Joel Goldstein is the owner of Goldstein Group Communications, a 21 person digital marketing company based in Ohio. Joel opened his business in 1992 and shares how they have grown and changed in the last 25 years and teaches us a new interview technique on this episode of The Best Team Wins Podcast.
|Adam Robinson:||Welcome to The Best Team Wins Podcast where we feature entrepreneurs whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson and for the next 25 minutes, I’ll be your host as we explore how to build your business through better hiring. Joel Goldstein on the program today is the president of Goldstein Group Communications based in Ohio. His company which he founded in 1992 has 21 employees and he has been on an adventure ever since. We’re excited to learn from him today. Joel, thanks for being on the program.|
|Joel Goldstein:||Thank you, Adam. I’m really excited to be here.|
|Adam Robinson:||We have a tradition here on the podcast. We always start off on the right foot which is the best news business or personal that’s happened to us in the last seven days. You can take it any way you want, sir. What is your right foot for the last week?|
|Joel Goldstein:||I have to say it’s sitting where I’m sitting right now, sitting in a new condo that we bought in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m spending a lot of time working from here. It’s a great place to come and be refreshed. You can work remotely anywhere these days, but I’m enjoying our new location out here.|
|Adam Robinson:||Congratulations. I’m in Chicago today, so I know what Cleveland probably looks like. I see sunshine over your shoulder.|
|Joel Goldstein:||That’s right.|
|Adam Robinson:||I was wondering what’s going on. That doesn’t look like what we’re from.|
|Joel Goldstein:||That’s Arizona sun.|
|Adam Robinson:||Congratulations. That’s great.|
|Joel Goldstein:||Thank you.|
|Adam Robinson:||Very cool. On our side, I’ll focus on a business best last week. We have as we say in here recording this right before, the end of the quarter, I’m happy to report that we are on track. We had another best ever by far. We’re pretty excited to be reporting growth. I guess we have some things that are working right now. It’s good. All the result of others who more smarter and capable than me.|
|Joel Goldstein:||I think a lot of companies are in that situation right now. We’re seeing the same type of thing, a lot of growth in our business. As I’ve thought about this podcast, that really has been a lot attributable to a lot of the people that we’ve got in place. It really has made a big difference with who we’re hiring.|
|Adam Robinson:||Let’s focus on that today. We’re here to talk about the people side of your business Joel, but before we dive in, let’s set the stage. Give us 30 seconds on Goldstein Group.|
|We’re a 25 year old agency as you said earlier. We work with business to business companies almost exclusively. We help them find and keep customers. We do that through a variety of digital marketing programs, particularly. Companies come to us when they have trouble writing technical content. We specialize working with a lot of engineering firms. We’re very good technical writers. We work with companies when they’re just not sure what works in marketing anymore, when they’re having trouble finding ROI, when they’re looking for better leads, more leads, higher quality close rates, that type of thing.
We spend a lot of our time doing digital marketing for companies that have some type of technical or engineer to engineer message.
|Adam Robinson:||Excellent. If listeners want to learn more, what’s the best way to find out more?
|Joel Goldstein:||Our website is ggcomm.com. That’s G-G-C-O-M-M.com.
