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Smart CEOs find the right people for the right jobs where other CEOs aren’t looking.

An Unconventional Staffing Solution Helped This CEO Grow from $0 to $120 Million

Guest: CEO Coaching International coach Don Schiavone and Jim Bennett. Jim is the CEO of Unishippers, a full-service logistics provider with over 90,000 customers. He’s also an entrepreneur coaching client of CEO Coaching International.

Episode in a Tweet: Smart CEOs find the right people for the right jobs where other CEOs aren’t looking.

Quick Background: The battle for the best talent is as fierce right now as it’s ever been. The best performing companies spare no expense when it comes to recruiting top performers. And young companies just starting down the road to BIG need to make sure they’re not stuck settling for second-best.


One: make sure your employee compensation package is stellar.

Two: make sure you’re not so busy shopping in the same crowded talent pool that you’re overlooking other ways to hire the best performers for the jobs you need done.

Mastering number two is a BIG reason Jim Bennett grew Unishippers from 0 to $120 million. In this conversation, recorded live at the 6th Annual CEO Coaching International Summit held in Santa Monica, CA, Jim and coach Don Schiavone discuss how Jim recruited unconventional employees and then trained them up into a major differentiator between his company and the competition.

Key Insights on Developing and Leveraging Your Own Top Talent from Jim Bennett

1. Define the job.

There’s more to making the right hire than impeccable credentials and a winning smile. You have to make sure a candidate is going to mesh with your culture and execute key tasks to your exact specifications.

Jim Bennett ensured this critical fit by working backwards. First, he defined the roles he wanted to fill and then he built out an interview process that would lead him to the right people.

“I built playbooks for every single position inside of the company,” Jim explains. “I defined an interviewing process that took roughly two weeks for you to get through. It involved, first, a phone interview of half an hour. Second, a face-to-face interview of 45 minutes to an hour. Third, our target candidates spent a day in the field with either a sales manager or a field sales manager. Fourth, they had to write a business plan on what they would do being one of our candidates. And then we reviewed the business plan and refined it to make sure that they truly understood all the key economic drivers. And then they spent a day in the field with either our VP of sales or myself.”

Jim Bennett: We sell transportation logistics, but that’s not who we are. We are a sales training and development company.

Yes, applying for a job at your company should be easy. But winning that job shouldn’t be. A process like Jim’s will weed out applicants who just want a paycheck and help you zero in on someone who is going to help you realize your vision.

2. Widen your talent pool.

Every firm on your block is probably chasing after the same sparkling resumes. But ask yourself: what are the core traits you’re really looking for in a new employee? A resume with an Ivy League school and name-brand firm experience might bring with it some unhealthy ego. On the other hand, don’t swipe past an inexperienced candidate who has shown he or she can work hard, take direction, and work well with a team towards a BIG goal.

That outside-the-box thinking led Jim Bennett to a talent pool you might not expect:

“College athletes coming right out of college,” Jim says, “who were used to having a playbook, who were used to practicing hard every day, and who were used to going out and competing. We said, ‘Okay, here’s our defined candidate. We’re not going to go out of that defined candidate.’ Yeah, we missed out on some spectacular candidates that weren’t in our mold. But what we got was a certain basic level of candidate that we could work with and train up and they could be highly, highly successful.”

Essentially, Jim had discovered a mountain of clay that he could mold into an elite sales staff. Jim created an extensive training program that took new hires from sales 101 all the way up to field work with managers. Jim didn’t expect recent college graduates to know everything: he assumed they didn’t and committed his resources to making them better. This created an incredible resource for Jim and some invaluable experience for his staff that they could use to grow within the company or move up at another firm.

3. Appreciate what drives your growth.

“KPIs were everything for us,” Jim Bennett says. “Everybody got a report card on a weekly basis. We had eight key reports that came out on a weekly basis. We ran 13-week races every quarter, and at the end of the quarter we had a winner. And it was all about contests, but every week employees would get to see where they were and where they stood against everyone else inside of the company in gross margin. Not in sales, but in gross margin. Gross margin is what pays the bills, and we wanted them to have a connection as to how they got paid and how the company got paid.”

Zeroing in on key drivers is how the best businesses get over that initial hump and create a perpetual flywheel effect. But once your business really starts moving, you have to leverage the qualities that make you special to keep that momentum – and that growth – going.

“What I learned is, we sell transportation logistics, but that’s not who we are,” Jim Bennett says. “We are a sales training and development company. We train and develop people. We promised our employees that they would get the best entry-level sales training they could get in the world. And here’s why: we were going to teach them how to sell to presidents, owners and CFOs. Only those three titles would they ever meet with and sell to. Once these kids, 23, 24, 25 years old, have that skill, they feel like King Kong. They feel like that there’s nothing that they can’t accomplish.”

Top Takeaways

  1. Don’t just hire anybody, hire the best person for the particular job you’re filling.
  2. Ignore the stereotypes about young workers. If you hire the right millennials, you’ll get hard-working men and women who are motivated to learn, grow, and do meaningful work.
  3. Identify what will get you to BIG and track, measure, and manage those key parts of your business.

Coaching for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur coaching can transform your vision and passion into success. An entrepreneur coach as your “secret weapon” gives advice, holds you accountable, and provides clarity on your strategy and execution to help you get BIG results.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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