If Jacob Beckel has the opportunity to bring in talent to help AnazaoHealth Corp. do its job more effectively, he’s going to do it.
“I always ask my team, ‘If you’re a professional basketball team and you’re the coach and you have an opportunity to pick Michael Jordan, are you going to pick him or are you going to play in that spot?’” says the founder, chairman and CEO. “The question is, ‘Do you want to win or not?’ If the response is, ‘No, I just want to play,’ OK, then you’re not going to be a world championship team.”
The lesson is hard to grasp for leaders who feel easily threatened by others with unique abilities.
“That A player brings people that can potentially be A players up to the A level,” Beckel says. “The question is, ‘How do you attract them?’”
Beckel needs strong players who can help AnazaoHealth in its mission, which is to create better ways for medication to help people. The 140-employee company took in $30 million in 2008.
Smart Business spoke with Beckel about how to find talent and use it effectively.
Bring in the best. I grew up in northern Minnesota. There was a football coach named Bud Grant who coached the Vikings and almost every year they’d have a winning season, and the question they always asked Bud Grant was, ‘What is your philosophy on picking players?’ His theory was, ‘I’ll pick the best player available.’ He might have five linebackers and the next guy in the draft was a linebacker and he’d pick him. And they’d go, ‘You don’t need a linebacker.’ And he’d say, ‘I don’t today, but he was the best person available.’ And sure enough, six months later in the season, someone would go down or he would trade that linebacker for a tight end or somebody. It would always look like, ‘How did he know to do that?’
People will come to me looking for a job and I’ll say, ‘You know, I really don’t have that opening,’ but I knew the guy or girl was a really good team member and I would hire them in a different position, knowing they would eventually end up in a position I needed them in.
Find the A player first. When Tony Dungy built his whole defense around Warren Sapp, that’s basically what I have done. I found that one key person. He came in as chief operating officer, but now is the president and chief operating officer, and he had skill sets that I did not have at all.
We built the team around his skill set. I had not done that in prior companies properly. First of all, they have the skill set, but No. 2, they are morally and ethically on the same page with you.
A company prior, I had a guy with the skill set, but he was morally and ethically bankrupt, and ultimately, that absolutely destroys a company when times go bad, and it did. That was my mistake. I blame no one but myself for that. That hire was the key hire.
Mold your team. What I’ve tried to do is sit down with the individual as they come in and say, ‘This is the vision for the company. It’s not lip service. This is really where we want to go and what we want to do.’
Probably in this job market, that new employee just wants a job and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll play the game.’ That will be the toughest thing to discern. Is that employee genuine or not? Are they just on the team because they need a job or do they really buy in to what that job is? Time will really tell.
You don’t know until you see the interplay of the team how someone is going to work out. You have to hire for the talent, but long term, you keep them because they buy in to the vision and the goals and they fit on the team.
Support your team. There have been decisions by the team that have been made that I’ve gone along with when I thought it was probably not the best decision at the time. And it has sometimes turned out that I probably should have steered it in a slightly different way.
But the flip side is when the senior management team buys in to a decision, everybody starts rowing in that direction. The team going in the same direction is more important than getting the exact nuance of what I may have thought would have been the best way to get there. That has happened numerous times.
You have to let the team learn. Sometimes they can make a wrong decision and it’s not going to damage the company too much and you say, ‘All right, let’s see where that goes.’ If it would have really been an important thing, you would have said, ‘No, we’re not going there.’
Learn to hold back. Early in the game, I would put too much input into the team. This was four years ago. They would say, ‘OK, Jake wants to go in this direction; we have to do that.’ I had to learn to back out of putting my decisions on the table until the very end. I pretty much let the team decide now what’s going on.
I will add input because occasionally there are some pieces either from past experience that I’ve had that they didn’t know or they didn’t have anyone else on the team that could put those couple of pieces in.
When we’re doing an acquisition, because I’ve done a lot of them personally, there are some skill sets that I have that no one else on the table really has. Do you understand this could be a potential issue or this could be a potential regulatory issue or this could be something else? But I really don’t want to skew the input unless it’s going in a really crazy direction that isn’t going anywhere good for anybody.
I tend to sit back and let the interplay of the team members decide the direction. They come up with some great solutions.
How to reach: AnazaoHealth Corp., (800) 995-4363 or www.anazaohealth.com