It’s everywhere. Professionals over 40 can’t even get an interview even when their experience, achievements and proven skills put them at the top of the list of qualified candidates. And the rationale behind recruiters, CEOs and others seems to always be: cultural fit. CEOs and other executives skew younger than ever as start-ups continue to get backing by VC firms and angel investors that believe in new ideas dreamed up by young enthusiastic tech masters. And these young entrepreneurs tend to hire “friends” who reflect their age, lifestyle, attitude and, unfortunately, inability to stay in one place for very long as something bigger, better, smarter, faster, sexier, richer dangles within arm’s reach. All of the time. This matters, and this is just one of the mistakes young businesses and young leaders are making with their hiring decisions.
Success for start-ups and old-time businesses goes back to the old adage: Anything worthwhile takes time.
Time matters. And the amount of time a candidate has spent perfecting a marketing, finance, or IT skillset matters big if you want your business to stand the test of time. Smart hires are not those who hire someone who fits the “sorority” atmosphere of the office, but those who bring on team members who have spent time perfecting a process for growth, know how to test concepts affordably and effectively, know how to analyze results beyond just immediate sales bumps, and know how to grow a business over time — not just in the immediate quarter, to lure more investors. It takes time to know how to grow a business, and that time comes from career success over 15, 20 or even 30 years. It doesn’t happen over one cool social media post or event that generates a lot of shares, likes or overnight sales. Once.
Businesses that value “experience” more than “sorority fit,” are those that hire for candidates with the “Time” to really understand, perfect and build upon the following competencies:
Time in the following areas matter for business’s long-term growth:
- Understanding and Building Upon Human Behavior: It takes time to study why we do what we do, and life experiences truly add to this knowledge. Being a mom, dad, manager of people for years, or even long-time volunteer adds to one’s understanding of why people do what they do, buy what they do, and like or dislike products and cultures they encounter. Knowing this from life experience over time adds substantially to one’s ability to solve problems successfully, rally people around common projects and causes, and lead others to success.
- Patience in Expectations and Execution: Nothing worthwhile happens overnight or from one tweet, post, like, video or blog. It takes time to develop good ideas, test them, identify obstacles, develop and execute solutions; launch, refine, relaunch and build for sustainable growth. Workers in the 40s and 50s — yep, many in your parents’ age bracket, learned to develop and launch new products, business operations, or marketing campaigns by developing processes and timelines that enabled them to do it right the first time and in a way that would be sustainable. We learned to test ideas, to find champions that truly built sales not just buzz, that appealed to target consumers’ needs — emotional and physical, and we learned that it was okay if a campaign took a few months vs. days to develop, refine and execute. We didn’t have to do it overnight. It worked. Brands this “older” generation helped build, when patience and time mattered, are still thriving. Just look at how many brands have been around for 50-plus years vs. start ups that “boomed” overnight within the past five to 10 years.
- Testing: One of the turning points in my own career was when I was forced to stop placing ads in expensive magazines or on radio shows when I worked for a Fortune 100 brand as an international marketing manager, and start testing new messages, personas, offers and campaigns, instead. For a year, my mult-million dollar media budget was frozen by the CEO of this large brand until we could prove which approach best built sales. It was epic. No one had to prove that ads really built sales before, including our world-famous ad agency that had our $200 million budget, which was a big deal at that time. We formed a committee of bright and experienced minds and came up with various appeals to human behavior to test. We tested thresholds for fear, the impact of humor, creative elements, offers, markets with various cultural influences, humor and so much more. We took what appeared to be winning sales and tested them again. At the end of several months — close to a year — we launched one of the brand’s most successful campaigns.
The knowledge gained by taking “time” to learn, and having patience to wait until we knew how to best use our resources to grow our business was a pivotal point in my career. I wrote my first book, “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets,” as a result of what I learned from this process, and I’ve operated a successful consulting practice ever since, built on taking time to understand a brands’ consumers, attitudes toward a category and expectations. And to what types of experiences they are willing to assign their loyalty. I’ve created many tests across all channels — print, digital and social — to learn how to best communicate. And by taking the time to do it right and the time to learn over the years what matters most, I’ve achieved YOY gains of more than 200 percent for response, revenue and ROI.
So if you’re hiring or looking for new ways to build your business, look at your Mom, Dad, and that generation that might have built brands and businesses in the “old” days, when time mattered. Especially if you want your “new” businesses to still be around when you’re sending your kids off to college.