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March 08, 2005

Geoffrey Smart and Topgrading

This is the fourth post about presentations given by speakers at the YPO Inventing Your Future Markets event.  To see other posts about this event just look for the Category "YPO Inventing Your Future Markets, March 2005" in the Categories section on the right.

This was my second encounter with Geoffrey Smart, but first a little background on him.  His dad, Bradford Smart, wrote the book Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People.   I don't think he invented the term "A Player" but his and Geoffrey's consulting practice have given it a lot of press.  The book is worth checking out I think, because it gives a good course on interviewing that the Smart's and others that I know claim will dramatically increase your hiring success rate.  Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, contributor to Forbes Small Business and the leader of his own very successful firm, Gazelles, is a big fan of Topgrading.  Verne's a good friend who's helped me with Gold Systems, plus he has got me in front of Jim Collins not once but twice, so I tend to listen to him!

Now for my story.  Near the end of the dot com boom we were trying to raise another round of VC money.  We got through a lot of tough but interesting interviews, pitches and planning sessions with a local VC firm.  I was feeling pretty good about it.  The last step was to meet one other partner and be interviewed by Geoffrey Smart.  Geoff came off as a nice guy with no tricks and a real interest in learning more about me.  He put me through his "Chronological In-Depth Structured Interview"  In the end Geoff recommended against me, feeling like I had not shown that I had what it would take to hire the best people.  At the time I was really disappointed, but in fact he was right.  It was a problem that I had been struggling with.  Too many times I had hired the wrong person and then made the problem worse by waiting way too long to deal with the problem.  It has taken me years to get better at this, and this particular interview and disappointment was one of the kicks in the pants that I needed to get better.

So I would still recommend that you check out Topgrading.  And Geoff, if you happen to read this, I came up after your presentation to thank you but the line was too long to get to you before the next presentation.  No hard feelings, and I now look back and I'm very thankful for how things worked out.  I'm very happy with my current investors, and you helped me be a better leader.  Thank you for your thoughtful and honest appraisal and good luck with your efforts to teach other leaders to do the same.  I think we'd have a different conversation this time around.

March 8, 2005 in YPO Inventing Your Future Markets, March 2005 | Permalink

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