|Adam Robinson:||Joel and I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing one another for 10 years or so now. It’s been fun to have the chance we’ve had over the years. I want to go all the way back for you to 1992 when you started the company. You’re hiring your first employee, presumably you know fewer things about how to do that then than you do now. Take us back there hiring your first few folks. What was the process? What were you doing? Where was your mind at as you were hiring that early team?|
|Joel Goldstein:||It was a mess. I had a lot of … I had experience hiring people before I started my own agency, but the first person that I hired, I was scared, I was nervous, I’m off on my own. This is the employee number two. You want to make sure that you do it right. I did it wrong. That person only lasted a few months. What a surprise to hear that.|
|As I’ve gone through the years, I’ve tried to learn more about hiring processes. I actually have kind of a detailed hiring process, far more detailed today than I did then. I hired the wrong person who didn’t have the skills that I needed. I was far more successful with the second person I hired because he stayed with me for 15 years until he retired. That was a big win for us.|
|I’ve learned along the way with each person that I hire, it’s a little bit like hiring a baseball manager. You always try to hire a better person, a different person that builds on the mistakes you made before. I don’t get it right all the time when I’m hiring, but it’s a better process today than that first person I hired.|
|Very well. Glad to hear it. Where did you learn how to do this then, “this” being hiring. Where did you learn it? What informs your decision making process these days with the benefit of so much experience?|
|Joel Goldstein:||I did do a variety of seminars and speakers. You and I are both part of Entrepreneur’s Organization in our chapter here in Cleveland. They have brought in a fair number of speakers who are experts on hiring decisions. I’ve gone to those. They’ve been pretty good. That’s helped me, but the members of my EO forum, which is a group of eight of us who gather together and serve as advisory board members if you will once a month, I’ve learned a lot from them and the hiring process that they use.|
|One of them told me years ago that there’s a line. People get hired for what they know and fired for who they are.|
|Adam Robinson:||I like that. So true.|
|Joel Goldstein:||It is true. It’s that behavioral aspect that’s the big problem for the hiring mistakes that we all make. I have really tried to develop that hiring insight into who they are, not just looking at their resume for what they know.|
|Adam Robinson:||Very good. I like that. As part of this process, it sounds like you’ve documented it fairly extensively. What’s your go to interview question? When you are hiring somebody, critical hire for the organization, what are one or two things tool-wise that you use to make sure you get it right?|
|Let me tell you about the process, and I’ll try to answer that go to question. We do have a set of core values. We could talk about that. I do try to link in the hiring decisions and questions that we ask to those core values. The hiring process that we use actually has four separate steps. The first step is a 30 minute Skype interview that I do with people. The reason that I do a Skype interview is that we’re a technology agency. If somebody isn’t really able to handle the technical complexities of a Skype call, then they’re not really going to be a good fit for us. I only do a 30 minute because a lot of times you just know right away that that person is a fit or is not a fit. It’s an efficient use of time.|
|If we do well on the 30 minute, then I bring them back for a one hour skills interview with other people on my staff. One of the things that I always do is I have my wife as one of the people who participates in the interview process. She’s actually, like many people and unlike me, very insightful into people’s personality and how they do their work. I have those people talk to them about their skills, get a better sense of whether they can do the job.|
|I have them do a writing test just to make sure. Then they come back for a last is a behavioral one hour interview. That’s where I’m trying to ask them a lot of questions about I know what they can do, I’ve seen their writing test, I see the quality of their work. Now I want to get to know who they are and I try to identify whether that person is going to be a fit.|
|I’ll do one last point in that whole hiring process. I often ask people. I’m doing a variety of interviews. Call me back on the 22nd. It is amazing how many people do not call me back to find out where I am in the hiring process.|
|Adam Robinson:||Do you mean ever or on the date?|
|Joel Goldstein:||Ever. Maybe that says, “Wow, they’ve really decided that they don’t want to work for me.” Or maybe it says that they’re just not organized enough to write that down.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s interesting. That’s a new approach. Put it on them. Have them call you back to check in. Have you had a lot of experience where the person you really, really like doesn’t call you back? Does that happen often?|
|Yeah, absolutely right. Absolutely. There was this one person. I was just really impressed with her. I really wanted to hire her. She didn’t call me back. A few weeks later she contacted me. She says, “I sent you that email. Did you ever not get it?” I don’t know what that was all about, but if really are in a hiring mode you don’t hear back from me, I would expect that somebody is going to pick up the phone and call.|
Yeah, as would I. I like that. You taught me something, this is new. I’m going to run with that.
|Joel Goldstein:||There you go. I didn’t say anything note worthy for the first 15 minutes. It took me that long to get to something note worthy.
|Adam Robinson:||Hardly. What is your favorite interview question then?
