Cultivating Culture Begins with Great Leadership

The hospitality and service industry is growing, not just in the US but also across the globe. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism now support 292 million people. That’s equal to about 1 in 10 jobs throughout the world in this sector, and it is set to grow about 3.9% annually over the next 10 years.

This translates into a great opportunity to build a healthy team culture supported by visionary leadership.

Choosing effective leaders is paramount to the growth and sustainability of your business. The question is: what makes a great leader?

A couple of articles from Michigan State University Online lend insight into what you can be looking for in talented leaders. While the pieces made several insightful points, a couple stood out that I would like to share additional thoughts on.

They Have a Vision for the Future

As the MSU article “What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in Hospitality” states, “The difference between a staff member and a leader is perspective. Leaders don’t think of their position in the company as just a job and a paycheck, but rather a platform from which they can positively affect the business.” In other words, they have vision.

As a leader in the hospitality industry, you have a vision of what you want to see your organization do. With this in mind, take a look around you. Who do you see that doesn’t look at their position as “just a paycheck,” instead they are visionary?

They inspire their co-workers and others in the company’s bigger mission. They provide tools to help others get onboard.You will know those individuals when you see them. Trust your gut.

They Put People First – Always

Exceptional leaders not only inspire others with a vision of the future but they also always put people first – and it’s not just about guests.

Talented leaders understand that respect is the key to working with all individuals, especially staff. These are the members of your team that may engage in informal mentoring to help other team members be better at their position.

5 Essentials of Hospitality Leadership” puts it another way.These will be your team members that have strong inner values. For them all people are important. Contributing to something bigger than themselves is important. (To better understand what I’m talking about,check out my previous post about social entrepreneurship.)

Ask yourself, who is that person who is the “go-to” for many because they have the knack of encouraging others?

Bringing it Home

As a leader, you know that growing your organization requires cultivating the culture. Finding and nurturing great leaders within your company is one way to create the company culture you want.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Successful Founders Aren’t Discovered, They’re Made

Projects aiming to achieve big, world-changing goals need a lot of time to develop, and require the coordination of large groups and institutions. This level of complication means that projects must have “shovel-ready” solutions in place to secure investment. A project is shovel-ready when work can begin immediately,and ready-to-go solutions like this require experience.

A successful business entrepreneur has already experienced the pitfalls, accomplishments, and surprises of a project, and that makes them the best candidate for the immense challenges of bringing about social change.  Steve Tobak at Entrepreneur reminds us that “…the only people making a real difference are those already successful in business,” such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

…And Here’s Why

  • First, experienced business leaders understand what it takes to get a startup off the ground, raise capital, grow an organization and scale an enterprise. A task that’s hard enough when the goal is profit, and more so when it is not.
  • Second, successful founders don’t just drop out of the sky into comfy corner office chairs. They are there because they have learned which each past project, and can take that expertise along with them into the nonprofit world.
  • Third, it’s hard to run a business without learning to sell. Asking people to give up their time and invest in a venture that is not designed to show a material return on investment is a tough sell, even for the pros.

Be Shovel-Ready

Experienced business entrepreneurs have the skills to build and cultivate the shovel-ready projects social entrepreneurs are seeking out in growing numbers. With the knowledge to take a start-up from the garage to the enterprise level, these entrepreneurs are creating scalable organizations with the tenacity and structure to take on the world’s most challenging problems and create positive change.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Think BIGGER and Invest in What Might Be, to Make a BIG Difference

To see big changes coming from their efforts, philanthropists are pooling their money and backing large-scale social change projects that aim to better our world. By taking on huge projects that can take decades to complete and require the coordination of large segments of civil and private society, social entrepreneurs have pushed past the status quo of investing in what is and are investing in what might be.

Doing it Their Way – Making a More Social Difference

Social entrepreneurs drive social change by pursuing goals with entrepreneurial zeal, using business methods, foresight, and courage to overcome traditional models and innovate. To be successful, a social entrepreneur must build strong and sustainable organizations which, when the time comes, can be scaled to perform wider missions.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship namedBoulder Colorado’s Kimbal Musk a 2017 Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Kimbal is the co-founder of the Boulder restaurant groupThe Kitchen, a family of restaurants that source directly from local farmers to stimulate the local farm economy, and to create quality local jobs. The group has positively affected the local industry by millions of dollars per year. From The Kitchen Community’s efforts to build Learning Gardens U.S. schools, to improving the vegetable intake and academic achievements of thousands of students, Kimbal remains, “…incredibly humbled to be honored alongside these social entrepreneurs changing the world.”

Joining Musk on the list of2017 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs are Malik Ahmad Jalal and FayeezaNaqvi of theAman Foundation. The foundation offers a community-based, prevention-oriented, and affordable healthcare model for Pakistani cities. Aman’s community health program is focused on family planning, reproductive, and child health, and supports 1 million people. Aman takes a very entrepreneurial approach: they use seed capital to incubate social enterprises, and then, to scale the projects, Aman leverages external funding, partnerships, and service agreements with local governments.

