SAN DIEGO, CA (March 3, 2007) Bridgepoint Education founder and chief executive officer Andrew Clark, was interviewed by Smart Business reporter Meredyth McKenzie about his methodology for hiring the best human capital and management team.
An excerpt of the article is below:
By Meredyth McKenzie
Andrew Clark pays attention to his employees. The CEO of Bridgepoint Education, an educational services holding company that owns and operates two universities, says that having the right people in the right places is key to successful growth.
Q. How do you find the right people for your company?
Look for people who have a strong background, have operated in a variety of different circumstances and companies of different scales, and have a track record of being successful. Look for chemistry. It’s important that you have a team that is able to work well together. If they’re not, that can be a significant impediment to growth and your ability to execute.
Q. How do you determine whether a team has chemistry, and how do you encourage teamwork?
Get referrals from other people about how the individuals perform in an organization and their ability to work with others. Encourage it through transparency. We try to keep a high level of transparency among our entire team and the company, all the way down to our front-line employees, so that people are aware of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and where we’re going. That level of transparency and communication enables people to work together. It’s easy to say we all need to communicate, but it takes strong leadership to make sure everybody’s having the right conversations. Set an expectation level that there will be transparency and that people will find constructive ways in which to work together and perform. People are able to work together when they have an opportunity to get to know one another on a more personal level. When they’re able to get to know each other, it helps them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how best to work together as a team. That ultimately benefits the company because they’re all moving together in the same direction and executing well, and that allows that company to grow. The most important thing is to listen to the people you work with. They’ll tell you what’s fun and how you can make your company better, and that kind of one-on-one opportunity is invaluable. There’s just that kind of level of consciousness, where you have to stop and say, ‘Am I listening? Am I doing more listening, or am I doing more talking?’
Q. You mentioned the importance of staying focused and planning ahead as key to growth. How do you do that?
When you have high growth and a lot of success, it’s easy for distractions to creep in. You have to anticipate and have the ability to stay focused and look long term, nine to 12 months ahead, and not live in the quarter that you’re in. This is the difficult part. Your company is growing at a significant rate, and you have to think, nine months from now, what are the needs of my organization going to be? Anticipate those, and then make sure that you have in place what you need to support the needs of the organization.
Q. How do you anticipate growth?
It gets back to the core executive team and constant communication about where the company is headed. Make sure to provide the resources you need. It also goes back to transparency, communication and the ability to work as a team at an executive level. We pay close attention to the key metrics of our business, the financial metrics, and forecast those out into the future.
Q. When you get off track, how do you get back on track to become focused again?
That calls for going back to your core set of goals as an organization. Sit down, determine what your objectives are for that particular year, and then start asking the question of how you are doing on those objectives. If you are failing on any of them, find out what you can do to correct that.
Q. What tips would you give to other leaders to successfully grow their companies?
Hire the best executive team that you can find. Stay focused on what the goals of the organization are; create a culture (that) will intrinsically reward everyone in your organization, and therefore, reward the goals of the organization.
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