How to ‘Marry Up’: Hiring and Retaining Talent that’s Out of Your League (Part 2)

baseball bride part 2How to Build & Retain Top Talent

In our previous blog post in this series, we covered how to buy top talent. For small and mid-size businesses, getting rockstar executives – the kind of leader who can confidently guide you to the next level – comes at a price tag. When big budget salaries aren’t an option, here are two ideas for getting the top talent you need at a price tag small businesses can afford.

1.   Build it internally.

Instead of buying top talent, CEO Rich Panico of Integrated Project Management (IPM), builds it. Panico looks for internal leaders who have proven themselves over time. Consistency, solid decision making, and alignment with the company’s strong, positive culture are important success factors in a future at IPM.

“We only promote from within, regardless of what position someone had prior to joining this company,” says Panico.

This “build top talent” approach has big dividends: it engenders long term employee loyalty, and increases trust internally, which allows IPM’s staff to make decisions knowing they have the full backing of their leaders.

So how do you build top talent? Open door policies, well developed training programs, and consistent (exceptionally consistent, in IPM’s case) feedback are important. But so is forgiveness when you make mistakes.

Tim Czech started at IPM as an intern 15 years ago. He is now the company’s controller. Early in his career, Czech forgot to file the company’s tax statement: a significant and potentially costly mistake. Instead of responding with anger, CFO Jo Jackson applauded Czech’s courage in confessing the error, and his foresight in coming up with a plan to resolve the situation. That sort of forgiveness, and encouragement, says Czech, gave him the drive to become an even stronger leader.

2.    Give them the freedom to build their own company while they lead in yours.

Eugene Rios, came to the food service industry as a dishwasher at a hot dog stand. He worked his way up to truck driver at Tasty Catering, one of Chicago’s fastest growing caterers. Rios continuously earned more responsibility until he reached the position of director of operations, responsible for controlling how the company’s trucks, equipment, and product are moved from one location to the next.

Rios was a man with a dream – he had always wanted to own his own business. In most small businesses, fulfilling that dream would likely mean the loss of a valuable employee in a significant role. But not at Tasty Catering. The company has a long track record of helping employees start businesses that align with or support the work of the parent company. By making employees the CEOs of their own small business, and keeping those companies connected to the parent firm, Tasty retains top talent while still helping them reach their goals.

As director of operations, Rios knew busy summer days meant renting 20 or more trucks to supplement the Tasty fleet. Finding enough trucks could often be a challenge. So with his family, Rios started a trucking company, Rios Ventures, renting the trucks to Tasty Catering as needed. He continues in the role as director of operations, and has the freedom to manage his own small business on the side with help from family members.

His story is not unique. When one team member developed the idea of starting her own eco-friendly gift basket company, Tasty Catering bankrolled the startup of That’s Caring. When the talent and capacity on the company’s marketing and communications team began to exceed the company’s needs, Tasty helped the department start their own food service marketing agency, nuphorIQ, with Tasty as their flagship customer.

“Now Tasty still gets all the talent they would want and for a fraction of the price,” explains Jamie Pritscher, who helped start the marketing agency and continues to serve as the catering company’s director of communications.


These four companies remind us that mid-size businesses can attract and retain big league talent, with some creative approaches. How have you seen other companies “marry up”? Share your own stories below.

Photo credit, Flickr via Compfight and Creative Commons.

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