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The Perfect Fit: Recruitment and Retention Strategies from John Thedford, CEO of La Familia Pawn and Jewelry

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Authored by John Thedford. Thedford is CEO of La Familia Pawn and Jewelry, a chain of high-end pawnbroker shops with locations throughout Central and South Florida, and he is the author of Smart Moves Management: Cultivating World-Class People and Profits. For more information, visit

John D. ThedfordA company without good employees is like a shark without teeth … very ineffective and bound for extinction. Here are some strategies that can help you hire and promote the best people for your business.

Being a business owner requires a strong commitment to success and attention to detail. Tasked with many responsibilities, entrepreneurs have to maintain a vigilant focus on the key processes that drive their operations. Based on my own experiences, I believe the trickiest part of running a company is the hiring process. Why? Because people are complex creatures with unique attributes, and hiring the right employees is imperative to the success of your endeavor. In other words, when it comes to hiring, the stakes are high.

The “right” people are the core of your strength. Inversely, the “wrong” people will make you weaker and less effective. In the end, you’ve worked hard to start your business, and you need to create an environment where everyone functions on the same page and works toward the same goals. How do you accomplish this? Take hiring — and the development of superior talent — very seriously, and have a process in place that gives you the best chance of hiring and retaining employees who will help you realize success.

A Strategic Path to Success

Through trial and error, I’ve learned that business success isn’t a model; it’s an equation of compatibility and chemistry among employees, customers and investors. Creating a strategic path based on this philosophy will pay major dividends because an engaged employee will provide exceptional customer service and make so much money for themselves and for the company that your shareholders will marvel at the outcome.

Ask yourself a simple question. Who do you want representing your business? Remember that you’re looking for specific attributes, and you need someone who fits comfortably into your company culture. An Ivy League graduate with the wrong skill sets for your particular venture brings little value to the table, no matter how well-educated that person might be. And a bad hire can be costly; the industry rule of thumb suggests that hiring the wrong person costs you three times his or her annual salary. A $50,000 employee costs you $150,000; a $150,000 employee costs $450,000. That’s for starters. There’s also lost opportunity cost … plus lost business, potential customers and momentum. And now you’re back to square one, looking for a replacement.

In order to avoid these setbacks, it’s important to understand that a successful hiring process begins with a clear understanding of the critical traits that are required to get the job done. Those who seek to complete the type of work required to operate your business possess a set of core competencies that define and highlight their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Once you determine which specific attributes best suit your needs, you need to learn how to identify them when selecting new hires or promotable candidates.

Identifying Core Competencies

Each business requires its own set of core competencies that management feels will help maximize growth and profitability. The key is that everyone involved in the hiring process understands the selected competences, asks the right questions to gain better insight into the thoughts and tendencies possessed by candidates (both new hire and promotable), and makes the right hiring decisions that will ultimately strengthen the overall staff.

At La Familia Pawn & Jewelry, we’ve developed our own set of core competencies that fall into the following categories: intellectual, personal, interpersonal, management and motivational. Based on a comprehensive interview and a temperament questionnaire that we require every candidate to complete, we feel confident determining if a person possesses the right mix of desired traits. When analyzing motivational competencies, for example, we want to consider the following factors:

  • Energy — Exhibits energy, strong desire to achieve and appropriately high dedication level.
  • Passion — Exhibits dynamism, charisma, excitement and positive “can-do” attitude.
  • Tenacity — Demonstrates consistent reward of passionately striving to achieve results.

Specific interview questions we include to help determine if a candidate possesses these motivational competencies include:



1.     How many hours per day have you worked, on the average, in the past year?

2.     What motivates you?



1.     How would you rate yourself (and why) in enthusiasm and charisma?

2.     Describe the pace at which you work – fast, slow, moderate – and the circumstances under which it varies.



1.     What are the challenges you have faced and overcome?

2.     What will references say is your general level of urgency?

By developing your own set of core competencies, you can begin to incorporate hiring strategies that give you the best chance to hire the people you need in order to succeed. And once you get these individuals into the fold, you need to hold it all together with strong leadership and a positive, motivational work culture.


Thedford raises some interesting points about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I have worked with people who were brilliant, but ill-suited for their positions and the company culture. Once they left to pursue more suitable opportunities, they thrived. When I interview and hire people, I always try to be careful about buying into the hype of someone's resume, rather than thinking critically about whether or not his/her personality and specific skill set is right for the position. Great article!

Stephanie Gaspary
Stephanie Gaspary

Lynn, you are so right. A person can be brilliant, but if he or she doesn't fit the culture of your company, it could be detrimental for both the employee and the organization.


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