Rise of the Social Entrepreneur

This drive to infuse careers with meaning has increasingly attracted entrepreneurs to large-scale sustainable social projects like climate change and prison reform in the United States. While traditional charitable giving on the business level is80% institutional (universities, hospitals, and cultural institutions) philanthropy is also plays a critical role in confronting daunting social problems and is becoming the hallmark of the socially-minded entrepreneur.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Want Better Talent? Think Community Before Bottom Line

Recent articles, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry, note that the social entrepreneurial movement and the millennial generation are a perfect match.

QSR Magazines’s article “Restaurants Can Change the World” points out:“Increasingly, we’re seeing people aligning their purchasing behavior—especially younger people, the millennial generation—with companies that share a set of values with them,” says Jay Tandan, Assistant Global Activism Manager for Ben & Jerry’s.”

When your business reaches out to lead a social change, you are not only helping society as a whole; you are also speaking to a generation seeking something bigger than money – they want to make a difference.

According to “Restaurants Can Change the World,” there are three main areas to consider. I want to expand on those:

Your Community

Traditionally, we think reaching out to your community is a one-time “thing” – like serving at a soup kitchen over the holidays. Today, we are talking about exacting change on a consistent, almost daily, basis.

For instance, Indian Fusion invites people who need a free meal to come in and eat, or Laughing Man Coffee’s mission is to “educate entrepreneurs and support poor communities in Ethiopia.”

Research the shared values that appear in your community and pursue ways to reach out. The millennials on your team are an excellent resource to see what’s going on in the community.

Your Customer

You can make an impact on your community one customer at a time through additional channels such as fundraisers or increasing your patron’s quality of life.

For example, Mazi Mas, a London restaurant, hires migrant and refugee women to cook traditional, ethnic dishes handed to them by their mothers. The cooks get paid, gain experience, and connect with their community.Mazi Mas’ customers experience a cultural heritage and awareness of the plight of fellow humans.

Again, having team members from the millennial generation can be a plus for exploring new ideas like these, not to mention their drive to make that impact.

Your Team

Millennials in your organization may be a “good thing” for ideas on how to reach out and build a social enterprise for your company, but what better social impact can you have than to focus on training those millennials on your team?

I have discussed before on the benefits of being flexible and the trend toward contract employment, but while you have those team members on your team, why not develop a training system that empowers them to grow in their long-term careers?

Consider modifying your current training to empower your employees. For example, Shake Shack hires based on their “litmus test,” but the real strength is in how they offer paths to advancement, not to mention skills, that benefits the employee, which reveals itself in the form of retention.

Final Thought

Many millennials want to help solve a problem, which is a construct of social entrepreneurship. You can harness this talent and drive when you look past your bottom line.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Why You Should Trust Your Intuition (and Not Just a Resume) When Hiring.

While reading an article “How Private Equity Firms Hire CEOs” from the Harvard Business Review on the ins-and-outs of CEO hiring for Private Equity firms, I couldn’t help thinking, they’re talking about using your intuition. Intuition taps into the wealth of knowledge you gather subconsciously. Trusting our intuition leads to wise decision making.


Intuition, your “gut-feeling,” gets a bad rap in today’s information-saturated environment. Data-driven decision making plays down the information you already have inside you. To deliver vetted, culture-centric candidates at all levels within an organization, you have to let go of the data and let your instincts guide you.

Beyond The Resumé

Looking at a candidate’s background and how they fit into an industry is helpful, but experience can sometimes be misleading. Candidates that have experienced success with certain strategies in the past can be tempted to recycle those ideas when taking over a new job. Above all, a CEO must master working in any environment they are given, when everything changes, and it will, the best candidates are those who pivot and recognize the clear path to the goal.

In environments where leadership and team-building make or break a portfolio, what’s really important is what a CEO does in the face of challenges and setbacks: can they adapt to constantly changing environments, and can they make the tough personnel decisions necessary to succeed on tight timelines? No job ever unfolds exactly how you expect it to. If a candidate can’t adapt they die.

“Player Coaches”

Tony de Nicola, co-president of the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, puts it this way: “…we’re looking for “player-coaches” who will lead a smaller team and collaborate very closely with owners to create value.” Close collaboration involves the mixing of potentially strong personalities under pressure. Your intuition about how a candidate will interact with their team, and how they will lead, is important, don’t ignore it. A candidate’s ability to recognize talent and positively motivate their team becomes more important than a string of wins in their past.