|I ask people what their core values are. I can see what their skills are. I really don’t have a problem identifying skill level, but lately at least, I’m just so focused on who they are. I want to know about those core values and what’s their purpose. If they don’t really know what their purpose is and they’re kind of drifting along, that’s not really going to be a big fit for us. We have values about a sense of urgency and always learning and changing your job every couple of years because our jobs change quite a bit. If they’re purpose and drive isn’t tied to those things, then we’re going to have a short term relationship.|
|Adam Robinson:||Sure. You’ve mentioned core values a few times. Talk about those. Let’s spend some time on that. At what point in your existence did you define them? Was that right out of the gate? Did that come later? Talk about the catalyst for knowing it was time.|
|Joel Goldstein:||That was something else that happened during some of my Entrepreneur’s Organization events. I went to a variety of speakers. You might remember, did you ever hear Simon Sinek? He always talks about a sense of purpose. A lot of people have talked about core values over the years. I did create them. That was maybe about just three or four years ago. I went for a long time without having them.|
|Our four core values are Deliver Awesome, Marketing Velocity, Measurably Better, and Be Happy. Those are the four that we talk about a lot. That helps define our sense of purpose.
|Adam Robinson:||For our listeners that are operating a business that know they need to do this and have either not done it by putting it off deliberately or life and business gets busy, they just haven’t had the time, what was your process? How did you do this 15 plus years into the business? How did you decide to make this happen? How did you do it?|
|We pulled people together for a variety of meetings. I know some people have done the core values and saying, “That really comes from the business owner. The business owner has to define it.” I really didn’t want to do that. I wanted people to participate and create them rather than me just write it out in an email and hand it down and say these are our values. We have a variety of meetings where we asked people to bring their values, bring their ideas of what our core values ought to be. We talked about it as a group. Then at the end of that, I did pull that thinking together and settle on the final four core values. I will tell you that they were different from what I had myself at the beginning.|
|I was glad that people participated because I think that people will pay more attention to it than just another missive from me that they sometimes pay attention to and often don’t.|
|Adam Robinson:||How do you make those real on a daily basis?|
|Joel Goldstein:||We talk about them during the interview process. We have them printed up and we give them to employees during their onboarding. We talk about them during their initial 90 day review and their annual review. Then sometimes when something goes wrong, we try to talk about that misstep in the context of the four core values. The more we are talking about it, the more other people start to think about it as well and imbed it into what their thinking.|
|It’s one of those things that I think goes on for several years. It’s not something where you create your core values, you print it up on a poster and put it up in the conference room and boom it’s done. It really takes a long time to become embedded in culture.|
|We actually appointed somebody a year ago to me our Minister of Culture. She creates a lot of activities that are tied to reinforcing our core values every once a month. We have at our staff meetings a story about somebody who did something or a project that reinforces our core values. We take a minute to congratulate that person. We’re still always looking for ways to inject in what we do and how we talk to each other.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s great. Minister of Culture, I like that. Was that your idea or her idea?|
|Joel Goldstein:||We redefined her role a little bit. I knew that she liked that. I don’t remember whether that was my idea or her idea. She is the perfect kind of a person for it. That’s one of the reasons why I think it works so well.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s great. All right, let’s talk about the role of leadership beyond you in the organization. As you’ve grown the company, as it’s matured, I’m sure the number of seats around the table has grown and changed and you’ve had some different approaches to leadership. What is the role of leadership now in terms of managing the people side of the business? What do you want your managers doing as far as team management and development? How has that changed over the years?|
|Joel Goldstein:||There’s a book that I read a couple of years ago. It’s actually become pretty popular called Traction. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. It has a system called the entrepreneurial operating system, EOS.|
|Adam Robinson:||Yup, we know it well. As a matter of fact, we had Dan Heuertz on the program. We are, at Hireology, a Traction company. We swear by it.|
|Joel Goldstein:||I’ll tell you, that was a game changer for us. It was a game changer for me personally. One of the things as a business owner you’re always frustrated with is everything seems to be on me. Everybody’s busy, everybody’s doing their jobs, but in terms of moving the company forward, I wish more people would be involved and would help with that. The EOS process pulled three other people along with me into the management of the company. We’ve never had that before. It was refreshing and liberating to me personally. We have gotten a lot done in the year and a half since we instituted the EOS system.|
