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Last Update: Monday September 20, 2021

Key Idea: Hire Experience

Running a movie theater requires some specific skills that founders Joe Wasserman and Richard Stanley didn't have.  They were smart to hire people with experience who helped them get off to a fast start.

Key Question:


Hire people who have already done what you are hiring them to do.  The only problem with this strategy is you may not have enough cash flow to do this. 

Back in 1980 when I had a training business I called on the owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees.  I offered them on-premise classes for their employees on the topics of customer service, sales and supervisory skills.  At the time I lived in Fort Worth, Texas which is where the headquarters for what was called back then,  Bass Brother Enterprises.  The Bass family is one of the wealthiest in the world and it ran a group of companies involved in oil, real estate, investments and whatever else caught the fancy of the owners.

This was not a small company however one of my clients referred me to the director of human resources at  Bass Brothers.  I will never forget what happened in that sales call.  I asked this executive (not the owner) if he thought the people on the payroll were accomplishing what they needed to be accomplishing.  He said, "Well, if they aren't I fire them." 

I tried again.  I asked, "Are there skills you think people on your team need that they do not have now?"   He said, "If they don't know how to do their job it is their responsibility to learn.  I hire the best people in the country and pay them top dollar so I don't have to teach them anything."

I thanked him for his time and was glad to get out of that office.  It was truly my first experience with hard-ball leadership.  I understand it completely and don't fault anyone who runs their business this way.  However, most of us don't have the brand or big bucks to try this technique.

Think about it

Can you afford to hire experience?  If not, are you prepared to pay people to learn on the job?

Clip from: Triplex Movie Theater

Great Barrington, Massachusetts: We go into the downtown of this village, just on the fringe of the pulsing melodies of the Tanglewood Music Festival, the summer home of the Boston Symphony (just north in Lenox). Today, the entire area is an arts colony. Not too long ago Great Barrington was a neglected old mill town. Today, it is a picture postcard of the Berkshires -- the town is in a renaissance sparked in part by two men who thought they were going to retire.

Owners Richard Stanley and Joe Wasserman are heroes because they jumped in to solve a problem. They didn't ask, "Why doesn't somebody do something?" They became the somebody and they caught the imagination of the town.

They built Triplex Cinema on the site of a former lumberyard and today it is the hub of nightlife for the town.   It opened in November of 1995 with one film and today it not only offers movies, it is a gathering place for live events and dining in the lobby café.

Go to the key ideas for this episode...
A homepage about not retiring ...
A homepage about niches...

Triplex Cinema

Richard Stanley, President

70 Railroad Street
Great Barrington, MA 01230

Visit our web site:

Office: 413.528.8885

Business Classification:
Entertainment, Movies

Year Founded: 1995

Hire Experience

Ms. ALEX HEDDINGER: I do pretty much everything, if it's scheduling the crew, if it's ordering supplies, if it's doing final reports or if it's popping corn.

JOE: We were very lucky that we found Alex Heddinger to be our manager. When she turned up at the interviews, we were so anxious to dissuade her. She has two young children, and as you know, movie theaters are busiest at night and on holidays. And we said, `It's inconceivable that you can take a job where you're present during those kinds of hours and be, you know, a mother to two young children.' And she said, `No, no. It's good. I can be home in the mornings.'

HATTIE: How did they get you to come to work here?

ALEX: No. I saw an ad in the paper. It sounded like an interesting job. I did come from an arts background. This is something that is close to art but offers a little bit more business sides of things, you know? It is about, you know, making the money at the end of the day.

JOE: She isn't here all the time. She does take some time off. She has good assistant managers who cover for her. But she's a vital force here.

RICHARD: The accolades that all of us get on the street from--and that's interesting about being in a community of this size is that you talk to your customers. They see you in the local luncheonette or wherever, and they'll let you know whether you have...

HATTIE: You can't hide.

RICHARD: You can't hide here, absolutely not.

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