Jim Huether | Crain's Los Angeles

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

Jim Huether

Background:  

Based in Irvine, HYPERICE makes portable, high-performance sports medicine and orthopedic devices that help athletes improve their performance by accelerating recovery time and improving muscle and joint performance. HYPERICE’s technology is used by athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady and Lindsey Vonn.

The Mistake:

I previously worked for a company that created a football helmet technology. When hiring, I would look for people who had experience working in technology around football helmets, specifically, because I thought they would have an immediate understanding of the business, and would come in and hit the ground running. We were a young company, and our competition had more years of experience on us; we thought that hiring people with industry experience would help us compete better.

At the same time, we were really trying to revolutionize football helmet technology and change the way the whole industry was approached. In that sense, we wanted to do things very differently than our competition. That’s where our experienced hires hurt us.

I remember a particular project where I became frustrated with them because their thinking was very in-line with what had been done in the past. We wanted to completely change the way that people perceived and interacted with football helmet technology. As such, we should have been approaching the problem from a completely new angle. Unfortunately, most of the team’s ideas were very traditional. They just weren’t able to think outside the box.

You want people on your team who can help you think outside of the box.

The Lesson:

When you’re trying to innovate in a new industry, your strategies have to be as innovative as the products and services you are offering. For that, you want people on your team who can help you think outside of the box, rather than simply bringing on the industry experience you’re trying to veer from.

When I hire now, rather than placing such an emphasis on experience, I look for people with the attributes that will best serve our company. I look for people who are team-oriented and self-motivated. I also want them to have a strong work ethic and a passion for learning. I want them to be bold enough to try new things. We can give them the experience they’ll need to understand the industry, anyway.

This hiring technique has worked out for us at HYPERICE. We’ve been on the Inc. 500 list for the past two years, and will be on it again this year. Most of our great employees came in without any experience in this field, and have done an incredible job.

Photo courtesy of HYPERICE.

HYPERICE is on Twitter at @HypericeUSA.

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