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leadership lab

Founder and CEO of O2E Brands, which includes home-service companies including 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

With 250 people duking it out for every corporate job, I get why hiring managers might toss resumes that lack industry experience. But only hiring industry professionals can do your company more harm than good – it limits innovation and slows growth.

There's nothing revolutionary about doing things the same way. To keep pushing forward, you need to let new ideas in – even if they come from unexpected places. That's why we make an effort to go beyond our industry when we're hiring. And the results have been surprising.

Get someone with mad skills. Our COO has an all-star background in travel and tourism. Our franchise partners include a world-class poker player, an ex-submarine engineer, veterans and even a rocket scientist. At our head office, hardly anyone has ever worked for a junk-removal company before. That's because people who come with preprogrammed ideas about how to run the business are often unwilling to change their ways.

We're open to hiring outside of our industry because it's the best way to diversify the skill set of our teams. A call centre agent with serving experience will think differently than one with a background in door-to-door sales – but both share the soft skills of communication and interpersonal skills, making them equally capable of doing the job.

Find new dogs, get new tricks. We once interviewed a candidate for one of our WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchises who had previously owned a Subway restaurant. But his preconceived notions about franchising made it impossible for us to work together. He tried to negotiate things we refuse to compromise on and in the end, we couldn't find common ground.

As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. If you bring someone into your business who thinks they already know everything, you might waste valuable time undoing years of old habits. From what we've seen, people who are new to our style of business are more adaptable and aligned with what we aim to achieve.

Use this secret sauce for success. Here's a secret: we're not in the moving (or junk hauling, painting or house detailing) business – we're in the people business. We don't care if a candidate has ever painted a room – but we do care if they know about leadership, growth and customer experience.

Our number one rule is to hire for cultural fit, then train for skill. We'd rather have a team who believes in where we're going than a team stacked with accolades and no vision. It doesn't matter if they don't know how to get there – they just need to be willing to learn and grow together.

Find fresh eyes for solutions you can't see. Geoff Henshaw had never worked in a franchise system before, but we still made him vice-president of our marketing team. And his lack of experience in our industry has never been an issue: he's used his background in e-commerce to make our systems stronger (just like Kanye) by ramping up our focus on clean data. In his previous role, he went up against Amazon as a competitor – and as that behemoth makes a larger footprint in our space, his expertise will be invaluable going forward.

When you've been in a business for a long time, it's easy to become blind to certain issues. But when newbies join your industry, they apply fresh ideas to find solutions you didn't even know existed.

And always: Stay gold, Ponyboy. A lot of entrepreneurs reach out to me, hoping we can partner on a new brand. While I've been intrigued by a few, none of them were quite right for our family of home-service companies. I didn't want to settle; our next brand had to revolutionize an industry in the same way 1-800-GOT-JUNK? transformed junk hauling.

Then I met Dave Notte, a highly motivated painting industry vet, vegan and proponent of what he calls the "beautiful business": a dirty, scalable industry with high profit margins and recurring revenue. He said Shack Shine was just that – and he wanted to make it part of O2E Brands. I was inspired by his fresh perspective and drive to build something bigger together.

If you look at these rules, the lesson is simple: if you want the same results, hire the same kind of people. But if you want to change the world, go beyond your industry to find the outliers and the people with ideas you've never heard before. You'll build a business better than you ever thought possible – and open your own mind along the way.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

‘Within innovation you have to be ready to win and to get half-successes’

Special to Globe and Mail Update