Video Transcript

00:09 Allison Fass:  All right.  Selena, I'd like to start with you.  With seven employees at Heritage Link Brands, you don't yet have a formal HR program or a person heading up HR.  So I'd like to ask you how do you know when it's time to hire someone and then how do you find people to hire and how do you train them?  Take us through the whole process from the beginning.  I know you want to hire ten new sales executives in the next year or so.   

00:34 Selena Cuffe:  Sure.  So for us, it's pretty simple because we, my husband and I still 100% self-finance this business, so there is always a delicate balance between who can we afford to hire versus what we need to hire now.  And within the past 15 months, our points of distribution have gone from roughly about 1,200 to about 4,000.  And in order for us to continue to not only grow, but also to support our existing customer base, we've had to make some very quick decisions about hiring really not only sales management, but on the other end people to be able to analyze the data so that we can react and respond to our customers in a very professional and consistent manner. And so the process really for the first four hires was a networked search of finding the right employees. And in our case, very early on in the life cycle of the business, we got a lot of really great press.  And so we were actually contacted by tons of people to consider for hiring.  And so for us, those first couple of people, it was really about trying to balance what we needed, which was people that had some sense of not necessarily just the wine business, but how the three tiers of distribution work within the wine business. 

02:07 Cuffe: So for those of you who are not necessarily just consumers of the wine, but really want to get into the nitty-gritty details, the way it works is for importers or as producers of wine, by law, the US government requires that you sell to a distributor and then that distributor sells to restaurants and retailers.  And if you mess up just one time, your license is pulled.  So we have to be very, very deliberate about making sure that the compliance is there.  So we really in those first few hires needed just smart people who were passionate about what it was that we were trying to do, which is transforming lives of not only the producers, but also the people that enjoy our wines through the medium of wine. And for us, these smart people were sometimes outside of our budget.  And so what we did in finding those first new hires was we offered the idea that if they did a good job even at a compensation that was probably less competitive than maybe going to work for Bank of America let's say, but we would offer the opportunity for equity in the company, which is what we did. 

03:12 Cuffe: So for the first four employees, they are very well-educated, I mean, from Stanford to Columbia grads who very much could've taken much less risky positions elsewhere, but they also have skin in the game so to speak and the potential to grow with the company in ways that maybe if they went to traditional corporation they wouldn't do. Now for the second three hires, we really did look at what our functional needs were.  And we specifically looked to our network to help us identify people that had the experience, but at the same time were passionate about what we were trying to do.  That passion piece is a major component of who were decide to hire.  And that process was one where not only did we follow up on references and make sure that from a functional perspective they were qualified, but we also do something within our company called ride-alongs where we kind of kick the tires a little bit and before you're formally hired we take you out depending on what your function is to see exactly how you operate when you're on the job.  And some people are all for that.  Other people are absolutely not going to do that until they get paid to do that.  And so that's helped to weed out people.  But those that see the vision of what it is that we're trying to do are much more open to proving that they've got the stuff to be a part of our family.   

04:43 Katie Morgan:  If I could just pick up on a couple of points that Selena mentioned-- 

04:45 Fass:  Sure.   

04:45 Morgan:  You know, that notion of try before you by and the ride-along as you said and the--and internship notion, there are so many, you know, individuals and very talented women and men who are willing to spend some time with, you know, many of your firms to see what it's like and you are able to see not only the skill set, the technical, on-paper yes, this person, this woman, man has what we are looking for, but personality-wise to see if it also fits.  So, you know, that interviewing process, the ride-along, the internship, that is really helpful.  We find, again, whether it's a big corporation of hundreds of thousands of people or, you know, smaller companies of all sizes, being able to get not only that, you know, functional, really kind of quantitative skill set, but also the personality, the culture of your company, what you're looking for, the leadership skills and those qualities, it's really impactful.       

05:43 Morgan: The other point I'd make that you mentioned it also is that network and the ability to have references and referrals from, you know, your own network and building that, constantly recruiting and looking for talent, even if you don't have an opening today or a need, but, you know, Sharon knows she has several hundred openings now, constantly looking for hey, look, what spot, you know, what's around the corner is really effective.  And the referral network from those who you trust and are credible and you, you know, you know their performance will oftentimes breed very, very strong performers as well as opposed to the stack of resumes in this economy that I suspect all of you, you know, could receive as you grow your businesses.   

06:28 Sharon Virst-Mozer:  What we do is we oftentimes recruit a year, a year and a half in advance.  So, for example, we just won a contract for the Department of State that will start up at the end of this year.  And we were recruiting for that 18 months ago.  We have identified nearly most of the folks that we will be bringing on and have been working that.  We had an open house yesterday.  I think we had 180 people show up for a program that we won't start until 2015, coming up with those qualified people, both the managers and supervisors, as well as the clerical staff.  On the clerical side, I mean, it's really difficult to get that right when we're in 100 offices nationwide with people all over the place.  I can't interview them all.  So what we do is we do a lot of testing.  We test for filing skills because these folks are mostly high school graduates, not college-educated, working for, you know, $12 kind of pay.  And we haven't got a lot of leeway in what we can pay them because we're governed by the Department of Labor Service Contract Act and oftentimes by unions.  So we test them for skills on filing, attention to detail, analysis skills, but most importantly something called a can-do attitude.  So you can actually administer tests online to sort of screen the kind of candidates you get to look for fit in the environment that you have or the office that you because I can tell you a hire in Saint Albans, Vermont is completely different than what you would hire in Atlanta, Georgia or in Los Angeles.  I mean, it's just depending on the location and the kind of skills that you need in those environments.