciplined and detail-oriented (O.D.D.) – meaning they are unique and comfortable in their own skin.

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Saxbys CEO and founder Nick Bayer has always been in the business of bringing people together, whether it’s as one of Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs or as a consummate team captain since Little League. So when he created Saxbys Coffee in 2005, he never really considered it to be a coffee company – instead, it’s a hospitality company fueled by great coffee. Saxbys has since grown from one corner café to a 30-unit, Philadelphia-based hospitality business with a mission: Make Life Better. Nick serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region and has been a Big Brother for eight years. He resides in Center City Philadelphia with his wife and son.

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