the Birddog Blog
I had a conversation with a sage and wizened marketing impresario recently and he asked (out of politeness, rather than because it really made any material difference to him) how the business was progressing.
Friday 10th October, 2008
He was obviously aware that we had moved our offices into central London and I explained that such a move couldn’t not affect staff.
Birddog hadn’t experienced a mass walk-out or anything – the opposite was actually the case. We expected and planned for those who didn’t want to move to London, but actually, they all came. I was very encouraged. But we’ve been in town for a year now and over the period there has definitely been a ‘falling by the wayside’ of those less prepared to commute, less prepared for the pace, less prepared for… London.
And that was the basis of my conversation with the impresario – that whilst I was acutely aware that seeking out new talent for the business was an ongoing requirement, I could do without it. I was busy enough being utterly brilliant and visionary, and now, I was also having to redirect my attention towards recruitment.
He smiled at me in that knowing and really annoying, smartarse, ‘I’ve seen/done all this before’ kind of a way and said, “When you’re running a people business, the people issues are never far from the top of the agenda.” Bloody, semi-retired, richer than reasonable, smartarse. But of course he was right. Which made it all the more annoying.
He asked me how we were recruiting – not the mechanism or process of advertising or using agencies – but how did we handle the CV selection and interview? I told him and he did that downturned mouth and contemplative nodding head thing. “So what? – What damn you! What’s the answer? Tell me!” I urged, not unreasonably, hoping that the fine mist of spittle which was I was causing to bead on his Armani suit wouldn’t distract him from giving me his considered response. It’s at times like these that I’ve tried, over the years, to shut my mouth and listen. It doesn’t come easy, I confess, but the primary benefit of knowing people who are smarter and more experienced than you is to extract the benefit of that experience ruthlessly in order not to make the same dumbass mistakes that they made. You become much better placed to make completely different dumbass mistakes.
He told me that we had a great brand. (I knew that already.) He told me that we had a team of great people. (I knew that too – but I still kept my mouth shut.) Then he told me that I should be using the Birddog brand to attract more great people. (I started getting interested again.) “Businesses recruit with CVs”, he said, “but they should recruit against their brand values.” (Now I was leaning in, on the edge of my seat.) “The CVs are functional – they record history, the exams you passed, the jobs you’ve had… they rarely show personality. And, assuming a base level of competency, it’s the personality of someone that will make them shine in an agency. So if everyone’s CIM qualified with a reasonable degree, the most important differentiator is how they stack up against your brand values – which makes your brand the most important recruitment tool and far more important than the CV.”
Well. Hold me down and make me eat Quorn. I was officially enlightened. ‘Natural, Passionate, Original, Fun.’ Those are the Birddog brand values. That’s how we go about our daily business, but I’d never recruited against those values. By reversing the selection process and selecting candidates based on our values rather than their CV, our world changed – for the better. Ultimately, we checked the CVs to make sure they were qualified and capable, but first and totally foremost – they had to fit the Birddog brand. Brilliant. I recommend it to The House Mister Speaker. Amazing things those brands. Glad I thought of it.