Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Carrie Schochet, founder and CEO, Purple Squirrel Advisors, an executive recruiting firm. In this episode, Schochet talks about employment trends, tactics for attracting employees, and modern workplace culture.
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Erin Manning 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.
Gary Pageau 0:10
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Photo Finale and Advertek printing. Hello again, and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Carrie Schochet, the founder and CEO of Purple Squirrel Advisors in Troy, Michigan. Purple Squirrel Advisors is an executive search firm. Hi, Carrie, how are you today?
Carrie Schochet 0:34
Hi, Gary, thank you for having me. I'm doing well.
Gary Pageau 0:37
For those who aren't familiar with what a purple squirrel is in the executive recruiting world. What is a purple squirrel?
Carrie Schochet 0:44
Well, so there would be two definitions. There's the kind of the recruiter the widely known recruiter definition, which you would find on Wikipedia, for example, and that would say, the purple squirrels are recruiting industry term referring to the elusive perfect candidate. So historically, I would have used that as a way of saying, Oh, my gosh, this search is impossible. They're looking for a purple squirrel. But we so the second definition is the definition that we have adopted. And that is that we believe every search is the search for purple squirrel, if you're really trying to get it right on all accounts so that the Fit piece, the things that you can't see on paper, we say when a company has found that great match, that's their purple squirrel.
Gary Pageau 1:26
Tell us a little bit about your background in starting the business.
Carrie Schochet 1:30
First of all, very few recruiters know that they're going to be recruiters when they you know, come out of school or you're growing up. And I feel like there's a lot of like what you would but I would say accidental recruiters and and I fall into that category for sure. So I went to the University of Notre Dame, I actually double majored, I got two degrees of finance degree and an art degree. Because I was interested in photography, and I always wanted to at least do something on the art side. But I started my career in finance, and in litigation consulting, which is an interesting field, but it was not a good fit for me. And that's really where my passion for the Fit comes into play. As I know, you know, if you're not in a good fit, it can affect other areas of your life. And so I went to a recruiting firm to see if they could place me into a new position, and they recruited me to work for them. So that was back in September of 2003. And I've been doing it ever since.
Gary Pageau 2:24
So now you're on your own, and you have your own business, you have a team that goes out and looks for people. Now everyone knows today's hiring environment is challenging. And for your familiar since you spoke at the pro commission, you are familiar with this market, in terms of the photo imaging and retailer and people like that. What do you think are some of the unrealized opportunities that these segments have for attracting employees?
Carrie Schochet 2:52
Well, first and foremost, I think one of the shifts that occurred, you know, over the last couple of years is there's there's different things that are motivating people to move jobs, or to stay in jobs, and a lot of that can come down to passion and trust mission. And so, you know, a lot of people just in general want to go to a place where they can be fulfilled, and work, like work for the sake of work, I think is becoming less acceptable overall. And so I think an opportunity for an, you know, an industry like photography retailers, or you know, this creative space in general, is that there are a lot of people who are interested and excited about the space, the industry, and I think really capitalizing on that and really trying to find people that have an interest or a passion for photography, and how can that play out and in a retail, you know, retail job, you know, what is what's the benefit to those people. So really trying to leverage those interests and finding people that have those interests and bringing them into the industry, um, that way
Gary Pageau 3:55
to do that. A business ROI has to kind of know what their mission is, for a business been around for a long time, they may internally know their mission, but then they have to be able to talk about it.
Carrie Schochet 4:05
Yeah, mission and culture. You know, it took it probably took a couple, two, three years for purple squirrel to, for me to develop some of those statements on our culture and, and things like that, it takes time. It's not something that you can just sit down and write it, it actually evolves because it's, you know, it plays out, you know, people feel your culture, if you're really being true, you know, when when you write them down, people should be able to feel more, and so that that evolves. But yeah, I think those are, those are things that are important to be able to describe in the hiring process.
