Recruiting Like Welch and Madden — a Platform for the Small Business

Visionary companies are full of intelligent, progressive, optimistic individuals all working toward a common goal of success. For any company, employees like these are not a luxury, rather they are a necessity; even in the largest of companies, a few rotten eggs can spoil a large group.

The smaller the company, the worse the problem as a single rotten eggs can not only spoil the group, but he or she can take down the business.

In recruiting, small businesses don’t have the luxury of failure. They must get recruiting done the right way the first time around. The smaller the organization, the fewer rotten eggs it can endure before the company collapses.

How to Get It Right the First Time Around

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, made the statement that recruiting good people is difficult, but recruiting great people is nearly impossible. Jack Welch had an entire HR department, a seemingly end-less recruiting budget, and the household name of “GE” when it went to find employees … and the adjective “impossible” still applied.

Where does this leave the small business with a small salary budget, little training time, and a less competitive name? Smaller companies have had trouble recruiting since the dawn of business; however, your Googles and Facebooks don’t always have to win.

It’s all about how you market the company. Smaller companies should not be afraid to describe themselves as visionary, and should not deny the fact that they have not made it yet. To the right employee, this is not going to be a turnoff, rather it will prove to be an inviting challenge.

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Large or small, the best companies are proud of who they are and find the good points to emulate about themselves. Authenticity is just as important in recruiting as it is in life.

If you can’t buy the victories; win with what you have. It’s leadership that molds an employee rather than an employee molding a company’s leadership. This is evident not only in business, but in sports as well.

In the 10 years that John Madden coached the Oakland Raiders, he never had a losing season. As a matter of fact, he won the Super Bowl, won seven Western division titles, and had a winning streak of 17 games between the 1976-1977 seasons. This was not because of who Madden recruited, but rather it was what he did with the athlete once they got on the team.

The passionate always recruit the best, and when a small business is passionate about its product or service, its deep-seated attachment to that company comes through and resonates like no other to the job seeker, thus allowing the true entrepreneur to recruit x, when he or she can only afford y.

Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement, a sales and marketing recruiting firm specializing in staffing business development and marketing professionals around the U.S. Ken has been published in Forbes, Chicago Tribune, AOL, Business Insider,,, Huffington Post and many others. He has also appeared on MTV, Fox Business News and spoken at some of the country's leading business schools on HR, job search and recruitment.


5 Comments on “Recruiting Like Welch and Madden — a Platform for the Small Business

  1. Ken, thank you for this article. I so agree with your statement; The passionate always recruit the best, and when a small business is passionate about its product or service, its deep-seated attachment to that company comes through and resonates like no other to the job seeker, thus allowing the true entrepreneur to recruit x, when he or she can only afford y.

    I aspire as a recruiter to help companies and candidates to connect to one another and then let them soar together. Happy soaring 🙂
    Ann Nelson

  2. Thanks, Ken. I think John Madden was a fine coach (got nothing bad to say about him), but Jack Welch had a LOT of *problems as a model for folks. Also, when someone talks about “passion” and “visonary” in recruiting, I think it’s time to watch your wallet and hold your nose….

    As a recruiter, it’s my job to establish realistic hiring expectations (which includes hiring as well as- or a little better than they can afford), and that includes letting clients know that if they want the best, they have to OFFER the best (money, benies, QoWL, stock, genuine opportunity, security.) It doesn’t have to be all or even most of these, but it has to be SOMETHING more the marketing hype of the arrogant and deluded founders, CXOs, hiring managers. etc.

    Happy Holidays,


    According to Businessweek, critics of Welch have questioned whether the pressure he places on employees may have led them to “cut corners”, which may have contributed to controversies over defense-contracting, or the Kidder, Peabody & Co. bond-trading scheme in the early 1990s.[5]

    Welch has received criticism for a lack of compassion for the middle class and working class. By his actions during acquisitions and wholesale shutdowns of GE business units Welch proved that his technique of only keeping the units your company is “good” at you can maximize ROI for the short term.[citation needed] Welch has stated that he is not concerned with the discrepancy between the salaries of top-paid CEOs and those of average workers. When asked about the issue of excessive CEO pay, Welch has said that such allegations are “outrageous” and has vehemently opposed proposed SEC regulations affecting executive compensation. Countering the public uproar over excessive executive pay (including backdating stock options, golden parachutes for nonperformance, and extravagant retirement packages), Welch stated that CEO compensation should continue to be dictated by the free market, without interference from government or other outside agencies.[11]

    Welch’s income and assets came under scrutiny during his divorce from his second wife Jane in 2001, after she included details in divorce papers of what she said he received as benefits from GE. Welch’s contracts with GE were subsequently investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).[12][13] The retention package, worth $2.5 million, agreed upon by Welch and GE in 1996 promised him continued access after his retirement to benefits he received as CEO including an apartment in New York, baseball tickets and use of a private jet and chauffeured car.[12][14] These benefits were agreed upon in lieu of a more traditional stock package because, according to Welch, he did not want more money, preferring instead to retain the lifestyle he had enjoyed as CEO once he retired. According to an interview with Welch in 2009 this agreement was filed with the SEC. As a result of the media attention his divorce proceedings brought to his retention package, particularly claims that such a package made him look “greedy”, Welch chose to renounce the benefits.[14]

    Jack Welch identifies as a Republican.[30] He is also a global warming skeptic.[31] Yet he has said that every business must embrace green products and green ways of doing business, “whether you believe in global warming or not…because the world wants these products.”[32]

    In an interview with the Financial Times on the Global financial crisis of 2008–2009, Welch said, “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.”[33]

    In Fall of 2012 the U.S. unemployment rate was announced to have dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%. In a response posted on Twitter immediately after the new statistics were released Welch wrote, “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”[34] In response to this comment Keith Hall, former BLS commissioner, said “to think that these numbers could be manipulated. … It’s impossible to do it and get away with it.”[35] Stephen Gandel of Fortune discussed in an article about Welch’s tweet and his other comments about Obama and Romney that GE had lost 100,000 jobs while Welch was CEO and that, of the 97,000 later added after criticism of Welch, only 12,000 were in the US and the rest were overseas.[36]

  3. Hi Keith,

    I’m not surprised that I got this response from someone and I think that everything you said is valid about Welch. He’s not perfect and can come across as arrogant.

    His divorce hurt him with the media as well. I do think his business theories are very sound and personal things aside, I like his philosophies.

    Additionally, I do like your candor and your opinion is appreciated and accurate.

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