Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What makes a great employee?

The funny thing about starting a new business (or really any new project, for that matter), is that the most valuable interns and employees are sometimes the ones that have the least experience in what you're trying to accomplish. If you're following a set path, it makes sense to hire people that have seen-and-done what you're trying to do; but with new and innovative ideas, there is no "right way" of doing things, and when the path to success is unclear, the worst thing that you can have are preconceived notions.

When I was first starting TOMS, I pitched the idea to a college professor who said that I would need a million dollars to get the company off the ground. I spoke with veterans in the shoe industry that saw every reason why the idea would fail. "The math just doesn't work" they would say, or "the retail business is dying," or "there's no market for canvas slip-ons," and on and on. At the time, TOMS was comprised of myself, a few duffel bags of samples, a polo instructor pretending to be a shoemaker, and a handful of interns that I hired off of Craigslist. The idea was crazy... but my interns didn't know that. All they knew was that we were having fun, and that with a little creativity and resourcefulness, we could accomplish just about anything.

As TOMS has grown, we've continued to look for these same traits in the interns and employees that we hire. Are you passionate? Can you creatively solve problems? Can you be resourceful without resources? Do you have the compassion to serve others? You can teach a new hire just about any skill... but you absolutely cannot inspire creativity and passion in someone that doesn't have it.

Would you agree?


Joylyn said...

While I am not currently running my own company, I have been working in Management for 22 months. During that time I have hired and let go of many individuals. I can completely agree that when you add having fun, creativity and resourcefulness, we can accomplish anything. I would throw Love, Positive Life outlook, desire to make a difference and a supportive/ loving Leader into that equation as well.
Anyone can do anything if they believe in themselves and want to succeed by any means.
No Matter what the job/work is, sometimes all it takes is an attitude shift or a look from all angles to become aware of the difference that are being made.
Without creativity and passion found within someone on their own there is no purpose in attempting to inspire as they have yet to inspire themselves.

One Love - Joylyn

K said...

Hi Blake.
Not sure if you even have time to read comments, but i thought i would leave one just in case.

Thank you for valuing not only the passion and mission of helping others, but also a passion to serve your team.

I work for a non-profit that serves orphans, vulnerable children, and their families; both here in the U.S. and globally. Its a blessing to be able to serve the least of go into orphanages around the world and just love on children who feel as though they have no hope; or give teens here in the U.S. encouragement that they can succeed, even when the world around them would tell them differently.

For me, working on the Performance and Strategy team, my focus is our employees. People who are giving so much of themselves daily...they too need the same love and care. i too, believe it takes passion to work in this type of atmosphere.

I've always lived with the thought of "be the change". if you want to see a that change. I think you are a prime example of how ONE person can do just that.

Each of us can change the world one person at a time.

Thanks for starting at ONE.

For the least of these,

favline said...

I do, and I've tried everything I could and more to work for TOMS.

I'll keep trying :o)

John P said...

I agree!! My nonprofit organization began last year with only a dream and three volunteers in a small ohio town. Now with over 100 volunteers and nationwide presence in 8 states. We have true believers helping to donate bras to local mission shelters, rape crisis centers, and battered women's shelters. Those with the passion to help and no presipositions are THE most creative and helpfull resources we enjoy
John Pedersen MD FACS

John P said...

I agree!! My non profit organization started in a small ohio town with three volunteers and a dream. Now one year later we have 100 volunteers and are in 8 states. Nobody ever thought the crazy idea of donating a bra to women in need would work. Those with little to no experience and no predispositions gave me what I needed; passion and unbridled enthusiasm to make a difference. I could not agree more.
John Pedersen MD FACS

Unknown said...

Yes. And given I am currently hiring.... I guess I will be keeping this idea in the back of my mind!

Unknown said...

Passion is EVERYTHING! And without passionate followers, there are no leaders. I agree with you completely. Anyone can learn the simple skills it takes to accomplish tasks, but passion and creativity cannot be taught to those who are not interested. I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and share your thoughts. Thank you.

Sarah Tomasello

Unknown said...

I absolutely agree with you, passion is something ingrained. Those who live their life through the lenses of passion, motivation and inspiration are the movers and shakers of our world. For, "success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire" (Arnold H. Glasow). Thank you for the great work you do. You and your TOMS Family are a true inspiration. Your work, words and movement touch, move and inspire me. I only hope that one day I too can be part of your movement as a TOMS Agent of Change.

Br33zy said...

I can only imagine the thousands upon thousands of emails and inquiries you receive a day asking for help, and of corse I feel horrible that I’m becoming one of those people. I apologize that I do this by means of your blog, but I find it necessary.

Anyways, I am looking to start an organization that is looking to better the community I live in, the surrounding communities, and so-on and so-forth. I too, am from Arlington, Texas and it is where I currently reside. I really hope that maybe you could offer some advice as to how to get my organization off the ground and to be successful in the biggest way possible to effect the largest amount of people.

Anyways, not to be tacky, but my email is .. i’m not looking to meet up (although that would be awesome, i know you’re busy).. but even just some advice via email would be incredible.

thank you for your time!

Joylyn said...

Hi There Blake,

I have come to this place where my next step is to get involved with you and your movement. I see that it says applications for Summer Internship were to be available today but I see nothing to complete. Please let me know if there is another way to apply that I am unaware of as of yet.

Thank you so very much.

One Love - Joylyn

Dana said...

I completely agree! it's a beautiful thought about the process of life and it happening organically with faith in the unknown and passion for an idea/cause.

Are there any opportunities at toms?

sweet blessings,

emily_rose said...

My dream job would to be able to work for TOMS Shoes. Would you hire an 18 year old? Haha. I agree with you creativity and passion have to be present from the beginning.

Ludie Mae said...

You are so right about being able to teach a skill but not being able to inspire creativity or passion in someone. Having worked with many different people in many different cities and countries, it is easy to teach someone how to do something - not so easy to teach the underlying reasons why something works one time but not another. Or how to change something that isn't working rather than continuing on because 'that's the way we have always done it'. I think the underlying reason is that most people are just afraid of change and are just afraid to take a risk - even a teeny tiny one.
It sounds like you have some great people working for you and it is even better that you are able to recognize it and appreciate them. Knowing that someone recognizes and appreciates what they do makes many people just want to do more.