Gary Pageau 4:41
Let's say you're running a small camera store, where would you start to find a salesperson who may have to be like mostly commission, right, because we're selling hardware they're selling. You know, they're not selling a service per se. They're selling hard goods. Where would you To start looking,
Carrie Schochet 5:01
the biggest thing is you got to fish where the fish are, I guess as a way of saying, like, you know, you've really got to be looking in the circles where you're likely to find somebody that has that that interest, I think, as a starting point, somebody who has some knowledge or interest in photography, that's a good, good base to work from. And so I would be exploring, you know, local groups club, you know, if there's a community college or another school in the area that has programs that would be looking there. Certainly Instagram and you know, maybe there's some budding photographers or people that are trying to launch a business, in photography, and there be a benefit of working at a camera rich retail shop, because the discounts and different things they might be, I would be thinking about all those places of where am I likely to find somebody who's interested in photography as a starting point,
Gary Pageau 5:52
because it used to be that they could either find people among our existing customers like, yeah, the heavy duty customer comes in, or in a maybe a local community college or a local, but what's happened over the years is a lot of colleges, community colleges, specifically a good done away with a photography program. Right, so So that sort of base has changed. Now. Now, you mentioned Instagram, how effective you think social media is for finding potential employees, I think
Carrie Schochet 6:21
it can be very effective for an industry like photography. But it's not something that you can flip a switch, and it happens overnight, I think that's a longer term strategy, where if you have an Instagram following, then you can leverage your following for potential hiring, but I don't think you can start on Instagram with a plan to hire. And so that would be the big thing. So if the particular company has an established brand on Instagram, I would absolutely use it. But if not, then I would work on developing a brand on Instagram and have a plan to use in the future.
Gary Pageau 6:57
Now, the challenge I can see happening is you have someone who was tremendously passionate about photography, you know, and they're a great communicator went up, but they may not be great at the job. How do you kind of balance that, right? Because you may have somebody who may be more interested in, you know, using the gear rather than selling the gear.
Carrie Schochet 7:17
I think, first of all, if the person has an interest and a desire to learn that skill, right, providing some training, you know, and some direct feedback. And so I would say like setting expectations properly on the front end, and then really spending some time with shadowing. And, you know, the onboarding phase, I think, would be really important for somebody that's making this transition. And, you know, I can envision a situation where maybe, you know, first of all, they're going to shadow the experienced person, and they're going into the driver's seat, and providing feedback, saying, hey, like, that was a really good interaction. But next time, try asking this or, you know, here's another way or, you know, like really working with them. And I think if you've got the right person who's got an open mind and receptive to feedback, I could, it could be a workable situation, because
Gary Pageau 8:07
I think there's sort of a cultural dynamic happening in terms of work life balance, we talked a little bit about that. I think there's a lot of different expectations of what a Zoomer or a millennial are expecting out of work. And I think part of that is a path forward, right? Maybe they're hiring in as a counter salesperson, but they kind of want to know where it's going to end up.
Carrie Schochet 8:33
Exactly. Yeah. What's really interesting right now is that, you know, the candidates are interviewing the companies just as much as the companies who are interviewing. And they want to know, what's the opportunity today, but what do you How are you going to develop me? How can my career grow with you? Where's the company going? How do I fit into that growth plan? So it's difficult because you've got to pay, you know, they haven't even stepped foot in the company. And they want already want to know what their next position is. Exactly. Yeah. So that that presents a little bit of a challenge. And there's definitely a trend towards more on the spot feedback versus regularly scheduled performance reviews. Right. Right. Right, and really keeping that that those lines of communication open on. Hey, look around, you see what, you know, you see the other opportunities in our business, where do you think you could add value? What is where do you see yourself growing to stay with us long term? So kind of keeping the lines of communication with your existing employees, I think is important too, because retention is the name of the game right now.
Gary Pageau 9:37
Well, that's exactly right. I think that's one of the challenges is not only recruitment or retention, because you have to, you know, maintain the relationship with with the, with the employee, because what's happened is, especially in retail, you have employees who develop relationships with customers, right? And they don't want to the employer doesn't want that employee to take those customers with them, which I was happy.
