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HR Magazine: McMurry Scouts Top Talent To Produce Winning Results

By Adrienne Fox  7/1/2006

HR Magazine, July 2006Vol. 51, No. 7

#6 Small Company on the 2006 Best Places to Work List 

Working at McMurry Inc. isn’t easy. Challenging, yes. Rewarding, sure. But, easy, no. In meetings, it is common to hear phrases like, “I challenge you” or “I expect you” or “Here’s a better way to do this.” “There’s no coasting here,” notes Sonia Washington, prep specialist at the marketing and custom business publications firm in Phoenix. “In the back of my mind, I’m thinking ‘I can do it this way and get it done, or I can do it that way and exceed expectations.’ ”

“Exceed expectations” is one of the eight corporate values that employees live and breathe. Other values that serve to raise the performance bar here include “deliver raving customer service,” “produce quality always” and “earn a reasonable profit.”

It’s the mission of Lee Vikre, vice president of Tremendous People, and every one of the 100 employees to tap talented workers who can excel in their positions and fit into a culture where there are no rules and no limitations. Vikre estimates she spends 60 percent of her time meeting candidates in person across the country or talking with them over the phone. She maintains a database of nearly 700 candidates the company is keeping an eye on, similar to talent scouts who watch players perform, form relationships with them and monitor them for future recruitment.

“If I call you for a job opportunity, chances are I’ve already met you,” says Vikre.

Recruiting is the top priority for everyone, says CEO and secondgeneration leader Chris McMurry, who contributes to the database and interviews every candidate. “I tell managers that every week they should look for talented people to fill future positions,” he says.

To weed out the best from the rest, candidates are put through their paces in a rigorous hiring process that includes peer interviews, technical and personality assessments, and, for most, a presentation with a question-and-answer session.

A hiring “caucus” with cross-departmental representatives meets to discuss each candidate to determine if he or she is an “8.” (10 is unattainable; 9 is a once-in-ageneration performer; 8 is a star.)

“Every company I had interviewed with before McMurry offered me the job within an hour,” recalls Beth Tomkiw, vice president of creative services. “So, when I wasn’t hired on the spot here, I was a little like, ‘Whoa! Wait a minute here,’ ” she adds with a laugh.

An arduous system like this takes a while -- anywhere from two weeks to nine months and interviewing more than 100 candidates to fill a single position -- but the payoff is enormous. Respect is earned like entrance to a fraternity after initiation.

“I know I can work with a new person because they’ve made it through the process,” says Amy Shepard, senior marketing consultant.

Adds editor Andrea Decker: “I knew that any person I encountered really wanted to be here and that they were smart, capable and accountable.” Preston V. McMurry Jr., who founded the company 17 years ago, and is now chairman and “corporate values shepherd,” says, “If someone doesn’t perform here, it’s our fault for picking the wrong person or for not helping the right person grow.”

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