Withstand unreliable times by making “people smart” choices
The article that follows by Tommy Spaulding tells a brief story about CEO, Ray Hunt, of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Ray is a terrific example of the best practices author Dan Erling shares in Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time.
Numerous studies report that the most successful companies are those run by leaders who understand that people are the most important part of the business equation. Despite these reports, CEOs still do not prioritize the hiring process and end up losing precious time and money. Losses in recruiting, training, and productivity can be staggering—up to 13 times that person’s salary and more for managerial or revenue-generating positions, says Erling.
Transformative leaders take something great and make it greater. Ray Hunt is a transformative leader. The Texas-based oil company was founded by Hunt’s father in 1934 and stands today as a testimony to the wisdom of what he calls “people smart” leadership.
Mr. Hunt, now in his late 60s, serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., the parent company that oversees what’s grown into a multi-billion-dollar family of businesses. Chris Kleinert, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Investments, introduced me to Mr. Hunt. Chris and I met when I spoke to the Young Presidents’ Organization, and Chris invited me to speak during the annual meeting of Hunt’s top 150 managers. I flew to Dallas the day before the conference and Chris introduced me to Hunter Hunt, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy, and to Chris’s father-in-law, Ray, so that they could give me a better feel for the history of the company.
Since 1974, the Hunt family business has doubled in revenue and growth every five years and it’s on pace to do it again. In good economies and slow economies, the Hunts have not only survived but grown. They now have more than 3,000 employees and a diversified assortment of business interests that help drive that growth. But with such growth comes challenges, and it didn’t take me long to understand why Ray Hunt has been so adept at facing and meeting those challenges.
First of all, Mr. Hunt proves success doesn’t have to strangle humility. He is a gentle, soft-spoken, humble Texan–a world-class gentleman with a servant’s heart. I’m sure he’s had his moments of imperfection just like the rest of us, but it only took a few minutes with him to realize the authenticity of his character. That’s what drives his leadership: he cares about people.
In fact, Mr. Hunt made it clear that being “people smart” has been the key to his organization’s success. He pointed out, for instance, that he has nothing against people with doctorate degrees, but that he could only think of one person he’d ever hired who had that level of formal education. Instead, he’s done just fine by hiring based more on work ethic, communication skills and shared values. “If you can build with that,” he told me, “growth happens.”
One of the “five basic characteristics” stressed in the Hunt companies is “a strong corporate culture.” When a company’s employees operate with shared personal values and work ethic, they attract others who share those values, and that’s how you grow a strong, competent workforce.
When I met Mr. Hunt, he talked about viewing employees as family members, about hiring the right people and about focusing on building the right type of “corporate culture.” In fact, he must have mentioned “corporate culture” a dozen times in the 15 minutes he spoke about Hunt Consolidated. Frankly, it seemed almost obsessive. But in an organization racing forward so fast, Mr. Hunt knows the one thing that can take it off track is for it to stray from the values and culture that led to its success.
Mr. Hunt believes that a Chairman and CEO’s greatest responsibility is to protect its “corporate culture.” And it is also important to make sure the succession plan is in sync with the company’s values. Having spent time with Chris Kleinert and Hunter Hunt, Hunt Consolidated, Inc. is in good hands. They share Mr. Hunt’s passion for people-smart leadership that starts at the top and works its way down to every level of the constantly growing organization. He’s set them up for continued success, and their shared commitment to his principles no doubt will drive the company’s growth for years to come.
A candidate who fits your culture is as important as one who has the hard and soft skills you require, says Dan Erling. Assess your culture within the department where the new position will be filled and the nonprofit as a whole. Evaluating your own culture is very difficult because you work within it every day. Using any one of the tools available online or Erling’s scorecard will help you uncover important surprises that may impact your hiring decision.