Adam Robinson is the co-founder and CEO of Hireology, which produces a web-based software platform that assists companies in the hiring process from end-to-end. Initially a self-described “accidental entrepreneur,” Adam has since developed an immense passion for entrepreneurship and he donates time to multiple leadership programs, including Entrepreneurs Organization. In addition, he serves on the Board of Advisors for DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center.
Drawing on experiences from previous entrepreneurial efforts, Adam developed the approach that serves as the basis for his Paper Napkin Wisdom: “Hire great people and then get the heck out of the way.” He says the biggest lesson he has learned to date in his career is that, if you hire great people, you have to let them be great and do the things that make them great. If you invest in “A” talent, you have to let “A” talent be “A” talent – not an extension of you.
This is a lesson learned hard for Adam. With his last company, he was surrounded by some great people but he tried to do everything. And, when the economy took a downturn, he realized the operation was a house of cards. People had no qualms about leaving because they had no ownership in the company.
Alternatively, Hireology was a business-by-design, built on the lessons learned earlier in Adam’s career. Before ever writing a business plan, he wrote his core values. He believes that, when a company is first getting started, before the processes are even in place, the core values are their operating system – their compass. Then, as the company progresses, if we, as leaders, coach core values, we don’t have to tell people how to do their jobs because they’ll figure out how to do their jobs while staying true to the core values.
A comparison of the first employees from each of his companies illustrates the difference in approaches. In Adam’s previous company, his first employee lasted about eighteen months. Adam had a very tactical approach – telling the employee what to do each week or each month. Ultimately, the employee saw no professional growth and everyone involved got burnt out. On the other hand, after four years with the company, Adam’s first hire at Hireology is now the VP of Sales, leading a team of twenty-two. He consistently beats his numbers, yet Adam has never told him how to do what he does. The employee has figured it out on his own.
But that is not to say that Adam’s approach is to provide no support or structure. He says, “I want to tell folks where we need to be but I don’t want to tell great people how to get there.” Adam fosters an environment of accountability by allowing his team to create their own plans. He believes that, psychologically, it creates a situation where people feel more invested than they would if they just had a plan handed down to them. He says to his employees, “This is your plan – do you believe in it? And, if so, are you prepared to own it?”
These days, Adam says his job description has changed from, “Do everything and make it happen,” to, “Help great people be successful.” In that way, he says, he has gone from being the rainmaker to helping others to be rainmakers.
Listen to the conversation with Adam here: