After over 27 years in business, we have journeyed through a maze of hiring decisions and have made more mistakes than we can even recall, but we have discovered some pearls of wisdom that have shaped our approach to building a stellar team. The lessons learned have given us valuable tools to create best practices as well as insights on what NOT to do. Here are our top 3:
1. Do not be impressed by a resume. We’d rather hire someone with a heart of gold who wants to grow and develop and be part of something great, than hire the person with a PhD from Stanford who has all of the experience in the world. Oftentimes the ones with many degrees and a laundry list of certifications end up being selfish and arrogant – and detrimental to the team dynamic. To make matters worse, they will also tell you how your business should be run, even though they’ve never run a business before! Finding the right balance between experience and heart is crucial. Ideally you find a candidate who has both, but we would rather invest in nurturing someone’s skills than try to change a self-centered attitude.
2. Quality over Quantity. In our early years we made the mistake of hiring simply to meet meet our numbers, even when the fit wasn’t quite right. It’s a common misstep, and one that can backfire. A mediocre hire doesn’t elevate your business, it hinders it. You don’t want to spend 80% of your time trying to bring up the bottom 20% of your staff. It’s better to put your energy into helping the top performers keep learning and feeling fulfilled so they can be your long term high achievers. It’s the key to long-term success.
3. It must be a “Hell Yes”, or it is a NO! This might be the most challenging mantra for us to live by, even now. So many times we have gone through the interview process and come away with a feeling that the person we just interviewed “could be good” or “has potential” or even “with a little mentoring…”. STOP! Think back to the best team members you have and the feeling you had when you met them for the first time, the ones you knew would love to be part of the team and who would make everyone around them better. Then think about the ones who fizzled out and left after a brief period, or the ones you had to fire because they were not up for the challenge, or worse, those who were duds on your team for way too long. We can pretty much guarantee that those in the latter category were not horrible in the interview, but were not overly impressive either. Go with your gut and hire the “Hell Yes!” candidates.
The AXIS Interview
Our interview process starts with an initial phone interview with our Director of Team and Client Experience. (And yes, this is a crucial role because the experience is EVERYTHING in a service business!) If it seems like the candidate is a good fit, they’re invited to meet with the team in person.
Our main goal in an interview is to try and get to know the real person. We don’t ask gotcha questions. We often don’t even look at the resume. This helps us to not make mistake #1 (see above) and they’ve already been vetted by the time they get to us so we know they have the basic qualifications. We want to hear about their passions, their family, what they do for fun, what makes them tick. We are looking to see if we genuinely like this person and if they would get along with the other team members. In a service business employees must be likable, they have to be able to converse and relate to customers and clients so we have a conversation with them rather than asking a lot of questions that they no doubt have prepared for with canned responses. It’s also important to remember that you are hiring an upbringing, not just a person. You can get a good sense of their personality, their values and their upbringing by having a casual conversation rather than asking about their strengths and weaknesses.
We spend a fair amount of time talking about our business with the candidates, and our WHY. We love what we do and when we have these conversations, it allows us to show the candidate who we really are and to connect with them. We look for excitement in their eyes when they see the passion we have. If we don’t see that, it’s not a good fit. This allows us to find out if they are really interested in being part of an amazing team who are here to support each other and grow together, or if they are in it for themselves. It shows us what they are interested in and if our values are aligned. Furthermore, we pay close attention to their listening skills, a fundamental quality in a service business.
At the end of the interview, we invite the candidates to walk around the gym and pose any questions to the other trainers or clients that they may have. How they interact in this impromptu “casual” walk through gives us a good indication of the type of team member they will be. If they introduce themselves and ask questions and engage with the community, we know they will be a great fit. If they walk around and just check out the great equipment, or ask if they can workout, they’re not for us.
Welcome to AXIS!
The decision to hire a candidate is always a team decision. Often we decide in the first few minutes when they are late for the interview, or when they don’t try to engage with our receptionist (one of the most important people in our business!). Those are easy no’s. For the rest, we like to hear from anyone they meet to get an idea of the team fit. It’s imperative that our team members see this person as someone who is worth the effort and who will be a valuable asset to the team if we are going to hire them.
When we decide to make an offer, we call and tell them how our team agreed they would be a great fit, that we don’t NEED to hire and only hire people we know will be outstanding and will contribute in a positive way. We send them a handwritten note to welcome them to our community. We want them to feel valued, significant and integral to our world-class team.
On their first day, we give our new employees some special gifts to foster personal and professional growth. We spend a lot of time in the first week teaching them about being in a service-relationship business and integrating them into the team. We use this time to set the expectations for their future as a successful trainer and team member. We want them to see the potential they have to grow, and that we live by our words. We love what we do and we love sharing our excitement with our team. We want them to see we genuinely care about their progress. If we can help each person reach their full potential and always work to be better trainers, better leaders, and better communicators, we have done our job.
These lessons and our experience over 27 years have shaped our journey and continue to be the foundation of our success. Embracing the heart of the candidate, emphasizing quality over quantity, and following the “Hell Yes” mantra will revolutionize your approach to building a high-performing team. Remember, it’s not just about hiring an individual; it’s about welcoming a new member into your family. When you focus on these principles, you’ll not only have a thriving business but also a close-knit team dedicated to shared success.