Chris Vennitti | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Vennitti


Chris Vennitti is president of the staffing firm HireStrategy, an Addison Group company with locations in Washington, D.C.; Reston, Virginia; and Gaithersburg, Maryland. Vennitti manages sales and recruiting as well as operations for HireStrategy, which specializes in placement for technology, human resources and administration, and accounting and finance.

The Mistake:

Thinking that management and leadership were driven through process.

When I started out managing groups and offices, I was drilling too much into the tactical aspects of a division, a branch and an office rather than looking at the culture, the people and the motivation behind why individuals were there doing what they’re doing. 

There was an office I started about 15 years ago, and it was the one I spent the least time at because I trusted and empowered a couple of great people I put in the leadership positions. I gave them autonomy and allowed them to be entrepreneurs. I hired the right people and talked all about a winning culture. That office grew quicker than the offices that I was managing tightly to daily and weekly activity metrics and key performance indicators.

Early on, as a leader, you want to try to control everything. Letting go and hiring a couple great people was one of the best things I did there. In that office we really flourished as opposed to managing things tightly to a rigid structure.

The mistake I made [with the other offices] was not looking at the culture and the people. I thought a roadmap and a playbook would make people successful. I quickly learned that culture beats process any day of the week.

Surround yourself with great, ethical people ... and allow them to flourish.

The Lesson:

Motivated and happy people are going to do a better job.

Early on I wasn’t trusting my instincts that I had great people around me and I was trying to manage so tightly. When I did let go and started trusting people, they grew quicker than I thought was even possible. Some of the things they did amazed me. It became part of my mantra to hire people that are equal to or better than yourself. You got yourself to a certain point. You did it on your own but you can’t continue to do it on your own. You’ve got to surround yourself with great, ethical people with integrity and allow them to flourish.

I’m all about hiring the best people in the marketplace and keeping them happy and allowing them to be their own people. There’s not one specific way to sell. Everyone sells differently. Everyone recruits differently. There’s no cookie cutter approach that’s going to work for every individual we hire. Allowing people to put their own staple on things and allowing them to run helped things grow.

Culture wins championships, and it’s people over process. 

Follow HireStrategy on Twitter at @hirestrategy.

Photo courtesy of HireStrategy

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