Tony Grijalva

In 2001, Tony Grijalva was facing a pivotal decision that could make or break the future of G&A Partners. He could keep trying to build a division that his company had put a lot of time and effort into, or dissolve the model and focus entirely on a plan that he believed could really drive revenue growth. Grijalva, the company’s chairman and CEO since its inception in 1995, decided to go with his instincts. He turned his eye toward becoming a professional employer organization, which provides clients with administrative, human resource and and risk management services. The move paid off. G&A took in an estimated $215 million in revenue in 2006 and has 110 corporate employees. Smart Business spoke with Grijalva about doing the right thing and why work ethic is more important than skills.

Find the right people. Any business is driven by people, and we always try to search, identify and keep good employees. But it takes awhile to refine your internal processes in order to accomplish that.

You always look for the experience, but more than that, we look for certain attributes like personality and work ethic. We feel that the actual job can be taught, but work ethic is a key. They don’t require supervision, they have initiative and they have the drive to do the right thing at all times.

It’s also extremely critical to go around, say hello to people and talk about their daily tasks. Give them the feeling that you care. It can be about work, but it can also be about their feelings and their personal lives.

Look for stability. It’s no longer the old model where someone will stay with the same company for 20 years. You expect people to move around, and you expect people to have a broader experience.

But by the same token, I don’t want to see people that move around every six months or every year. We like to see people with three, four or five years’ experience at various jobs. That tells me that whether it was good or bad, they had the perseverance and dedication to do what they were trained to do.

Follow your heart. I think people are born leaders. But I also think there can be a deliberate effort to do the right thing so that people want to follow.

One of the definitions of leadership is that people want to follow you. The key component is integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. When you have that, people tend to follow your steps. They want to emulate you and they want to listen to you. Some people are born with that quality. Others have to work hard at it.

We live in a capitalistic society, so the traps are always there not to do the right thing. Tell yourself what the principled thing to do is. Keep telling yourself that your principles are important.

At the end of the day, if you are principled, you’re going to prevail. Your enemies are going to respect you for it, and your friends are going to like you even more.