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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


Hiring the Right People


In last week’s column, I wrote about Herbert Simon’s pattern recognition theories, what defines an expert and how we can build that sixth sense to become experts ourselves. Continuing the theme, I’d like to turn to how we can use what we know about experts to hire the right people for our organizations and to make our organizations better.

Experts are made, not born. We learned this through the example of Jose Raul Capablanca. In the end, chess players develop expanded minds from practice, not because of native genius. The more they play, the more patterns they recognize, the better they become. It seems obvious, but the capacity of the human mind is astounding when pushed to the brink. Only then do we realize our full potential.

So, what else do we know about experts? For one thing, experts seek criticism. They’ll endure withering criticism...willingly. They don’t bask in the limelight of a job well done; they don’t dwell on past successes. Experts are never satisfied. They know they can always do better and they constantly solicit feedback from those who can help them improve and refine their skills.

Next, experts seek to compete at the highest level. They don’t view their neighbor as competition or hang out with the weak to put themselves in a better light. In print, experts look not just to leaders like Joel Quadracci or Thomas Quinlan III, but also to leaders in other fields like Jamie Dimon and Eric Schmidt. Experts look beyond today and look beyond our industry, to develop a vision for what lies beyond.

To that end, experts develop predictions for the future. What will become, and how will they position themselves for that possibility? As Capablanca would, they see three steps ahead and plan to counter moves they foresee their competition will make. How will augmented reality affect the printed communications of tomorrow and how can we position our organizations to capitalize upon it?

Lastly, experts practice. There are no shortcuts and luck is not a strategy. Markets are efficient. Some do better than they should and others worse, but in the end, if you want to win, you need to do the work.

Most companies seek to have as many experts as possible, and to that end, here are a few things we can do to achieve that:

  1. Provide 360 degree feedback and consistent reviews for employees. Be deep and thoughtful about it, and ensure that everyone within the organization is as well. Experts seek feedback that can make them better, and they tend to cluster in good organizations.
  2. Seek those with a passion for the position and the industry. If experts are made through hard work, it’s safe to say that only those with a love for print will have the determination to do the hard work necessary to become an expert.
  3. Develop a roadmap and support system for professional growth. Experts seek to compete at the highest level, so equip them with a mentor, challenge them, and be clear about their path through the organization. Without this clarity, experts will seek a more compelling challenge elsewhere.
  4. Hire people smarter than you and don’t be insecure about it. A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s. It’s easy to tell one organization from the other, especially if they’re publicly traded.

The study of expertise and success reveals many lessons we can apply within our organizations. In our industry, the balance sheet might be dominated by hard assets and heavy equipment, but our success will be determined by the people making the decisions about those assets and those driving the return on them. In these challenging times for our industry, we all could use as many experts as possible to plan our next moves.

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