Jul 14 2011

Retail, No Longer

Retail, No Longer

I’ve evolved my operating system as a CEO many times over the years as our business at Return Path has changed and as the company has scaled up.  I’ve changed my meeting routines, I’ve delegated more things, and I’ve gotten less in the details of the business.

But there’s one specific thing where I’ve remained very “retail,” or on the front lines, and that is the interview process.  I still interview every new hire, usually on the phone or Skype and in most cases only for 15-30 minutes, and then I also do an in-person 15-30 minute check-in when someone is around the 90-day mark as an employee.  For me, these have both been great mechanisms for collecting data about the organization, for making a personal impression on the culture, and for continuing to get to know all employees, at least a little bit.

But the system is starting to break as we scale.  Last year, we hired 82 people.  In the first six months of this year, we hired 80 more.  My calendar is groaning under the strain — and I assume, though they’ve never uttered a complaint about it, that my assistant and our recruiters feel like they’re playing a game of Sudoku with invisible ink trying to make it all work.

So today I changed the policy.  I’ll still do interviews and 90-day check-ins for all manager hires, but otherwise I’m delegating it to my staff.  We all feel that it’s critical for executives to stay as close as possible to the front lines, so we’ll share in the responsibilities.

It’s definitely a bittersweet moment.  It’s great that we’re big and growing fast, and it’s important for us to evolve.  But I will miss the personal connections with everyone, and I’ll have to work harder just to remember names as I walk through the hallways, particularly of our Colorado office, which has the majority of our staff but which I only visit 6-8 times/year.