David LaPlante, CEO of online brand marketing technology agency Twelve Horses had a lot of fascinating things to say to my class about entrepreneurship and personal branding when he spoke to us recently. Something that really caught my attention was his explanation of why he tries very hard to only hire interesting people. One thing he said that evening was that his customers would be more motivated to spend time with employees they enjoyed.
In a follow-up conversation, David told me what he looks for is remarkable folks. To be remarkable, by definition, means that people remark or talk about you – a lot! David thinks remarkable people tend to have larger social networks, engage in more in-depth relationships, and have more “interestingness” to share with others, typically by way of telling stories. This is important because story-based communication is far more memorable and effective. (Think about it: You can recount most of the movie you watched a week ago but probably can’t recall more than a few bullet points from a PowerPoint presentation you sat through yesterday.)
“If you live a purposeful and content rich life, you stand to benefit more in the conversant web,” David told me. “Social object theory means we tend to converse around objects. Content rich people are often sharing more videos, photos and writing than most. Hence they become more of the conversation.”
David’s an early adopter of using social networking sites. He was on Facebook as soon as it was opened up to the general public and jumped on Twitter in late 2006. One of his first discoveries was that he was able to connect with potential future employees long before there was an opening. By the time an opening was available, he had a broader range of people to select from. Hence the old adage, “Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to start networking.”
David also found that connecting online helped him discern if people who wanted to join the Twelve Horses team were interesting or not. David does not use recruiters, which he sees as paying to find people you don’t know. Instead, they invest their money in making Twelve Horses’ easier for interesting and talented people to find and pursue a relationship with them. While they favor people with the whole package, they would typically rather hire someone that is very remarkable with limited experience than an unremarkable expert.
As you might imagine, having a diverse spectrum of remarkable people can and will cause some problems. So they look for people that also have a high degree of empathy for the perspectives of others. “A homogeneous workforce is boring and people end up looking for inane differences amongst themselves to differentiate which typically means pettiness,” David commented. Diversity is key. It means you’re always learning different perspectives from your peers, and that’s always fun if everyone has the social intelligence to respect that diversity.
As an entrepreneurial leader in this new economy, David sees his most important role as providing vision for the company. Vision in his terms is a very specific and compelling picture of the future for Twelve Horses. Employees are then allowed (and expected to) find their own way there. “An entrepreneurial workforce doesn’t need to be process managed when they’re all motivated self-learners,” David said. “They just simply need to know where we’re headed.”
If you ever get a chance to meet or talk to David, you will quickly see that he too is extremely remarkable. Here is a picture of David.