SME Interview with Kevin Coggins, Practice Leader at Arris Partners, Cary, NC

1.       Please, tell me a little bit about the Arris Partners Company.

We are a boutique recruiting firm that is focused on three different industries. The first, agriculture practice. Then life sciences, which is pharma. And then private equity-backed manufacturing companies. Those are our three practice areas. And we are essentially more of a manager to C-Suite Recruiting Company.

2.       How do you find the right employees for a company? And what do you start with?

A lot of times it depends on the role that we’re working on. So, you know, of course everybody has social media tools to find people, like LinkedIn or something like that. But we also, since we specialize, we have an internal database of candidates. So, we first go to our internal database. In the example of agriculture, which I lead, you know, there’ll be people that I’ve talked to many times before in the past about jobs and maybe they weren’t interested in this job or something, but I’ll start with those people, and talk to them to find out are there people in their networks that are interested in opportunities. Then we’ll go out in the public domain to Linkedin or sometimes we just do Google searches using particular keywords looking for people. And then we contact people. We’ll try to figure out what their email addresses are or what their phone numbers are. It’s almost like being a detective a little bit sometimes trying to find people.

Do you interview them?

Yes, we certainly do. We’ll call them out of the blue, and then we’ll talk to them and tell them why we’re calling and why we think that we should talk. And then we can either talk with them at that moment, or set up time to talk to them in the future. The people that we’re talking to are usually pretty busy professionals and so we want to certainly respect their time.

3.       What are the hiring mistakes an employer can make and how to avoid them?

There’s a lot of them. Right now, I would say that it’s a candidate market. Meaning that good candidates have lots of options for jobs. It’s important for hiring managers to have a very streamlined process to onboard candidates. If you find out about the person until the time that they actually start to work, try to make that as short as possible. Because good candidates will have lots of people wanting to talk to them. If you drag your feet maybe somebody else will present something to them and you’ll lose them just because you waited. If you find somebody that you really like go ahead, hire them, bring them in. That’s one mistake.

Another mistake is not understanding how important the cultural fit is to a job. For instance Tribeca Tavern in Cary, you have an employee type there that’s successful. Well, that employee type might not work as well at a place like some hamburger place.

The jobs are all the same, but Tribeca Tavern has a little bit more sophisticated clientele. And somebody that’s more adept at working with a sophisticated clientele, while they may have all the same skills, it’s a server position, it just might not work at a family-owned hamburger place. You have to make sure that culturally the employees match what you’re trying to do. You can always hire someone that has the skills, but it’s the cultural match that’s important for long-term success.

4.       What advice in recruiting would you give to a first-time founder?

The hard part is actually creating a culture. And another thing is that once you create a culture within a company it’s difficult to change it. After a while your employees become more responsible for the culture than you are. And you can try to guide it all you want to but once that culture gets established it’s very difficult.

My advice would be to focus on people that are going to be passionate about what you’re trying to do. So, you’re going to start a restaurant. Make sure that, particularly your earliest employees, are people that are equally passionate about what it is you’re trying to do. Passion’s not everything, but it helps a lot. When I had my bicycle stores, I used to own bicycle stores locally, I didn’t want people that had worked in bicycle stored before. I wanted people that had good customer service skills that were passionate about riding bicycles. And I didn’t care how they liked to ride bicycles. I didn’t care if they liked to ride or if they like to race or if they just like to ride around the block with their children. I wanted them to like riding bicycles so they’d be passionate about what we were trying to do. So, I think that would probably the best advice that I would give to a first-time person.



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