- Player: Paul Brown
- Company: DigiCash
- Established: 2011
- Contact: +27 (0)21 552 2005
- Visit: digicash.co.za
“A great place for great people to do great work.” That’s what Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of American hotel and travel group Carlson Companies, believed high-performing companies should strive to create.
It’s an approach championed by Paul Brown, CEO of DigiCash, a Cape Town-based payment solutions company that processes more than R800 million in payments and collections every month.
A-players like to play with A-players
Employee commitment must be endemic to the culture of your business, says Brown. That is why he aims to employ people who are prepared to give 100% to the business. As an entrepreneur who has been involved in several businesses over more than two decades, he knows what he’s talking about.
Brown says that in his experience, there are three types of employees. “First, there are those who take what they can get, but aren’t fundamentally interested in the work, and are therefore not truly engaged. Then there are those who do a reasonable job.
“Given the right direction and support, they can most often be turned into higher value employees. But the type of people I get out of bed for every morning are the A-players — the ones who add immense value to the business.”
But A-players are hard to find and in high demand, even in a down market. Fortunately, A-players, says Brown, are happiest when they are working with other A-players. The advantage of that is when you have an environment peopled largely by those who have the talent, skills and drive to make a company successful, you begin to attract like-minded individuals.
Great people want to work with great people.
“The challenge is to ensure that you create the right type of workplace for them,” adds Brown. “A-players become discouraged and unhappy when they feel as if they don’t get the needed support, or if they don’t agree with the culture of the company. Maintaining high employee quality and high work performance standards requires that you create an environment that truly fosters growth and improvement.”
How do you find people who will add real value to your company?
“We use a recruitment company that understands what we are looking for and with whom we’ve built a good relationship. Every CV is studied carefully to find out what a prospective employee is actually looking for.
“Say, for instance, that someone jumps regularly from job to job,” says Brown. “You have to consider why that is. Has the person been unsatisfied in previous jobs because he or she did not find it fulfilling, or were they always on the lookout for a more senior position that pays more? Someone just looking to move up the ranks is better suited to a corporate environment.
“If you want to change the world, employ someone who shares that view and will find it fulfilling. The aim for any business should be to try and offer employees both great career prospects and meaningful work, but that’s obviously not always possible for every business. It could take a while for a new operation to get up and running, so everyone needs to be on the same page.”
Poor performers are bad for business
He cautions, however, that he makes mistakes sometimes. “If I hire someone I believe is an A-player and they are not, it’s up to me to try to remedy the situation and assess their true potential. It’s my sincere belief that most people have the potential to be successful in life. I will make every effort to up their performance through training and counselling. You can’t start off by blaming an employee if the level of work isn’t what you expected. You need to study the situation carefully. Be open to the fact that the issue might be systemic.”
The reality, however, is that there are those who simply won’t be a good fit.
“If you’ve tried everything you can think of to help the employee and nothing has worked, you can’t be seduced into thinking you can ‘fix’ them. You might even really like them, but sometimes letting an employee go is the only option. It’s always a last resort, but sometimes it needs to be done. It’s important to create a cohesive environment where everyone is on the same page.”
Most employees have the potential to be A-players, but culture fit is incredibly important. Employees obviously need the right support, but they also need a fundamental interest in what the company is doing. People become great when they enjoy what they do.