‘Xsell’ing at the top Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

Colleen Haviland attributes her success at Xsell Resources Inc. to her background in human resources.

She says that experience has taught her how to relate to people at all levels of her company, from top to bottom.

“I think I’ve been successful because I’ve been there; I’ve done that,” says Haviland, founder and president of Xsell Resources Inc., an IT recruiting firm. “I’ve worked my way up. I’ve touched on all different aspects within a business, so I think I can relate to the group.”

Haviland grew her company 1,545.2 percent between 2003 and 2006.

Smart Business spoke with Haviland about how to relate to your employees and how to help someone who isn’t meeting their goals.

Q. How do you work with someone who isn’t living up to his or her potential?

We try to give them some time to adjust. We probably know within the first three months that this might not be working out. We try to guide them. We try to tell them, ‘This is what you need to do. This will make you successful. Believe me, I’ve done this. This is what I’ve done for years. This will make you successful.’

Now, whether they choose to listen, or they want to reinvent the wheel — unfortunately, you guide them as much as you can, and when they refuse to listen and take your advice and they’re not succeeding in their way, you just unfortunately have to realize it’s not for them.

Q. What advice would you give a leader to better relate to employees?

I think who we are in work is not who we really are in the real world. If you relate to people like, ‘Listen, I’m a mom, I’m a wife,’ if you relate to them on an outside-of-work level, you can relate to them on an inside work level, as well.

If you come to me — it’s just a job, and if you do your job — you don’t hire anyone to fire them.

Being in the staffing business, we know how hard it is to find good candidates and good employees. So, if you find the good employee, make sure they are happy.

Q. How do you establish a culture where employees can come to you if they are having trouble?

I would hate to lose an employee because they didn’t feel comfortable coming to me, so I let them know that day one — ‘I want you to come to me, and if you don’t feel comfortable coming to me, go to a peer, and then have them come to me if you need a buffer.’

That’s worked well for us. Some people might not think that is realistic. But, we try to take care of problems as soon as they happen or we can see them happening. I’ll call people in and say, ‘Shut the door; let’s talk about it. Is something wrong?’ It’s very open communication.

Q. What can a leader do to retain employees?

You have to realize that their outside life is more important than their work life. Everybody works to have a nice life outside of work.

We all work hard, but, at the same time, we have a lot of working moms here; we have a lot of people that run off to see a sporting event, or they’re gone to go see their kid in a play, or they have to go meet the teacher.

In most of the companies I’ve worked for prior to forming Xsell Resources, it was probably the hardest part in making those decisions of whether I can leave, should I ask to leave early today and it’s going to be a problem and it’s reflected poorly on me as an employee. So we try not to make that issue.

When you are here, you work, and if you need to have some flexibility, we want you to be able to have that flexibility.

Q. How do you deal with failure?

If you get hung up on, ‘Oh my gosh, I messed up, I can’t do this job, I stink, blah blah blah,’ then you are going to feel that way the next day.

You don’t have to make people feel horrible about themselves. You just have to say, if it’s obviously a persistent problem that goes on with a certain individual, ‘This might not be the business for you.’

But, when a big deal falls apart at the eleventh hour, what are you going to do? You just look for the next deal.

HOW TO REACH: Xsell Resources Inc., (215) 706-4500 or www.xsellresources.com