Laura Zander and Joey Price Talk About Fitting Employees Into A Company Culture

Date: December 3, 2013

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Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2.  Talent Talk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  Talent Talk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and company culture.

Today’s guests are Laura Zander, CEO, Jimmy Beans Wool and Joey Price, CEO, Jumpstart:HR.

Today’s guests highlight the diversity in the American entrepreneur journey.  Zander, who is decisive by nature, jumped into a new business in a new state without prior training. For Price, his company was a methodical outcome of a career in HR and of observing consistent HR pitfalls among companies of all sizes.

LAURA ZANDER laura zander

Equipped with criminal justice and political science degrees, Zander transitioned to become a computer programmer during the dot-com era. She decided to move to Tahoe, learned to knit and opened a knitting shop in Reno. Today, Jimmy Beans Wool employs 45 people and has been on the Inc. 5000 list several times. Zander recalls, “I had no business skills, no retail skills…it’s all been learned the hard way.”

Crafting Great Talent

Jimmy Beans Wool employees come to work because they love being crafty. Despite advice she’s heard from business books and conferences, Zander hires for passion and ability, and not for experience alone. She contends, “We can teach strategy but we can’t teach the passion for the product.”

Zander has created a work culture that is extremely flexible, and open and honest. She likes to move fast, and wants her employees to come along for the ride. “I almost demand that people make mistakes every day.”

The Reluctant Leader

“I call myself a reluctant leader…I just do what I do, and have felt a lot of guilt about asking people to do stuff,” says Zander. She continues to work to define her leadership style. 

Tactically, Zander describes herself as having a disdain for structure. “I don’t need a job title, so I never understand why anyone else needs a job title.  I don’t care about when you come in or leave, as long as you get the job done,” says Zander. “But some people like to have structure.” Thus, she surrounded herself with a go-to leader who is extremely structured, and the company has since put processes in place.

Zander’s husband had biggest influence on her leadership, providing a “stable and consistent” balance to her extremely fast-paced and decisive approach.

What are You Reading?

Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath is next on her list.

How Can I Connect with You? The company website, find her on LinkedIn.

JOEY PRICE joey price

Price has been practicing HR for seven years, and founded Jumpstart:HR to help small businesses across the U.S. with their business goals. Price has been recognized by the Baltimore Business Journal as a “Top 40 under 40” leader and yet recognizes he still has much to learn and grow. He has also been honored by Kevin Kruse as one of the “Top 100 employee engagement experts in the world.”

He recalls his biggest challenge in founding his business was “packaging the correct value proposition” as having the efficiency of HR outsourcing while maintaining a personal touch – a critical component in employee relations.

Price’s first leadership lessons came from his dad, who he describes as “a solid rock through a lot of ebbs and flows in the family.” In addition, he has two great mentors who are both his biggest cheerleaders and his biggest critics. As a business owner, Price’s biggest skill development focused on growing his networking ability – a skill that doesn’t come naturally to him.

Engage and Empower

To Price, “Employee engagement is about delegating and empowering others to excel…that means you are going to have to be hands off….in order for a company to grow and be successful.” In addition to the need to ditch the do-it-all-mentality as a leader, he believes that many employees have skills beyond their specific job duties but are often painted into a box.

One of two key hires for Price was an administrative assistant who helped him stay abreast of key HR and business trends, manage social media channels and gather relevant research. The second was his business coach, who helped Price navigate through the challenges of marketing, sales, personnel and leadership as a young business owner.

When vetting talent, he asks himself if he can see the person fitting into the “ecosystem of your organization.” He also asks the prospect if they can envision themselves in the role you’re hiring for. “It’s very important that the candidate has a sense of the mission of the company, and can see themselves in that role, so they cannot just grow their talents but benefit the company as well.”

Idea Crockpot

Though Price describes himself as a creative type, his creative process is methodical and linear. He describes it “almost like a crockpot…bring a lot of ideas and let them simmer for a while. Then you have a definite end point where you hash it out as a group.”

What are You Reading?

Price is re-visiting Business Model Generation,” which he describes as a “business model and project management all in one.”

How Can I Connect with You? The company website, or find him on LinkedIn.

Finding the right talent is always difficult, and making sure those that are hired fit the company culture is paramount to success.  Employees need to fit a particular role, but also need to benefit the company hiring them.

Tune into the show next week, and remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.