Ben Rubenstein | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ben Rubenstein

Background:  

Austin-based Opcity aims to transform the real estate industry by matching top agents with qualified home buyers and sellers in real-time by using large proprietary data sets and applied analytics.

The Mistake:

I had the wrong priorities when it came to hiring.

Early on, I tried to hire people that were very similar in personality to me. My philosophy was that people who are similar to me in education, background and attitude and how they view things – I’ll be able to work with better. My thought was that if I found someone like me, I could replicate what worked for me and make it work for someone else.

That led to a bunch of problems.  For one, I was trying to hire for other roles and I may not be great at those as my own. I found that we were coming to the same conclusions – there wasn’t a lot of healthy conflict.

When it came to hiring for sales roles in particular, I was looking for educated, aggressive and a younger demographic. But we were having a hard time scaling our sales force and finding the right people. It was hard to grow. Not a lot of new ideas were coming out of the team because everyone was too similar in background or experience.

I learned that personality traits are much more important than a resume.

The Lesson:

In 2011, I acquired another company and found that their sales force was very diverse – meaning that there were people of all ages, some with no sales experience, others from different industries and from varying walks of life. And they were more successful than we were at the time. I learned that what you really want, and need, is to surround yourself with a diverse population who know things you don’t know and have experienced things in life you haven’t.

Before I thought only one type of person would be good, but I learned it was important that they had to be able to think quickly or adapt. In the end, a resume was a lot less meaningful than what a person had the potential to do.

It really boiled down to the characteristics of who they were as a person.  I learned that personality traits are much more important than a resume, or what someone had done in the past or looked like on paper.

Ultimately, hiring came to be boiled down to three characteristics: one, if they were coachable and could take feedback. Two, they needed to be hard-working and put in the effort to get the job done. And three, they had to have a great attitude – especially in sales – and were happy and excited.

I would rather have a person who looks worse on paper but looks on the upside and is willing to collaborate than a person who looks perfect on paper and is a jerk or doesn’t work well with others. This opened up our hiring world to many more people.

To help determine candidates’ personality traits, we came to use automated tests. So if there were people with great resumes but whose test results didn’t fit in as much, then we wouldn’t even bring them in to interview. And vice versa – if there was someone who did well on the tests but didn’t have the greatest of resumes, we’d be more likely to bring them in in person. When you do that, you open yourself up to many more people.

Of course when it comes to leadership roles, experience played a bigger role than say, sales where people could be trained. But in almost every role, work ethic, personality and who you are deep down matters a lot more than anything.

 

Follow Opcity on Twitter at @OfficialOpcity.

Pictured: Ben Rubenstein | Photo courtesy of Opcity.

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