Patrick Kelly, CEO of PSS/World Medical, in Jacksonville, Fla., was having trouble finding experienced salespeople for his rapidly growing company. Competitors were fighting hard to keep their best people, and if he lured one away, the ex-employer would likely slap PSS with a lawsuit. Previously, Kelly had good luck hiring recent college graduates, so he decided to pursue that strategy with a vengeance.
Kelly and his two partners, both experienced medical-products sales reps, began visiting local colleges on Career Day. Over time, they refined the profile of their ideal sales candidate. Experience didn't matter. Attitude and behavior did.
The strategy has paid off in a number of ways. Recent grads are mobile, so the company rarely has trouble finding salespeople for a new facility. They don't mind starting with low pay and earning their advancement. Most of all, newbies can be fired up. The company communicates a "reward for hard work" message by rigorously promoting from within, regardless of age or seniority--and by not batting an eyelash when youthful high achievers earn outrageous sums of money. Today, all of PSS's regional vice-presidents are homegrown.