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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Hire People You Know

Gary Walls found success early because he had plenty of friends to hire.

Key Question:


Gary thinks it is it very hard to determine from an interview if someone is reliable. People can say they will show up on time and show up regularly, but until you've seen them in action, you don't really know. Also, Gary is looking for people with a positive attitude, and this is difficult to see in one interview.

Gary's first three key employees had all played on his football team. This tells us that not only did Gary admire these students and wanted them to work for him, but also that the students had a positive experience with Gary when they played football. Would they go to work for a coach they didn't like? Of course not. So, I see a great deal of mutual respect between Gary and his employees. Gary says he knows nothing about business; however, he knows a great deal about people. Since you can't possibly build a business without people, Gary is succeeding in business.

Q:  Why is it valid to talk about bringing love into the workplace?

Employees want to feel valued. People don't just work for a paycheck; they work to be part of a group, to feel appreciated, to enjoy how as a team the company can satisfy customers. Gary loves the employees and he shows it by being available to them, by paying them well, by having a good benefits package and most of all, by treating them with great respect. Many small business owners try to do everything themselves, but as a former coach, Gary knows his job as a leader is to find the right person for the right job and then inspire that person to perform that task to the best of his ability. Gary's mind set about people starts with the fact that he knows he can't do all of the jobs himself.

Q: Have you ever been around a person who thinks they know how to do everything and that they can do it better than others? How does that person make you feel?

A: This type of person makes most of us either feel insecure or angry. We feel insecure because we don't think we can please that person, or we feel angry because that person shows no confidence in us.  

Think about it

How you do find the right people for your organization?

Clip from: Trailblazer Foods

Portland, Oregon: Employing over 60 people, in this episode we take you from the source -- beautiful berry fields throughout Oregon -- to the finished product. For his success in building a business and for championing the export of Oregon's wonderful fruit, The Small Business Administration named Gary Small Business Person of the Year for Oregon.

Sometimes our show becomes a tribute to a life well lived. When we taped this show, Gary had physical limitations. He paced himself. But in August 2001, Gary died and left this wonderful legacy to his immediate family, his family of employees, his family of customers and suppliers, and his largest family, the world. Surely you will see why by tasting value, you also have an after-taste that profits many. For Gary Walls, it is a taste that is tangibly intangible. It may first be in the taste of the berry; it is also in a taste for life's greatest blessings.

Trailblazer Foods

Gary Walls, Founder

17900 NE San Rafael
Portland, OR 97230
503 666 5800

Visit our web site:

Office: 503 666 5800

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1985

Hire People You Know

HATTIE: OK. How did you hire your first key person?

GARY: I believe our first key person was our fullback; I mean, one of the players I had in high school. He always came to practice; give him the ball, he never fumbled it. You know, he always remembered his plays. He never came to practice late. I said, `That is the kind of guy I want working for me.' He never fumbles the ball; he doesn't come to work late; he comes with a great attitude. I mean, those are characteristics that you want employees to have. And so if you can transfer from that to your job and say, `This is our standard. This is what we want our employees to be.' And that's kind of how I started. And so, really, the first three people I hired were all students, players.

HATTIE: OK, and you had a long-term relationship with them.

GARY: And they're still here.

HATTIE: And then your new accounting person, or relatively new accounting person, you found him because?

GARY: He was in my sister's--whose kidney I enjoy--in her Sunday school class, and also a good friend of my nephew--her son--who is also an accountant, and he said, `If you're looking for somebody that really knows the computer business and accounting, Peter would be great.' So I called him and he came to interview and we hired him.

Hiring people is difficult because you never know until they actually show up and do their job. And so that's really been a hard part of the job. So to find the right fit for the job is a challenge, and I think sometimes if you've had a past history of knowing something about them, it's nice.

HATTIE: That's a piece of advice you would give?

GARY: Yeah, I think when you hire people, just an interview--it's difficult just to interview somebody to come out with, `Are they always on time, are they dependable, they're not gonna fumble the ball.' Those are things that you know about somebody. I don't know anything about business. I think what God has given me, I know a lot about people.

HATTIE: I can feel that people love you. Why do you think that feeling is here? What are you doing? Can we put it in a bottle? Can you sell Gary's positive people strategy?

GARY: I think it's because I love them, is the answer. I mean, you give, it comes back. And I think I've gone to the wall with many of them and sometimes they've had various situations where they know they can come into my office and talk to me, and I truly do love my employees.

Lightbulb HATTIE: (In the Studio) So often when we meet the head of a growing business, they tell us, `You can't grow a business without people.' In fact, Darby McQuade taught us last week the only way he was able to expand locations was to hire people who had already worked in retail operations with multiple locations. Gary believes the only way to have a great business is to have great people. In fact, he told us he doesn't know anything about business, but he does know about people. As a coach, he would select the players, teach them the skills, then inspire them to do what it is they were supposed to do during the game. He's approaching his management of people in business in the same way. He never saw himself doing all the jobs. He's never been caught up in the quagmire of doing all the work. His job is to find the right people, teach them the skill, inspire them to take action, just like he did as a great coach.

In addition to seeing himself as a coach, Gary genuinely loves his employees. We can't bottle up his love of people like he bottles up syrup and send it to you, but maybe we could all put a little more love in our life. I have a friend who says, `Life is for living, laughing and loving.' Maybe we can put a little more love for people in our business.

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