Carrie Schochet 10:00
Absolutely, I can see a big risk there. So the I think retention is huge right now, because the cost to acquire a new employee and the training and getting up to speed, it's a, it can be a tough path. And so if you've got a well established employee who is doing well, and they're all, you know, it's obviously the ROI of keeping them as very high,
Gary Pageau 10:25
though, we've also heard that one pool of potential employees or friends and family of existing employees, is that growing as a as an opportunity, or is there a concern when you have maybe family members who aren't part of the ownership team coming in and becoming part of the staff?
Carrie Schochet 10:46
It depends, you know, I think you definitely want to, you don't want to hire people just because they've got this relationship. But there's also the benefit of, you know, maybe shared values. And if you've got a really great employee who's willing to kind of put their name on the recommendation and saying, I know this person, they're going to be great. Right, you know, that's the best recommendation, you know, right. Awesome. Cool. And so I think there's a lot of value and leveraging those referrals, because, you know, there's the hope that there's going to be shared values, and there's that level of trust. And, you know, they're less I think the, the potential employee is less likely to, like, for example, ghost, you know, there's a lot of seeing that occurs, and they don't want to make their their friend or family member look bad, you know, so they're gonna use professionalism, hopefully.
Gary Pageau 11:35
And of course, with the person who's existing on the step doesn't want to bring a board, someone who's going to either make them look bad. Sure, right. Now, there's also I've heard of businesses actually, like providing bonuses to employees who bring on people who stay a certain length of time, is that common or more common now?
Carrie Schochet 11:52
Yeah, that's very common. I mean, that's that, you know, and I think that the dollar values have been increasing, you know, to, to provide those referrals. But yeah, very common, generally, after a certain waiting period, then the bonus gets gets paid. So that's, you know, we're seeing more and more of that, for sure, then, and it's much more cost effective than, you know, potentially, you know, whatever the cost of advertising might be or other.
Gary Pageau 12:19
One of the questions I hear a lot when I talk to business owners is how long is this going to go on? Is there any idea that is, is a demographic shift? Because of the baby boomers are aging out? So there's fewer people? Or is this a seasonal or type thing that will be over in a year or two?
Carrie Schochet 12:40
It's hard to say, I wish I wish I knew, I think that some of what's happened, I think are is going to be more long term in terms of the expectations that people have of their jobs, you know, where I, you know, I don't think that all of those expectations are gonna are gonna go away, I think people really have shifted a lot of mindset in terms of how does that job fit into my life? What am I seeking out of my employer? I think these younger generations definitely have had an emphasis more on mission and social responsibility. And some of these, you know, other things that maybe prior generations weren't as focused on? I don't think that's going away, I do think I expect that it'll get a little bit easier, you know, at some point in the next 12 months, in terms of just more talent being available. I think, right now, what's going on in retail is you're competing with, you know, maybe industries that you weren't competing with before. So there's a lot of there's just a lot of competition for certain talent, like manufacturing, for example. There's a lot of companies that are willing to like upscale or are completely trained with no experience. Right. So they're lying, I think, from different industries. And there's going to be a point in time where, you know, there's just going to be less of that, and there will hopefully be, it won't be quite as hard on the retail side.
Gary Pageau 14:00
And then of course, there's also the gig economy, people coming in, you know, I mean, you can almost make as much door dashing as you can working, you know, a retail job or something like that. And you've got a lot more flexibility.
Carrie Schochet 14:11
Yeah, control over your schedule, and all that. Yeah, I was talking to somebody recently, who is telling me that, yeah, he's kind of putting together he's kind of one of those gig workers. He's combining a lot of different gig jobs and kind of making it all work. But he's like, I like it. I get to pick my schedule. Nobody's telling me like, he's more. He was more of a restaurant hospitality guy, but he was like, you know, I don't have somebody hand me a schedule and say, these are your hours. He's like, I get to pick when I work and those people want that that control I think. So.
Gary Pageau 14:41
It is a very interesting time. So where do people go for more information about Purple Squirrel Advisors?
Carrie Schochet 14:48
Sure. So you can find us on LinkedIn. We've got a purple squirrel advisors page there you can find us on www dot purple squirrel advisors.com and My email address is Carrie ca RR ie at purple squirrel advisors.com.
Gary Pageau 15:07
Thank you Carrie and have a great week.
Carrie Schochet 15:09
Thank you so much.
Erin Manning 15:13
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