If you can tear yourself away from KFC’s Double Down sandwich or the latest episode of Glee long enough, take a few minutes to check out what you’ve missed this past month in the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of recruitment.
While we’re talking about better news in hiring, I should probably mention that we just released our new how-to-hire e-book, CareerBuilder’s Ultimate Recruitment Guide. Download a copy for yourself — or your team — now.
What are workers spending their tax refunds on this year? Is it that trip to see grandma in Wyoming? A new lifetime supply of bathroom tissue? You may be surprised. On that note, a new CareerBuilder survey found that the majority of employers are doing something to become more environmentally friendly, or “green” –investing in bathroom tissue made from recycled tissue, perhaps?
Jim Greenwood, CEO of Concentra, Inc. shared his thoughts on being a CEO — a Chief Encouragement Officer, that is — and talked about Concentra’s workplace culture, the importance of giving colleagues an opt out, and much more. Another leader, Martha O’Gorman, chief marketing officer at Liberty Tax Service, talked with us about why employees should be left to do their jobs, when humor’s appropriate in workplace culture, and why the company doesn’t believe in traditional national advertising.
Do you want colleagues — or ex-colleagues — rating you anonymously and gaining control over whether that next employer wants to hire you? A new social networking site, Unvarnished, thinks you do. Speaking of the power of employee referrals, we revealed how a personal phone call from George Lopez to Conan O’Brien helped Conan decide to sign on to Team TBS.
In the following excerpt from CareerBuilder’s recent interview with Martha O’Gorman, chief marketing officer of Liberty Tax Service, she discusses the importance of hiring the right people for the right jobs, the value of company culture and engaging brand advocates.
Liberty Tax Service has been the recipient of several awards in the past couple years – which of these are you most proud of and why?
We’re proud of all of them, but I think the one that we’re most proud of is one that we just received locally from Inside Businessmagazine, calling Liberty Tax Service “one of the best places to work in Hampton Roads” (which is the Tidewater Region of Virginia). To be named the best place to work in an entire metropolitan region was really special to us because we really embrace our culture, and we are proud to be recognized as a great place to work. Our rankings in Entrepreneur Magazine also stand out because that’s an industry-wide franchise publication that many people refer to when they’re looking to purchase a franchise opportunity. To be recognized by them as one of the fastest growing franchise opportunities – and one of the best out of 500 opportunities – is good for the franchise system in general.
The Liberty Tax Service franchise opportunity is #9 on the fastest growing franchises list of the 2010 Entrepreneur “Franchise 500.” To what do you attribute your growth?
I think the number one thing is the experience of the management team. Our CEO, John Hewitt, founded Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in 1982 and grew that to a very large franchise system, a system that today still bears his name. I, myself, am one of the founders of Liberty Tax Service, and I have over 20 years of experience in the income tax industry. When we decided to start another income tax company, we made a bunch of rules: to learn by our mistakes, to help foster the culture, and to promote people to jobs that they were good at. I think that the reason that we’ve been so successful is because we have been able to hire the right people, make them happy and then bring on great franchisees.
How would you describe your philosophy as it relates to people and their impact on your daily business?
I believe that people should be left to do their jobs. I don’t believe that [micro management] fosters creativity and excitement in the workplace. My personal philosophy is to hire the right people, give them their job description and what their key result areas are, and then let them go ahead and figure out how they are going to achieve those results. One of the principles of our company is, “Mistakes are a wise person’s education.” We believe that nobody’s perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes, and your mistake is like an education. We [as managers] are here to guide you, but you’ve got some freedoms and some flexibility to make your own decisions on how you’re going to run your business.
How do you engage and relate to your people? What experiences or lessons influence your leadership style?
Many folks who work with me have been with me for a long time, from the beginning of starting Liberty Tax Service. We are, as a group and as a department, very tight. There’s a lot of laughing that goes on, but when the work needs to get done, we push to be the best and to really get results because everybody is proud to be a part of the marketing department. If I attribute anything to my management style, it’s the fact that I let people do their jobs. I truly believe that you can have fun every single minute you’re at work if you enjoy what you’re doing.
How do people affect your business, particularly as it relates to your revenue stream?
We manage our employees though the position-results description method: Our employees set a goal for what their job is, and then there are key result areas that they agree with their manager are “the things that I am going to achieve this year.” We make sure that each key result area is measurable, but we also make sure that they are attainable. We work together throughout the year to make sure that everybody is on track. It’s a really good way to kind of put your goals down on paper and then track if you are achieving them.
Some people believe HR to be the only department with a responsibility for the organization’s people, yet you’ve made your overall talent strategy a priority in your role. Tell me about that.
I think our company operates quite a bit differently from some other large companies to attract good people. We have a referral program that motivates our employees and our franchisees to seek out good people. Our HR department is not a traditional HR department. They help us with issues, but when it comes to the actual hiring process, it is really left up to the managers to find and interview those people and make the hiring decision. We look for the right people, we bring them on, we test them in different positions, and we find the right job for them. It really boils down to this: you’ve got to hire for attitude and then train for skill. If somebody doesn’t have the right attitude, it doesn’t matter what job you put them in, they are not going to perform. We like to hire people who are happy, positive, and willing to stretch and to learn.
