Three thumbs up Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008
Kim I. Megonigal knows of three kinds of people: Those who don’t know what’s going on, those who know what’s going on but don’t do anything about it, and those who know what’s going on and actively try to affect the outcomes. At Kimco Staffing Services Inc., an Irvine-based staffing firm, the founder, chairman and CEO uses a diligent hiring philosophy to get buy-in from existing employees while seeking out the best candidates from that third group.

Too many companies skimp in this regard to get a position filled as quickly as possible, he says. And when people are what ultimately make or break a company, a savvy executive would be wise to invest a fair amount of time in the hiring process. Megonigal took his time when assembling his current staff of 165 employees, and the effort has paid off, as Kimco’s annual revenue has risen from $93 million in 2003 to $109 million in 2006.

Smart Business spoke with Megonigal about how to get buy-in from your employees when hiring someone new by applying a simple rule of thumb.

Follow the rule of thumb. Hiring is something that takes time. Most people don’t spend enough time in the hiring process.

I have a rule within my company that no one gets hired without having three senior managers interview the person and give the thumbs up. If any one of those three gives a thumbs down, the person doesn’t get hired.

They’re all three looking for different things in most cases. The person that this person’s going to work for is looking to get their job filled. Two other supervisors who are not in the exact same area can look at different things: character, values and the way they present themselves. Those things are equally important as job skills.

When those other managers in other departments say, ‘This is the person we should hire,’ not only are they giving their stamp of approval, but they’re also putting their own recommendation on the line. I find a much greater commitment from those individuals to try to help that new employee succeed within the organization.

Bring management together. When I was a $15 million company, the company operated significantly different than it does today at $100 million. I said, ‘We’re doing this,’ and man, we went fast. We made quick decisions.

As you get bigger, it becomes tougher to make those decisions. It involves more people.

To foster teamwork, I had to be inclusive with all of our management. I had to share more information on a more regular basis. I had to bring people into the decision-making process.

As we got bigger, a problem experienced by one department was coming from another department, and the two never even spoke about it. They didn’t realize that it was happening, or they didn’t realize, in many cases, that if they only knew about it, they could fix that situation very, very easily.

Our corporate management comes in once a month, and we go around a table and talk about what each one’s doing and challenges and opportunities — just general, open-flowing conversation. Anybody can bring up whatever they want.

As you get bigger and you involve all of these people, you are never going to get 100 percent agreement on everything. There’s a new rule that comes into play: ‘We have to make a decision. You may not agree with it 100 percent, but we need 100 percent of your effort behind that decision.’

Having different managers involved just helps you to create a more supportive organization.

Don’t hide your numbers. We’re a privately held company, but we run the company like we’re public.

We give a report as to what our business results are every month. Are we growing? What are our margins like? How’s our profitability?

When we tell them we have to cut expenses, they understand why. If we’re feeling margin pressures, they understand where the margin pressures are coming from. When we tell them we’ve got to get more efficient, we’ve got to figure out ways to increase productivity, they understand it.

It’s much easier to manage a company when they see the numbers.

Shut the revolving door. As you add more departments and more employees, there are more and more issues.

I had a revolving door, and it was one problem walking in the door after the next, looking for me to solve the problems. It got to the point where I had to say to my executive team, ‘Guys, I can’t do this anymore. You guys are overwhelming me. I need you guys to solve your own problems.’

Don’t provide the answers. The worst thing you can do is provide the answers. The problem is, you become a crutch for you employees.

To get bigger, you have to have a management team that can identify and solve problems.

The biggest mistake that I made as an executive was thinking that I was helping my organization by giving them all the answers. What I’m better at doing today is not giving them the answers. What I am better at doing is telling them when they haven’t gotten far enough to the right solution and sending them back and saying, ‘You need to work on that some more.’

It makes them accept ownership. What you want as a CEO is your employees to feel like they’re owners of the business. You want them to manage the company like they’re owners of the business. The more you can make them think like an owner, the better they’re going to be.

HOW TO REACH: Kimco Staffing Services Inc, (949) 752-6996 or