When Philip Verges started NewMarket Technology Inc. in 1997, he traipsed around the country to bring in new clients, but when his office called him one day to tell him it’d be a squeaker to make payroll that month, he was blindsided.
While he’d been doing a good job of attracting new clients, he realized that he had done a poor job of collecting on his receivables. He didn’t understand the balance sheet, and he decided it was time to seek advice from others who did.
Recognizing his weaknesses and finding people who are strong in those areas has helped the chairman and CEO take his company, which delivers systems integration and emerging technology solutions, to $93.1 million in revenue last year.
Smart Business spoke with Verges about how recognizing your weaknesses can help you grow your business.
Q. How does recognizing your weaknesses help your company?
The business’ strengths and weaknesses reflect the entrepreneurial leader’s strengths and weaknesses, so as the entrepreneur overcomes weaknesses, that’s reflected in the organization.
We all have our weaknesses. In North America, we’ve had this culture (develop) where we don’t admit our weaknesses. We hide them. I have a fun game that I play in social settings. In conversations, just for fun, I’ll admit a past problem or issue I had ran into whether it’s parenting, business, management of my own credit card and as soon as one person goes, then the room opens up, and everybody starts rolling out their mistakes and their problems and issues that they have.
Q. What weakness do you have right now?
I have never grown a company from $100 million to $1 billion. While I have some ideas, I need to get other people involved that have that experience from the $100 million stage to $1 billion.
It’s not difficult to identify people that have those experiences. What’s difficult is to identify those people that have those experiences and have the aptitude to be comfortable inside the company that’s just grown to that size.
I’ve been through a couple of great (chief operating officers) very capable, great people, way better resumes than me, but ultimately, they’ve been personally uncomfortable inside of the organization.
Q. How do you know if someone will fit in your organization?
You have a number of different perspectives who are interviewing the individual, but there will be a certain percentage that might get through. There are some people who interview very well but are not good at their jobs.
Even when you find that right person, you need to have a grace period where both the organization and the individual, over that first six months to a year, are still getting to know each other and make sure it’s a great fit and trying to identify any issues early and resolve them and move on quickly.
Q. What helps you have a better chance of bringing in the right person?
When you’re looking for personality fits, one of the practices is to engage the whole person. We like to take our time. We like to meet the person’s family and see them in a social setting with their family.
While someone may be able to put a good face on in the interview process with the board of directors, there are very few people who can maintain the same composure when they’re put in front of their spouse and children. We like to, whether it’s a BBQ or dinner, get to know the person and the environment they live in, and it’s usually very telling on the corporate mask they may put on in the interview process or even in their daily work. We get to meet the person behind the mask when we see them in a more casual environment that brings with them the environment they live in on a daily basis.
Q. Why is that personality match so important to growth?
Key-man businesses often reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the key man. Early-stage businesses frequently pay competitively but are not at the top of the pay scale by industry, so the people are there because they believe in the company.
They believe in the key man, so there has to be a personality fit with who that key man is and with the overall management team that the key man has developed around him.
As it starts to grow, there has to be a recognition of where the company is today and growing from that base forward, as opposed to, ‘Let’s crumple it up and throw it away.’ If you have a management personality conflict and you’re getting the skills that you need but they’re counter to, personalitywise, the existing management team, you run too much of a risk of running a counter impact to what you’re otherwise trying to achieve, which is that next stage growth.
HOW TO REACH: NewMarket Technology Inc., (214) 722-3065, (972) 386-3372 or www.newmarkettechnology.com