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Lesson #3: “Think outside the job market”
Whenever Wilson was hiring for a position at FirstEnergy, he would look at degrees, and he would look at work experience. But even more than that, Wilson was looking outside that box. "It's all about the rounded package," he says. "When I'm hiring, I want to see people who have excelled, whether in church, Club Scouts, starting a small business, charity, working for a student newspaper, being active in sports or coaching younger kids. I want people who have done more than just ride the business."
Just as Wilson founded an investment club while studying to be an engineer, so too did he want to hire individuals that were diversified - people that had life skills, social skills, and initiative that went beyond the four walls of school or work. To that end, he advises others to "think outside the job market."
"If you're struggling to break into a tough job market, here's some advice your parents might not give you," says Wilson. "There's no greater time than now to travel, spending some time making a difference in your community, and getting your education enhanced."
This theory translated over into Wilson's management style. In its early years, FirstEnergy made it a policy to hold weekly meetings. "Every department has a weekly meeting, and all the partners have a weekly meeting," says Wilson. "Many times the partners would come in begrudgingly saying, ‘There's nothing new to discuss.' But you know what? We'd take an hour and a half and discuss nothing new. It was about team building, it was about understanding how everybody responded under pressure, and taking the time to get to know each other."
Wilson made it a priority to look at people beyond their work performance - to find out how they were managing with their workloads, to get everybody knowing each other - because he knew that in the end, that would result in a stronger, more cohesive company.
And that is one of the reasons why Wilson agreed to be a panelist on Dragon's Den. "In the first eight days, we evaluated 110 businesses. Some of them were fascinating, and some I was fascinated that they'd got through the door." Still, he says, "For me, the show was fun. I'm reasonably good at evaluating people - that's one of my greatest strengths. I ended up doing quite a few deals as a result of believing that some of the people put in front of us were onto something."
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