In quick turnaround environments, assembling, and being able to change and improve a team is a vital asset. Private equity firms change CEOs nearly every time they invest, so a candidate must have the ability to create exceptional teams rapidly, and inspire the trust necessary to bring key players with them to new jobs. The article invites you to use your intuition:

To avoid leaders who won’t excel at building teams, PE execs say, they watch out for candidates who use “I” too much when talking about accomplishments or who display so much intellectual horsepower that they come across as arrogant, which can inhibit hiring and developing A-level talent.

Put Intuition to work

What you learn during interaction with a candidate tells you so much unconsciously that will help you make a wise decision. You only need to recognize when your intuition is filling in the blanks for you, and to do that you need to be open to what you already know. You know what kind of demeanor an effective leader has, you know immediately whether a candidate will fit with your client’s team or infrastructure. This information is already available to you, trusting it is how you put intuition to work for you.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Employing flexibility in the workplace can bring some pretty great benefits to both life and business. More money, greater growth, added choice, are just a few advantages provided by Contract Employment. Workforce is now asking for greater fit with life and work, a call for a more agile work arrangement.

A shift is underway from full-time employment to temporary, contract employment. Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of Americans working in an “agile capacity” (i.e. contractor, consultant, temp worker or freelancer) surged from10.7 percent to 15.8 percent.This shift is one that is likely to keep growing. According to“Workplace 2025” a study by Randstad US, one of the largest HR services and staffing companies in the U.S., about 70 percent of workers and employers agree that a majority of the workforce will be employed in a contract capacity by 2025.

Bending of Conventional Wisdom

The conventional wisdom around contract employment is that it benefits only the employer, leaving the contract employee financially vulnerable. Could be true in some cases, but as you look closer, a different picture emerges. In a survey of contract workers, approximately half reported that they personally chose contract work over full-time employment.

Nearly four in 10 workers currently in full-time positions say they are considering shifting to an agile arrangement over the next two to three years.

Perks of Flexibility

Why do workers prefer contract employment? In a survey of contract employees, 68 percent said it better fits their lifestyle. That’s unsurprising, as time between jobs is fairly common in freelance employment. But many other reasons were unexpected, these tend to be arguments against contract employment, a few being:

  • 56 percent agree agile work makes them more money.
  • 48 percent say that agile work offers them better career growth.
  • 38 percent agree they feel more job security working as an agile worker.

These responses indicate that instead of being a form of professional purgatory, agile employment actually does allow for more, well…agility.

It makes sense: contract compensation rates tend to be higher than salaries, and agile workers are able to avoid getting stuck in companies where mobility is limited. Most surprising was the answer about job security. For agile employees who feel that they have more job security, they may conclude they have a consistent history of being hired and are confident in their networking skills.

An increasingly contract-based work force that is receiving the benefits of more money, the perks of greater business and lifestyle choices, give confidence to contract employees to always be able to find “the next job”…and supports the change to a more agile based working world.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


635x300wantneed150pxAre your hiring decisions based on “Need” or“Want”?

There’s a curious phenomenon that I’ve noticed from companies with an executive opening.  My search client is clear on what they want for their organization, but less clear on what they need. In some cases their “want list” is a perfect description of the person they recently let go.

Seeing the “blind spots” of need.

It’s easy to overlook your blind spots or the scope of the opportunities when it comes to talent acquisition.  Recently, I was working with a company in which the VP of Operations had just left, resulting in an immediate need to fill the position with a new candidate. Through some discussions and fact-finding I found that the owner wanted someone to turn around the operations so he could sell his business. Rather than fulfilling the “status quo” (what he “wanted”) with a new VP, I sent someone their way that could make some real changes (the blind spot “need”) as the company’s new president.

Discovering the true needs

With this scenario, a change of leadership was needed and my client / company owner didn’t see all the opportunities available to him. There was a blind spot of need vs. want in this executive decision. Does one decisively follow “what has always worked” or discover and uncover the blind spot of true need to make effective change?

My client needed to make some drastic changes. Instead of giving them the VP of Operations they wanted, I introduced them to someone with far greater abilities and much needed vision.  The positive impact was immediate. The true “need” hire allowed the owner to acquire new units, providing a significant upside and potential multiple to a profitable sale in 3-5 years.

Hiring to the needs of “culture”

According to a recent survey by Right Management, over one third of employers worldwide reported having trouble filling positions due to lack of suitable talent. While there are some outside circumstances that have made discovering the right candidate more challenging, often times, hiring managers get in their own way.

Yes, hiring managers now have to know true needs and take into consideration the needs of their own internal culture.

An example I can give you: As a part of a recent interview process, a highly sought-after candidate was introduced to other departments’ managers in an unintended unflattering way.  This caused them to lose the candidate over an exhibited cultural concern. It’s time for companies to rethink their needs, and the way they hire people.

Are you seeing your needs vs. wants as you look to hire? What would you need to change so you can fulfill your true hire needs?

