So you’ve stopped recruiting ‘print reps’ and are instead seeking ‘business builders’ to promote your diversified services offering. But how do you find the right people - those conversant with printing, consulting, design, installation and everything else that your business does? Brandon Stapper has ten questions you can use to vet potential candidates.
Brandon Stapper, founder of 858 Graphics, knows a thing or two about how to hire a business builder who will help your company grow across all its service offerings. And he’s willing to share, so here goes…
1. What is your vision for this company?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask a candidate for a position that is as dynamic as ‘business builder’. He role requires more than just a technical sales person or a consultant. They are in many ways an extension of yourself as an owner, and it is important they share your vision for the company’s future because few other people in your organisation will need to have such a broad understanding of the company or be able to make such dramatic impact on your bottom line.
At the same time, a person who will be successful in this position will by definition be a self-starter and high-level thinker. That means they will have ideas of their own - and that is a good thing. You want this person to feel ownership of the vision of the company so that this empowerment comes through when they approach customers. As a result, it is very important to have a conversation with candidates about what their goals are and how it plays into the overall direction you are trying to take your company in.
2. What can you add that no one else can?
One of the major opportunities in hiring for a dynamic position is the opportunity to add valuable skills and experience to your team. At the level where someone can delve deeply into the technical side discussions on the shop floor as well as handle on site consulting visits with top executives at client firms, a successful candidate will have a lot to offer in terms of experience and skills, whether that be management skills, quality assurance training, or sales experience. Look for a candidate that brings something new to your team so that you are not just bolstering a weak point in your business but expanding into new territory. The opportunity that business leaders often miss when hiring a growth expert is the chance to diversify your team and open new channels of business growth by bringing on someone who can offer something truly novel to the company.
3. Can you show me your Rolodex?
OK, so maybe Rolodex’s are somewhat outmoded, but you get the idea. Ask for a few examples of the applicant’s contacts within the industry that they feel is representative of the calibre of their business connections.
When you ask this question, you are looking for a few things. Obviously, you want to get a sense for the breadth and scope of their connections within the industry. If you send them to a conference on the opposite coast, are they going to know anyone and if so, who would they be most likely to sit down with at a post-conference dinner table? Are they bringing executive level contacts or are they opening doors to technical experts that you could add to your shop?
This question will also give you a sense of how quickly they will hit the ground running. One advantage that a good candidate will offer you is that they will often have a few loyal customers who stick with them no matter where they are working. When they walk in the door, will they be able to guarantee any sales right off of the bat due to relationships they have already built.
4. How does inkjet printing work?
You know it - one of the most important aspects of a high level position is that whoever is in it has a broad understanding of your printing services so that they can help customers find the right solutions for their specific needs. When a customer asks about inks and media possibilities are they going to know? Certain kinds of questions might not come up that often, but when they do, the right candidate should be able to field them well if not answer off pat. So, when you ask a candidate a technical question during the interview that they do not know the answer to, watch how they respond. A skilful response is one that is honest but solution oriented and demonstrates a thorough understanding of why the answer to the question matters.
5. Are you willing to travel?
Finding a candidate who has good interpersonal skills - and is willing to travel - is key given site visits are likely to be included in the job description to meet client expectation of face-to-face meetings. This does not mean the successful applicant needs to be charming - often the best people are more introverted. Instead look for someone who is straightforward, presentable, and highly knowledgeable about your business. And if they are willing to travel, ask them how far and with what frequency.
6. Do you have a background in design?
Not every successful business builder of the sort you are looking for needs to have training in design, but a thorough understanding of the factors that a design team is going to be dealing with will be important for a ‘business builder’ to understand so that they set reasonable expectations with customers. Fluency in design concepts will also help them communicate customer expectations to the design team and send feedback from the customer on completed projects. That feedback loop can be a total game changer in terms of boosting customer satisfaction.
7. What types of installations have you worked on?
The more experience with installations at scale that a person has, the better they will be able to guide customers through the process and work with the installation team to pull off the project smoothly. Simple as that! So find out if they’ve ever worked on multi-storey banners on skyscrapers for instance.
8. Do you have any management experience?
Speaking of installation teams, one thing a good candidate should have is management training. As a high level contributor to your company and a relationship builder for your brand, the person usually needs to be able to manage teams and individuals to meet growth goals and complete jobs. That is often true even if you do not plan to put them directly in charge of other employees. As a result, a candidate who has some management training will be an asset. Additionally, you will be able to keep them in mind for future management opportunities as the need arises.
9. What is your experience as a consultant for other print shops?
Consulting is often one of the most demanding aspects of working in the commercial printing industry, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. That is due to the fact that consultants are often able to offer deeper guidance and help to clients than anyone else, and that means the effects they have on the world are often direct and personal. When you ask about a candidate’s consulting background, look for an answer that gives you a sense of their motivations and effectiveness in navigating uncomfortable situations. Often, consulting demands that a person be able to offer guidance and manage a client’s expectations during uncertain situations and without access to complete information. The best consultants are those who are genuinely trying to help their client’s find the best solution for their projects, so look for a genuine response to these questions.
10. How would you design a solutions package for one of our customers?
Choose a customer you know well and ask potential candidates to design a mock solution package for them based on what they know about your company and the client. Think of this like a mini-pop quiz to get a sense of how the candidate thinks and also to get a feel for what they see as good solutions to specific problems. If you have already designed a plan for the customer you use in the test, compare the candidate’s answers with what you are already doing for the customer. This questions will also give you a sense of how deeply a candidate understands the processes behind the services you offer and what it would take to bring them up to speed during the onboarding process if you were to hire them.