Bound by beliefs

Mike Castellano is like a compass. He knows that to move his company forward, he must first point his employees in the right direction.

At Esse Health — a physicians group with 78 physicians and Castellano as CEO — that alignment comes from shared values. With the company stretched across 28 locations, that common ground is especially important.

“No matter what business you’re in, (your values are) your ideologies,” says Castellano, whose company reported fiscal 2009 revenue of $85.6 million. “That’s the glue that holds people together. You’ve got to get a consistent ideology, because if you don’t, you’re at odds all the time. You are oil and water.”

Using his networks, Castellano starts by recruiting employees who already share his values. He then reinforces those core beliefs so his 410 full-time and 100 part-time employees can focus on moving the company forward.

Smart Business spoke to Castellano about building a value-driven team to achieve your goals.

Network first; recruit second. First and foremost, you have to have an eye for talent. You have to surround yourself with the best and the brightest managers. I look for people that share values with me personally. That’s how I was attracted to the organization.

We can always go out and buy a book of business, spend a lot of money and bring people in through that mechanism. But if they don’t have the same value structure, that’s a short-term proposition.

Conversely, if you recruit people based on values, you can accomplish just about anything because you’re the same kind of person. The challenge is it takes a lot more time to find people because you have to spend a lot more time to get to know them.

Before we even have a position, I am always on the lookout for good talent. You just sit and talk to them. When you’re recruiting somebody for an open position, you’re restricted with some of the questions you can ask. But when you’re not recruiting for a position, you’re just trying to get to know somebody, you can ask whatever you want. So you ask about their background, their family, of course professionally, and then you ask other people that they’ve come in contact with.