In my next blog, I’ll break down the key missteps that companies make when they’re trying to find the best person for the job.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Wise decision making: 5 top tips to trusting your intuition.

What does intuition have to do with making “wise decisions”? Intuition is: an ability to derive clarity from all of the information you’ve subconsciously stored away over the years. A memory of positive outcome, an understanding of the way colleagues or clients re-act and act, and a million other pieces of information, all make up your pool of internal resources to make wise decisions.

All of us are strengthening our intuition every day. 

By being open and attentive you can and will strengthen your intuition. When you make an effort to be consciously aware of your daily interactions, you will notice how your intuition unlocks underlying pieces of information that you wouldn’t necessarily know you’re observing, the previously invisible now becomes visible.

Be open to noticing patterns – in people’s behavior, market demographics, or anything else – then use these patterns to effect, compliment, or to make wise more aligned decisions. This is the thrust of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. In it, he employs case studies and scientific research to highlight the power of what he calls “thin-slicing:” our ability to use limited information from a very narrow period to come to a conclusion.

With Malcolm Gladwell’s examples (his note on “misuses of thin-slicing”) here are 5 strong tips to exercising and recognizing your intuition:

#1. The most reliable “gut” observation to make note of: the average person’s ability to accurately assess someone’s mood is by simply observing their facial expression. Take note of how you feel as you “see” others, their facial expression!

#2. Step away from a reliance upon stereotypes. In some cases, bias or emotional reactions can resemble intuition, but it’s important to be able to understand the distinctions. Ask if there is “judgment”.

#3. Emotions can be temporary, and can yield decisions that only make sense temporarily. Intuition is not emotion…accurate “gut” information is received in a calm position.

#4. You can’t be intuitive when you’re angry or resentful, so it’s important to notice the influence those feelings have on your thought processes.

One last tip to take in…

More and more intuition is a tool being used in business. It’s not just this year’s buzzword. Simone Wright, author of First Intelligence: Using the Science and Spirit of Intuition, says that intuitive leaders thrive in situations where they are told, “it can’t be done.” Historically, this has been the pushback to almost every major invention and advancement in our society. (Hello, Wright Brothers!)

Final tip #5: Intuition tells you what you CAN do, not what you cannot do. It’s not impossible, It can be done…trust your intuition, its all right inside of you. Write down your “cans”!

Rather than dismissing the viability of intuition, consider that it’s a valuable resource that’s already inside you. Once you learn how to tap into it, you’ll have a whole new wealth of information at your service.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


blog.boxYou Already Know What You Need to Know

When you’re facing a challenging professional decision, do you consult a spreadsheet, an expert’s white-sheet, quarterly findings – anything that appears “concrete” and an external source? In most cases, you really do not need those spreadsheets filled with potential proof…you already know everything you need to know. Why not go into the “blue sky” world of your own “knowing”!

In this fast paced world, you will be greeted with many opportunities to make choices without any existing data, with multiple unknowns, or your decision must be made on the spot. In this hard-and-fast world of business, you will find yourself having to rely and trust on your intuition.

What does “knowing” look like?

Intuition: the concept may sound flakey and be erroneously filed away in the same category as acting on a whim or “if it feels good, do it.” Knowing or intuition is actually the product of all your learned knowledge and observations.

Acting from your intuition is so much more than “if it feels good, do it.” When you act from your strong sense of intuition, that “gut feeling”, you can feel good, liberated, confident.

Can you feel safe using your intuition?

According to a recent UCLA study, we process over 174 newspapers worth of information daily[1], proving that a lack of information is not a problem. The issue is that we’ve actually become so reliant on research, the looking of everything up, that we’ve forgotten how to connect and trust our intuition.

Stepping outside of the data box, of operating in the unknown in the data / information age feels a lot scarier than it has in the past. With all that “expert” data streaming to you, can you feel good trusting your own knowing into use?

Actually, our tech advancements haven’t rendered us completely incapable of using intuition. It’s the knowledge of how to use your “knowing” as a skill that merely requires practice. Here are a couple of quick ways to start your intuition practice:

  1. Begin your day with a simple meditative practice that will help you to begin to trust yourself, your intuition. This can be as simple as a few breathing exercises or a unique routineas complex as you need it to be.
  2. Write down how you “felt/feel” about a decision or decisions decided each day. If the result was positive, continue trusting your intuition or the “feel” on that issue. If not, inventory your cues, emotions, and the physical environment you were in at that time.  Refocus on yourself and eliminate decisions made while in a heightened emotional state or stressed surroundings.

See how easy it is to feel safe with using what you already know in fulfilling what you need?

Are you getting into intuition? In my next blog, I’ll discuss how to further tap into and use this invaluable knowing you already possess.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach

[1] Simone Wright, “The 7 Attributes of Intuitive Business Leaders,” Huffington Post

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