Just once has Maryles Casto hired someone on her own and she’ll never do it again. Casto, founder, chairman and CEO of Casto Travel Inc., has long trusted others in her 200-employee, full-service travel management firm to help her hire. But when she found a young woman who embodied the many things she thought she wanted in an employee a graduate degree and a shining resume Casto ignored those who said she wouldn’t fit in and hired her anyway. After just six months, she realized she couldn’t ignore how poorly the woman blended in with the culture and had to make a change. Lessons like that have helped Casto learn that success is a result of the culture at her travel company, which had 2007 revenue of about $150 million, and that comes directly from who she hires.
Smart Business spoke with Casto about why you have to hire first and then grow, and how consistent kindness keeps employees happy.
Take the time to hire right. The most important thing you can do for your company is bring in the right team, and you have to make the time. If I’m interviewing someone, I won’t just slot 10 minutes, I will slot probably an hour and a half.
I walk them around, I introduce them to everybody, and I’m watching how they interact. You’re watching them, and they’re also watching you.
I want them to interview me. I want them to know that this is going to be their home and take the time to get to know the company. It takes awhile, but how much you put in is what you get out of it.
You need to feel that you belong in the company, and it takes a little while for both parties to really feel that blend. Very rarely have we made a mistake. Sometimes it will take two months before we will hire somebody, but we make sure that we interview everybody, and they come back a few times.
One person told me, ‘I’ve never been interviewed this way,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re getting to interview us, as well.’
If you can’t take the time to interview the person that is joining your firm and is going to be part of the future, then you’re not worth working for.
Slow growth to meet quality. I was here when the valley was just exploding and had to make a very quick choice that I wanted to be part of the explosion. I had a very small window, so I started hiring people just to fill bodies because of the growth.
That was a big mistake because I couldn’t service the explosive growth and finally had to say, ‘No more business.’ I had to stop growing until I could refocus and get the right people because I wasn’t taking the time and effort in interviewing and hiring, I was just hiring.
I learned I can’t do that not if what I say is that quality is important, and we’re the best at this and that. I learned that if you say you are going to do something the right way, stick with it.
Be consistently kind. The most important thing in leadership is ethics and kindness. You have to be kind to everybody and communicate with them. It’s not when we’re doing well, it’s when something happens to employees that we really show we are a different company by taking care of them and that builds loyalty.
You show your kindness in how you deal with people daily, and people respect that and respond to it. It’s not one day you are this and the other day you are not; that confuses people, and it’s very hard on them.
But if you consistently make your decisions with compassion, people understand that. They trust that you’ll guide this company, and that this company is the most important thing, and then you get them to buy in.
Make your word count. If you have to choose between integrity and the easiest way to do something, you have to really look at it and say, ‘How should we be doing this based on who we are?’
My father used to always say, ‘Your word is your honor,’ and I really believe that. If I give my word, that’s the way it should be, and you can’t do anything otherwise. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and you have to do what you feel is right.
If you take pride in what your name is, you take pride in what you do. That should be your guideline.
Let employees leave with dignity. I’ve had to let people go, and I make sure I personally do it because it has to be done in a way that takes into consideration who they are and what they’ve done for the company. I make them understand that it’s not about them, it had to be done.
Help them in any other way you can in trying to secure another job or giving them a good recommendation. Don’t just cut them off because they left.
After they’ve gone, I’ve called and said, ‘How are you doing, and what can I do to help you?’ I’ve had people who left and who are still really good friends and have called us and come back and visit.
HOW TO REACH: Casto Travel Inc., (800) 832-3445 or www.casto.com