Polished performance Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

Larry Gaynor says going to work at his company is like going to a college football game, complete with cheerleaders, a fight song, team colors and a mascot. The president andCEO of The Nailco Group Inc. says the college football atmosphere fosters a team environment.

“Without a team, departments by themselves are viewed as an island,” he says. “But by fostering this type of culture, these departments are really part of one team, and they must work together to get the results we are trying to achieve.”

Every year, the company chooses a new fight song to sing at quarterly meetings, and its mascot, “The Rebel,” helps maintain excitement.

The company, which offers solutions to spas, salons and tanning clients, employs more than 300 people and posted 2006 revenue of approximately $80 million.

Smart Business spoke with Gaynor about how to get honest answers from potential employees and how he shows appreciation for his workers.

Q: How do you handle employee mistakes?

We focus on their strengths and not necessarily their weaknesses. If they make a tactical error, then they learn from it. If they make a silly error, where they are just not thinking, then that is a different category. If they make the tactical error, they learn from it so the next time, they don’t make the same mistake again.

If they make a silly error, that means they are not engaged in what they are doing. If you are not fully engaged in what you are doing, you need to step back and think about what you are doing so, in the future, you don’t make those types of mistakes again.

Q: How do you find quality employees?

It’s what we call ‘fit to role.’ Each person has what we call talent, a skill and knowledge. Honesty and integrity come from the talent side. They are born within you.

Depending on the position, everyone has a different fit to role. So, if the salesperson wants a position and they don’t have that talent to be a successful salesperson, sometimes all the skill and knowledge they acquire isn’t going to make them successful.

If they have the talent and we can give them the additional skill and knowledge required to make them excellent, then that is the right fit to role. When we are interviewing, we look for the fit to role and the raw talent that they have in that fit to role, so we can then give them the proper tools to make them successful.

Q: How do you determine whether candidates are a good fit to a role?

The resume is pretty much a worthless tool because most of them aren’t true. Trial and error doesn’t work, as well. We have very specific questions we ask them, the type of questions where the person really has to know themselves.

Based on their answers, we can tell pretty quickly if they have the talent and core competencies we are looking for at their position. We aren’t 100 percent correct. Nobody can be because the interview process is suspect as it is. Based on our questions we ask them, we are pretty reliable.

Once they get past that phase, we give them a test, a profile test, which they are answering another 100-plus questions, which further delineates their fit to role based on the position. It’s a combination aptitude, English, math, psychology test.

Q: What kinds of questions do you ask in an interview?

One question we might ask is, ‘In the next 90 days, what three things do you want to achieve? What is your vision for the next 12 months? What is your personal mission statement?’ These are the types of questions people really haven’t been asked, generally, in the past.

They might not even know what a personal mission statement is, what their goals and objectives for the next three months are, or what their vision is. So, they have to think. They can’t just bullshit their way through it. The questions we ask are never yes or no answers. They are typically open-ended.

Q: How do you reward employees?

We award a gold star. Each winner each quarter gets a framed certificate, $200 cash and a preferred parking spot. Then, at the annual meeting, we reveal what the gold star is worth because it’s a surprise.

In the past, we’ve put them on a bus, taken them bowling, lunch and then we go to Costco, and they would all have $500 to spend at Costco in an hour and a half. Last year, we gave everyone iPods, docking stations and digital cameras.

HOW TO REACH: The Nailco Group Inc., (248) 347-7700 or www.thenailcogroup.com