Chris Tjotjos occasionally asks himself, “Am I valuable to the organization?” It may seem like an odd question for the founder, president and CEO of LOGOS Communications Inc. to ask, but Tjotjos says he does it to reinforce his commitment to lifelong learning.
LOGOS, a provider of IT network communication solutions, posted $22.5 million in 2007 revenue and exceeded $30 million for 2008.
Smart Business spoke with Tjotjos about balancing your place in the organization and how playing golf with potential employees can help you find “A” players.
Q. How do you assemble a good management team?
It’s got to start with finding ‘A’ players. ‘A’ players attract ‘A’ players. If you don’t have the right members in place, it’s hard to put the team together.
We try to have a rigorous recruitment process. We’ve been blamed for taking too long to make a decision, but it’s really hard to tell if somebody is great or not in one or two interviews. Sometimes it takes three or four.
Plato said you can learn more about a person in a day at play than a year at work. We’ve taken that to another level. We might take someone out to dinner. If the opportunity comes up, we might even take them on a round of golf.
That way, you can see how that person acts when he hits a bad shot. Does he bump the ball when no ones looking? Does he cheat and prop it up? Is he cordial about this or that? Is he aware of the other person [or] if he’s walking in their line? These are things you can’t get out of an interview, but you can get from a day at play.
Someone can hold an interview for an hour, then you hire them and you say, ‘Gosh, I didn’t notice they did this,’ or ‘They really annoy me about that,’ and if they annoy you, they’re probably going to annoy your customers.
Q. How do you know if an interviewee is the right fit?
We can’t play with everyone. It has to be the right timing and the right role. Plus, not everybody golfs, and we haven’t taken anyone bowling yet.
So you really have to see in the interview. Is it one of those where you set it up for an hour, and after the hour, you don’t want to stop talking to the person? Or is it one of those where you set it up for an hour, and 20 minutes into it, you want it to end?
There’s just something not there — they’re not energizing you at all. They’re not giving you any new ideas. They haven’t read anything recently that changed their thinking; they’re just the same kind of person they were 10 or 20 years ago.
So I listen to see what they are reading, what new ideas they are putting in their heads. Because if you’re not a student of lifelong learning, you’re probably not going to be that exciting and energizing to me.
Q. Once you’ve got employees in place, what is the next step?
The next step is making sure they are all on the same page as the goals of the company. If you can do that and get them to buy in, you’re on your way to being able to accomplish that.
A lot of times you ask somebody, ‘What’s the vision of the company; what’s the mission statement?’ And you’ll get eight different answers. So you have to start with what you are in business for. Is it to make profits; is it to take care of the customers? You have to all be on the same page, or you have eight different people going in different ways.
Q. How do you keep everyone on the same page?
One way we do it is communicating often. You can start with a goal in mind, but if you don’t keep going back and checking where you’re at and making sure you still have the same vision — things haven’t changed — people start to go off-plan.
In a great football team, you can only run so many plays without a huddle. We try to have short meetings often [to] make sure we’ve got the same strategy. You can plan the whole week for a team, and then they come out and throw a new quarterback at you.
So you can have these elaborate plans, but once you get in the field, things change.
Q. How do you adapt to change?
As a leader, you always want people to follow, but sometimes you can let them lead, as well. You don’t want to pull. If you have to pull too often, you’re going to get tired, and they’re going to get tired because they’re going to be resisting it.
If you have the right team around you, they’re going to want to do it. You tell them, ‘This is the goal; this is the way we’re going to get there.’
All you should do as a leader is tweaks. If you have to do more than that, you’re not really a leader. You’re just gestapo.
HOW TO REACH: LOGOS Communications Inc., (440) 871-0777 or www.logosinc.com