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The ART of Taking Care of #1

How Job Boards & Talent Technology Companies Can Master Success in a Challenging Economy

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

It’s common practice, at least among many job boards and talent tech companies, to consider their customers as the #1 group they should focus on when faced with a difficult economy. It’s not. The group they should take care of first and foremost is themselves. They are #1. Sustainable success – persevering in a down market and flourishing in a healthy one once the economy recovers – depends upon they’re tending to their own essential elements.

That’s not exactly an original idea. It’s a theme explored in detail by Hal Rosenbluth in his book, “The Customer Comes Second; Put Your People First and Watch ‘em Kick Butt.” In these days of tight talent, few would dispute the importance of taking care of a company’s employees. My thesis acknowledges that point, but is also significantly broader. In my view, taking care of #1 involves addressing three very different but equally important elements of a business, I call them the ART of sustainable commercial success: a company’s Assumptions, Relationships and Technology.


The circumstances that validated a company’s original assumptions can and not infrequently do change as the customer, the market, the competition, and technology change. So, it’s important to periodically review and confirm or adjust as appropriate those assumptions to ensure that all of the shaping factors that flow from them – a company’s mission, values, target customer, goals, talent needs and technology roadmap, to name just a few – remain relevant and conducive to growth and success.

Of course, reviewing assumptions is not a trivial exercise. It requires a willingness – no, it actually demands more than that – it depends upon a commitment to be unflinchingly candid and honest. Prior assumptions have baggage. Both a company’s leaders and its employees have invested their time, effort and talent in building the organization with them, so they are often loathe to admit or accept that they may have become obsolete or irrelevant.

That’s why so few companies actually perform this aspect of ART. And yet, it is the foundation to everything else that contributes to business success. Get the assumptions right and it’s possible – maybe even inevitable – that you’ll get the relationships and technology right. Get the assumptions wrong, and there’s literally no way a company can build productive relationships and market-ready technology.

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Relationships are the oxygen of business success. They provide the fuel for the company’s activities, for everything from sales, marketing and public relations to product design, implementation and upgrade. They are also time-consuming and often frustrating, so they can sometimes be put off or get only the minimal amount of attention. And yet, as with our personal relationships, these business connections need constant attention.

Moreover, business relationships involve multiple parties. A company must build and sustain relationships with its current and prospective customers, its sales and marketing partners, the industry analysts and other influencers in its market, the individuals it wants to hire and bring on board, and the employees who already work for it. And, of course, if it needs capital for growth, it also has to maintain relationships with any current investors it may have as well as with those that could be a source of additional funds in the future.

It's a herculean task, which is why it’s most effectively accomplished by spreading the load. Company leaders sometimes see relationship building as an executive responsibility. That’s true, but leadership also involves delegation, and involving others in the company helps ensure no relationships are left unattended. However, any individual who is assigned to any facet of relationship management should have that task explicitly noted in their job description and be assessed on and rewarded for its successful accomplishment.


The most successful technology companies are expert in situational awareness. They continually monitor three drivers of product development: the customer’s needs, competitors’ capabilities and the state-of-the-art. The intelligence that’s gathered, of course, has a very specific purpose. It is to shape the current capabilities of their solution and the roadmap for its near and longer-term design. It is to bring a product to market that is regarded as a “must have” by the customer, differentiated from what the competition is offering and at the cutting edge of what technology can do.

These are unsettled times, however. Changing worker needs and preferences and morphing employer talent requirements mean that the situation is never stable for any significant period of time. And yet, it takes time to design and develop a product that is truly innovative and useful, so it can feel as if product engineers are aiming at a moving target. For that reason, it now takes an additional lens to achieve truly helpful situation awareness. As I wrote in a previous post, job boards and talent technology companies should use both a microscope and a telescope if they are to be ready for an always evolving market.

Admittedly, trying to predict the future is never easy, and in unsettled times, it’s even more challenging. Understanding what’s happening or likely to in the near term requires that focus on traditional sources of intelligence – the customer, the competition, and the state-of-the-art. Peering into what will happen or is likely to in the next 3-5 years, requires looking outside those traditional sources and into spheres that might at first seem … well, alien or at least nonsensical. These might include futurists, sociologists, anthropologists and even science fiction writers. They are the ones who imagine what engineers subsequently create, and it’s those creations which can catapult a company to the head of the pack.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.