|I’ll also tell you, we became dramatically more profitable after we started EOS. One of the concepts in that book is everybody has a number, some number that they work toward. That was a powerful insight for us that changed the way people behave and act and produce and perform. It made us much more profitable.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s great. We evangelize a lot of those concepts. Just a big fan of Gino Wickman and his work there at EOS. Let’s talk then. Let’s stick on philosophy then. I want to touch on philosophy for rewards and recognition. That might be compensation, that might be pats on the back in company rituals. Then what happens when it’s time to give constructive feedback and call accountability to task at your company? Talk about how you manage the rewards side and the feedback side of your business.|
|Joel Goldstein:||The rewards side, I recognize that the financial rewards are not the only thing, and for many people not even the main thing, but we do try to have a good competitive salary structure. We pay annual bonuses, but we also pay monthly bonuses. We’re a professional services firm as a marketing company. We bill a certain number of hours. People have a target. If they exceed that target, they get a bonus that month. They get a portion of every hour that they bill above their target. We actually found that that was quite effective.|
|In terms of providing feedback, as I mentioned, we do have the annual performance reviews. That’s probably not enough. One of the things that I recognize that I’m not really all that great at is coaching people to achieve better performance. That’s just not a skill set that I have. We do have several people on the staff, on the management team who are better at that mentoring and at that coaching. I encourage people to go to them and seek that out. That has been more effective than relying on me to do something that I’m not really wired to do very well.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s powerful self-awareness certainly.|
|Joel Goldstein:||I have many people around me all the time that can tell me all the things that I’m bad at. That was one that I realized on my own.|
|Adam Robinson:||The second half of that is listening to the feedback. I applaud you for that. That’s great. If you’re going to bring this up to the highest level and think philosophically about your approach to the people side of your business, what is your philosophy around governing teams?|
|Joel Goldstein:||As as agency, in our business, we’re a service business. I kind of realize actually recently with the people that we hire that we only will grow if the people we hire are so good and have such strong relationship building capabilities, we’ll only grow if we have those people in place and clients give us more business. Clients will only give us more business if they really enjoyed working with people that we have and if they’re better than them and smarter than them.|
|Actually for example, other agencies, they’ll have a title of a person called an account manager. We call those same people marketing managers. The reason that we do that is that our people have to be on a peer with our clients. They have to know more than our clients do in almost every situation. That’s really important for us to have people on staff with that deep, deep level of expertise that they know more than their clients do and that they have such strong interpersonal skills that they’ll build relationships that we have to have for clients to give us more business. It never happens if they don’t like us.|
|Adam Robinson:||Greatest lesson learned so far in managing people?|
|Joel Goldstein:||Recently I had somebody who was only with us a short time, just two years. Recently she left us to go get a great job. She actually has since hired us as her agency. That’s always nice to see, but it hurt our business when she left because she was the prototype of the person that I just described, somebody who was very skilled, strong interpersonal skills. Clients loved her and they gave us more business. The insight that I had was that the quality of the people we have is not some abstract concept. It really is more important than any strategy that I would have or any program that we would deliver. We’re only going to grow if we have awesome great people. When we lose them, that really hurts us.|
|Adam Robinson:||All right. Final couple of questions here. What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it to the audience?|
|Right now I’m … I’m trying to remember the name of the book. I read a lot of presidential history. It’s a book about Eisenhower’s last few days in office and how he was very concerned about the future peace in the world and how he tried to prepare Jack Kennedy for his presidency. I can’t quite remember the name of the book. It’s really an interesting book. If you like history and presidential politics, it really is an interesting look back at a time when people had a higher sense of purpose for the good of the country than perhaps politicians do today.|
|Adam Robinson:||Well said, very good. If you’re to come back on the show a year from now and tell us whether or not you were able to successfully tackle the biggest issue people related or otherwise, or opportunity that you have in front of you in your business today, what would you be telling us?|
|Joel Goldstein:||I’ve got five or six brand new people that I’ve hired in the last six or eight months. I’m really anxious to see how well we onboard them and how well we bring them into our culture and make them successful. I hope we do a good job with that because they’re on the front lines dealing with our clients. A year from now, I hope all of them are still with me and that their clients love them.|
|Adam Robinson:||That’s the final word. You’ve been learning from Joel Goldstein, president of Goldstein Group Communications. Joel, thank you for being with us on the program today.|
|Joel Goldstein:||Thanks so much Adam.|
|Adam Robinson:||All right, that’s a wrap for this episode of the best team wins podcast where we’re featuring entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has lead to incredible results. I’m Adam Robinson, author of the book The Best Team Wins which you can find online at www.thebestteamwins.com and at Amazon. We will see you next week. Thanks for listening.