Stealing the founder’s dog might be the best way to get a job.
(Also on Medium)
We recently hired two new employees at Fohr Card, and I wanted to tell you how we did it.
7 months ago, my co-founder, Rich Tong, answered a knock on his door and greeted two women he had never seen before. Grace and Emma were new neighbors. They apologized for showing up to his door at 9PM and for asking what might be a crazy question. But they just had to know, could they take his dog, a giant Samoyed cotton ball named Penny, for a walk. And as easily as that, a friendship began.
After the walk, Grace and Emma explained that they had become friends working at an agency together in New Castle, Australia. After years of working as hard as they could, they left feeling discouraged. Like many in their position, they had been giving everything, but nobody in the organization seemed to care or notice. They were discouraged from being taken for granted, from not being challenged. Most of all, they were discouraged that they had become one of “those people” who continue at a job even though they hate it.
I believe bad jobs are like degenerative diseases. They eat away at people and their pride, until nothing is left. Emma and Grace realized in Australia that they had wound up in bad jobs, and that they had gotten sick. So, they decided to change things. A few packed suitcases, a bank account, J-1 visas, and two one-way plane tickets had brought them to Williamsburg, where they met Rich, his dog Penny, and later, myself.
A few days after Rich met Grace and Emma, he leaned over and told me, “Oh, I found us some interns. They’re actually coming over in a few minutes.” At this point, Fohr Card was in war mode. We were furiously trying to grow revenue, launch a new version of the site and plan out next year’s product strategy. Needless the say, the last thing I thought we needed was to waste time onboarding two new interns, holding hands and not getting much back.
With that in mind, I explained to them in a sort of impromptu group interview, “We don’t have any money to offer you, but we do have expectations.” I wanted them to know that if they were going to be a part of this team, even as interns, we would expect them to walk through our door ready to fight. Trading a glance with Rich I told them, “Everyone here is 100% committed to making this a great company, whatever it takes.” Funny, what I thought would scare them off, seemed to only get them more excited. They were on board.
Grace and Emma worked their asses off over the next three months. Oh, and did I mention they also worked 4-6 days a week at other jobs!? They were coming in weekends, mornings, and nights. Every day they added real value, and they did it all without a single paycheck. The next time Rich and I sat down with them, we were the excited ones. We got to offer them positions as full-time employees, paid full-time employees. And even after working their asses off for months, they were excited for more.
I couldn’t be happier that these two Aussies knocked on Rich’s door to steal his dog. I’ve gained two new friends and two great employees. Looking back, the experience has taught me a few invaluable lessons I’d like to share with you.
1. Always knock on the door — When Grace and Emma realized they didn’t like the way their lives were shaping up, they were willing to take drastic and dramatic steps to change it. They knocked on a lot of doors.
2. Make room for the great ones — When Emma and Grace started, I didn’t want to bring in any interns. I thought they would be a distraction, but Rich’s persistence and their gumption convinced me to give it a try. I learned as a CEO that sometimes great people find you. You have to be willing to try something you are uncomfortable with when opportunity knocks.
3. Prove it, don’t ask for it — Emma and Grace never asked for a full time job, instead they made themselves indispensable. At that point, I had no choice but to ask them to quit their part-time jobs so they could join us full time.
Think about the doors you’ve knocked on that have changed your life. I’d love to hear your story. And what about the doors you could be knocking on, right now. How many times have you heard knocking and not opened? It’s definitely happened to me. Keep your mind open and ready to open doors, so that you can recognize and take advantage of opportunities.