Bernie Glieberman Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2007
Bernie Glieberman says hiring someone requires a leap of faith, but there are ways to increase your odds. There are people who have interviewed for so many jobs that they know just what to say, Glieberman says. But he also says that 80 percent of the time, he knows if someone is putting him on during an interview. Glieberman, CEO of Crosswinds Communities Inc., a 200-employee residential building and development company, looks at the candidate’s education, the number of jobs he or she has held to see how often the person moved around, and he also tries to get a feel for the candidate’s character when hiring. Smart Business spoke with Glieberman about how to take risks and how to be a good listener.

Watch your hours. I get in real early in the morning and I leave at 4 p.m. After that, I am not doing any more work.

It’s not that I don’t take phone calls at home to talk to people, but I have a definite cutoff for when I’m leaving the office, except if I have meetings that night.

It benefits the company because some people are nocturnal, but I’m the reverse. I’m great in the morning, but at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., I am not really that good to make decisions anymore, so I need to be gone. When you start at 5 a.m., by 4 p.m., you are at a point where you can’t make the same decisions anymore.

Just because a person puts in a lot of hours, that doesn’t mean a lot to me. It’s what is going into his or her hours. I have found people that can work an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and get way more done than someone who works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Smart people know how to work smart, and you don’t need to worry about their hours. If you start to see them there a long time, you have to start to worry either they have too much responsibility or they just don’t know how to handle it.

Don’t hire your friends or family. It is a great risk, and I’ve seen more bad examples than I have good ones. There is too much emotion involved. It also affects your other employees.

It’s very hard to win when you do that, and it’s very hard for the person coming in. Everybody thinks, ‘He’s related, and he gets special treatment.’ That person never gets treated like the rest of the team.

If they are really good, then you have a problem with people complaining they are taking over their stuff. If they are bad, then you get employees moaning that, ‘I have to do more work because of them.’ There have been a percentage of successes, but it’s a very high-risk thing to do.

Evaluate the upside and downside of risks.

How much upside can this transaction do, and what’s my downside? There should be a ratio. A 1-to-1 risk makes no sense. If you are going into a transaction and you could lose $50,000 or make $50,000, that’s not a good deal.

The risk should be at least 3-to-1. If I could lose it all, how much am I going to make? That’s the kind of thing that you want at least a 3-to-1.

Make time for big decisions. When we have a decision that is a final decision on an action with risk, we make sure we allot time for that. We don’t just have it as part of a business meeting.

Then, the people in the meeting only focus on that, and they aren’t thinking about the next agenda item or the last agenda item and writing down a whole bunch of stuff or where they are going to report. You have to take everything out of your mind and say, ‘Let’s talk about the pros, the cons and the risks, and let’s look at all the data that’s been assembled.’ You put that stuff together and put people in the room that have the skills of the different areas you are looking at. As a leader, I call it a democratic dictatorship.

You listen to everybody, and then you make the final decision. It can’t be a full compromise. Someone has to take all the information, assemble it in his or her mind, and decide, ‘OK, this is the position I think we should take.’

Be a good listener. Make sure that you allow time for your employees to be with you to be able to listen to them, and listen carefully and don’t interrupt them.

A lot of executives are in a hurry, so the employee comes in, has a problem and you cut him or her off half-way through and say, ‘I know that already, and here’s what you do.’ That’s not a good idea, even if you do know the answer. They spent time, and they may have worked themselves up thinking about this, and you went and cut them off.

Don’t fault employees with good intentions. One thing you never do is punish them for something they’ve done where they meant well, and they thought they were doing the right thing. In those cases, never cause them discomfort over what they did but encourage them.

Those kinds of things are important to get them to feel comfortable that they are willing to tell you things that went wrong. They know you are going to encourage them not to do it again, and you aren’t going to yell at them.

If somebody comes to you with bad news and, all of a sudden, you are screaming at them, then that goes back to don’t kill the messenger.

HOW TO REACH: Crosswinds Communities Inc., (248) 615-1313 or