I understand that Liberty Tax Service doesn’t advertise nationally, and you’ve relied heavily on guerilla marketing with wavers and franchisees generating most of the buzz about your brand in the market. How have you used social media to extend your non-traditional marketing to reach a wider audience, centralize marketing efforts, and preserve your brand?
We’re new to social media. We knew that we needed to be involved in that, but we weren’t really sure how to do it. The first thing we did was hire an online brand manager who has experience in that environment. We’ve relied pretty heavily on the folks at CareerBuilder to help guide us through that and give us ideas on how we can better position ourselves on the web with social media.
We don’t believe in traditional national advertising. Television has lost a lot of its effectiveness. We continue have a very high percentage increase in business every year, and I attribute it to the fact that we’re doing non-traditional things, whereas our competitors are still acting very traditionally when it comes to media and to advertising.
We’ve developed a persona: We’ve developed a Facebook page that is dedicated to “Libby” and her adventures going across the United States and what she is going to encounter during tax season. We also have a traditional Facebook page where people can ask questions and we can post tax tips. Building the friend base has been very easy. People are interested, especially during tax time. Everybody has to file taxes, so you have a ready-made base of people who are seeking information, and we’ve found a fun way to do it through the interaction on the social media sites. And it has been very successful for us so far.
Tax preparation is a very personal service, and communicating on a one-on-one basis is far more meaningful to our customers than mass media advertising.
What lessons have you learning along the way in regards to social media?
One lesson we’ve learned is that you need to have a solid background in what your strategy is and how you’re going to implement it. I think you can hurt yourself very easily by going out onto Facebook or Twitter and not understanding what the rules of engagement are. You can kill your image as quickly as you can build your image if you don’t respect those parameters.
When we started, we were dabbling in it and didn’t really have a firm grasp of what we should be doing. I think we made some wise decisions by getting help from people who understood the space and could make some recommendations on how we should move forward. I feel really comfortable with where we are now with our social media presence, because we are moving through the environment in a way that is not only proper, but also fun and inviting for the people who are participating on our sites.
How have you leveraged your employment brand to grow your business? Why is this important to you?
It may sound cliché, but we have a group of advocates out in the marketplace, in virtually every DMA in the country who really love Liberty Tax Service, and who love working for Liberty Tax Service. So we’ve got this band of advocates who are out there singing our praises. Just last weekend I was at an office and there was a waver out on the street, and we had three separate people walk in and say, “How do I get that cool job? I’d like to have that job.” It’s rewarding and gratifying, but it also lets you know that people are noticing us and they understand what it means to be part of Liberty Tax Service. We’re just doing an outstanding job of recruiting the right people, showing them the right way to do business, and they in turn tell everybody they know.
Can you give me one or two examples of how one person had a major impact at Liberty Tax?
I would have to start with our CEO, John Hewitt. John is the consummate workaholic. He is constantly striving for betterment: both betterment of the company and giving the people who work within the company the opportunity to continue to grow and to achieve. His leadership, wisdom and vision are paramount to the success of our company. We like to call him the granddaddy of the industry. His wealth of experience and knowledge is unsurpassed in the income tax industry and in business circles in general.
Then I would have to use the franchisees, collectively, as our second group of people who propelled Liberty Tax Service to where we are today. We’ve got, I think, an unusual group of franchisees. Our franchisees are very entrepreneurial and are constantly bringing us all kinds of great ideas. And they bring them to the table with passion and understanding of what it’s like to be out in the field and on the front lines with the customers. They’re all just very, very motivated and really love what they are doing: They’re the kind of people that you want to hang out with.
What other advice would you share through this piece?
My advice to anyone who is looking to start a business or to re-engineer their business is to look outside of what you know. Just because this is the way that we’ve always done it doesn’t mean that’s the way that it always needs to be done. And that applies to virtually any business – whether it’s manufacturing, retail, science, or anything – because if you don’t look for a different way of doing things, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always gotten.
John likes to say, “If you do what you always did, then you’re going to get what you always got.” Another one of our principles is to break boundaries. You have to take those risks. You have to be able to steel yourself and say, “Okay, I’ve never done this before, but now I’m going to figure out how to do it and here’s the goal that we’re going after.”
Liberty Tax Service is the fastest growing retail tax preparation company in the industry’s history. Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt, Liberty Tax Service has prepared over 7,000,000 individual income tax returns. Liberty Tax Service provides computerized income tax preparation, electronic filing and online filing through eSmart Tax. Each office offers customers audit assistance, a money back guarantee and free tax return checking. The Liberty Tax Service franchise opportunity is #9 on the fastest growing franchises list of the 2010 Entrepreneur “Franchise 500.” For more information on Liberty Tax visitwww.libertytax.com
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