People parts Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2008

When Clinton Howard founded RBC Life Sciences Inc. in 1991,he was the entire company and did everything himself.

Today, as chairman and CEO of the $27 million nutritional supplement and wellness company, he knows that to move forward in business, you have to hire with the skills to get you there.

“I can’t come to work in the morning and open the door and do all the work,” he says.

“I can’t be very productive, and if we want to grow, we have to have people who I can delegate the jobs [to], who have skills greater than mine in specific areas.”

Smart Business spoke with Howard about how Henry Ford’s words on hiring guide him today and why conducting multiple interviews with a potential employee is critical.

Q. How do you identify which qualities you’re looking for in potential employees?

You bring in people who have skills. Henry Ford said it’s easy to run a big company — all you have to do is hire people who are smarter than you are in each area and get out of the way. If you’re going to grow, you got to have good people. It’s very important.

Honesty has always been No. 1. A person has to have good moral fiber to be able to work with them year after year. You look for honesty, and you look for people who have a positive attitude toward their work and a positive attitude toward their relations with their fellow employees.

Q. How do you gauge these characteristics during an interview?

You can’t just by a conversation because some people who aren’t honest are very skilled at appearing to be very honest. It’s important to know what kind of record a person has in their past employment or school if they’re coming out of college or graduate school.

It’s really important to check their references. A lot of times people don’t bother to check references, but that’s very important because I’m not a psychologist or an expert in sitting across the desk and evaluating a person in my interviewing them.

That would be No. 1, to see how they’ve worked out in their previous activities.

Q. What else do you do to make sure you get the right people?

Besides checking their references, we have multiple interviews. A person doesn’t come with our company and just be interviewed by their future supervisor. They’re interviewed by several executives in the company, and we get together and get everybody’s opinion. That’s important.

Secondly, everybody who comes with us, they’re on a probationary status for a while because it is difficult to really accurately evaluate a person just in an interview. An interview is like a honeymoon — everyone is nice to each other and smiling and positive, but it’s important to know as much as you can possibly know about a person before you actually bring them in to a company.

The better job you do in screening and evaluating, the better success you’re going to have in their productivity. None of us are skilled psychiatrists. None of us are that perceptive of a person’s character and what they will be like when they get on the job, how they’ll relate to the person at the desk next to them, how they’ll work out on the job.

Multiple interviews are good because it gives you the benefit of different viewpoints.

Maybe everybody agrees with the evaluation of the person. That’s great if they do, but I just can’t trust my judgment of a future employee on the basis of an interview. If we are interested in possibly hiring somebody, it will not likely be on the first meeting. It would be after the second or third interview.

I have a lot of respect for the viewpoints of the other supervisors in the company.

Q. How do you work through differing viewpoints about a candidate?

You probably don’t. You probably end up rejecting a potential employee if somebody that you worked with for years sees a real negative that I didn’t see or somebody else didn’t see.

I trust their judgment and their insight. Maybe they asked just the right question that I didn’t ask that revealed some flaw in that person that I didn’t pick up on, or someone else didn’t pick up on. It would need to be pretty much unanimous to bring a person in.

If you bring the wrong person into a company, it can be very destructive — even if it’s only temporary until you straighten out the problem. Good morale is important.

A person who shows undesirable traits can hurt the morale of other fellow employees if they don’t get along with the other fellow employees or they gossip or criticize.

You can’t get in a hurry and just bring in bodies. Hire the very best people you can, and then educate and train them properly.

HOW TO REACH: RBC Life Sciences Inc., (972) 893-4000 or www.rbclifesciences.com