John Kratz Featured

8:00pm EDT September 19, 2006
 If you believe that your greatest assets walk out the door each night, then attracting the right people and providing the benefits to retain them should be part of your corporate mission. Information Control Corp. president and CEO John Kratz says implementing competitive hiring practices costs money, but the investment pays off. His 360-employee, Columbus-based IT consulting and staffing firm had 2005 revenue of $34 million in 2005, and Kratz expects 2006 revenue in excess of $40 million. Smart Business spoke with Kratz about the importance of hiring the right people and how to keep them once you’ve got them.

Adopt a hands-off style.
What I try to do is hire good people, give them the resources they need to do their jobs, and then allow them the freedom and the flexibility to go forward and do it. It’s based on results and meeting objectives.

I worked for a lot of companies in my career where I was reporting to a supervisor, and I felt like I appreciated it and performed much better when a manager allowed me to have some degree of creativity and flexibility in the way I got things done.

That’s opposed to a manager who was constantly asking questions and getting involved in details for which I felt I was responsible.

Don’t settle.
I try to hire people who have demonstrated the ability to function independently and make good decisions. That gives you the flexibility.

If you don’t allow that freedom, you’re limited by the capabilities of the leader. We have more of a leadership team, and so we’re a stronger organization because we have the benefit of those collective talents and energies.

Try to be patient during a job search because good people are never there when you need them. Try to identify people before you’re going to need them through networking — professional organizations, socially, through other business relationships.

File those people in the background somewhere, and when you need them, try to go find them. That’s ideal but you can’t always do that.

Once you begin a search, you have to establish the fact that you’re going to search till you find the right person, and don’t set artificial deadlines to fill positions. That’s typically when you make hiring mistakes, when you say, ‘I’m going to have this job filled by a certain date.’

You end up taking the best candidate but not necessarily the right candidate. We’re a very team-oriented organization, so if you put one bad player in there, that disrupts the continuity of the whole team.

Consider the track record of a potential employee.
I’m looking for people with a history of accomplishment, people who have demonstrated the ability to accomplish things and grow in their previous positions, whether it was academic, business or any other endeavor they’ve pursued.

If they’ve shown the ability to progress and achieve some degree of success on a consistent basis, that is probably the most important thing. Past performance is really the only real predictor you have of future success.

Then you look for other things like communication skills, character and integrity, and the ability to follow up. Those kinds of skills are reflected in their performance.

We don’t think direct experience is as important as the overall sort of qualities. We feel people can learn our business, but if they don’t have the inherent qualities to be successful then it doesn’t make any difference whether they know the business or not.

Surround yourself with good people.
Being a service company, attracting and retaining quality people is by far the most critical factor in success. We advocate a recruiting culture in our company.

We try to encourage everybody to look for good people. If they’re happy, they will find other people who could be valuable members of our team.

We empower everybody to be a recruiter for us, as well as everybody with whom we come in contact. We try to cast that net out as far as we possibly can to look for good people.

We pay competitive salaries and have bonus programs and referral bonus programs for people who help us develop business opportunities and recruit people. We have special-interest groups, networking luncheons, social events where we encourage people to participate and get involved with other people in the company so they feel attached to something.

Think of employee benefits as an investment.
You have to invest in your people and in your mission. If your mission is attracting and retaining good people, you have to be constantly aware that you’re competing for talent, and you have to offer comprehensive programs in order to attract and retain people. It does cost money, but if you take shortcuts, it’ll probably work against you in the long run.

As a company, we tend to be long-term thinkers. We try to make decisions and do things that will have a positive impact in the long-run, even though in the short-run it may be more costly to do it that way.

One of the advantages of being a privately owned company is you’re not that concerned about satisfying the short-term needs of stockholders. You can make good business decisions that are going to be best for your company over the long-run.

Public companies often fall into the trap of having to meet financial targets that might be as short as 90 days. It might be the right decision for that 90-day window, but over a two-, three- or four-year window, it may be a bad business decision.

Hire slowly and fire quickly.
It’s very difficult to terminate a mediocre or underperforming person. You tend to give second, third or fourth chances, and it becomes time-consuming and counterproductive to everybody in the organization, not just you, as well as having a negative impact on your business.

HOW TO REACH: Information Control Corp., (614) 523-3070 or www.iccohio.com