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20 Things We’ve Learned

August 11, 2023

By Sherri Welsh, originally published in SBAM’s July/August 2023 issue of Focus magazine

Our company recently celebrated 20 years in business, a milestone we feel extremely blessed and thankful to have achieved. Our team reflected on our success over those years, and I compiled a list of the Top 20 Things We’ve Learned—in 20 years. We hope you find value in our lessons learned.

  1. Givers gain. Early in my career, I joined a group of sales professionals and learned this concept: generously help others for the benefit of the whole community. This principle works. Our clients and candidates appreciate this authentic approach to doing business, and it has defined who we are.
  1. Be a much better listener than talker. We’re told it’s important to be a good listener. Many of us think we’re good listeners, but honestly, very few of us are. Developing strong relationships requires excellent listening skills. It’s a skill worth perfecting; one we’ve seen pay divi- dends for over 20 years.
  1. Honesty IS the best policy. Always be honest. Always be sincere. We all know how tough it is to share the truth at times, but in the end, people respect you more for caring enough to deliver it.
  1. Your word counts—when you say it, do it. Sometimes, I fail at this one too. But here’s what I’ve learned: be your word. In big and small things, always do what you say you will do. Demonstrate you can be counted on. Be the person others can rely on.
  1. Hold tight to your core values. In 2001, I was interviewed about the secrets of my early success. Looking back, it’s funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Many things have changed over the 25+ years I’ve been in the search business. But one thing that has not changed is my values or approach to working with clients and candidates. Be true to who you are.
  1. Say thank you. I see how much I have to be thankful for after being in busi- ness so long. Many people helped me in big and small ways. Clients trusted me and gave me a shot to serve them. Even more candidates took my call, trusting my guidance and advice. I’m glad I took time to share my appreciation with them through a hand written note or an email. Mom was right—a little thanks goes a long way, and no one ever gets tired of hearing it.
  1. Play WIN-WIN. Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It’s a character-based code for human interaction and col- laboration. This principle was a “non-negotiable” for me in 2002, helping drive me to start Welsh & Associates. Courage and consideration should lead to abundance. There should be enough WIN for all of us in every situation or the outcome just isn’t right.
  1. Relationships matter. We have remained laser-focused on delivering exemplary service. Under promise and over deliver. Be transparent. Be accountable. Get results. Do the right thing every time. Strong relationships take time to develop, but over time they have become our secret sauce. Take good care of the people you serve, and undoubtedly, they will take care of you.
  1. Positivity is contagious. Early in my career, a client nicknamed me “Smiley.” We both laughed about it, but I secretly loved the nickname. I’ve been accused of “always being happy” and occasionally get asked, “Do you ever have a bad day?” (Just sayin’ it may have something to do with Nehemiah 8:10). I’m a glass half full kind of person, and I encourage others to see things the same way. Be the person that spreads joy to others, even in the midst of challenges. It’s pretty fun and good for the soul.
  1. Name your fears. Call ‘em out loud and even make fun of them. When you do, they shrink pretty quickly. My fear of failure shrinks down to a good laugh when I look at something a friend shared with me years ago: a bougie paper gift bag purse filled with play money—in case I ever turned into a bag lady!
  1. We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. This definition of integrity aligns with how I choose to live my life. What really matters is the life that we create, defined by what we give to others—or give back—on our journey. Never lose sight of what matters most.
  1. Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3). Wise counsel from my father in the form of a desk paper- weight, a gift when I opened my business. I accepted Dad’s advice, and my plans were established. God’s word is true. He never fails.
  1. Seemingly insignificant experiences can shape your future. I am thankful for the experience I gained with a previous employer in an outside sales role. I received incredible sales training and was held accountable to very high standards which helped to shape the core values of my business today.
  1. Take a chance on talent. In 1985, an assertive business major from CMU “sold” a company on hiring their first intern ever. That intern was eventually offered a full-time role after graduation, leading to a career that was filled with tremendous personal and professional growth. And that intern fell in love with Kalamazoo along the way, married a man who loved it too and never left. Hire an intern. I am grateful for the people who took a chance on me.
  1. Trust, but verify. Don’t fall for the trap that candidate reference checking is outdated. If you’re not doing that as part of your hiring pro- cess, you’re putting your organization at risk.

And these are the things my team learned and shared from their time at Welsh & Associates:

  1. Just make the call. In sales, you never know where your next call will lead you; it could be to a referral, it could be to a sale, it could be nowhere. But you’ll never know if you don’t just pick up the phone.
  1. It’s not over ‘til it’s over. Because we’re in the people business—and people can be fickle—we’ve learned to approach talent acquisition differ- ently. We don’t stop searching for the perfect candidate until the offer is signed. You shouldn’t either.
  1. Be authentic. Genuine interest in learning more about others, while at the same time being genuine in who you are, lays a firm founda- tion for strong relationships—the hallmark of success, es- pecially in service-based businesses.
  1. Expect the unexpected. In the talent acquisition business, we’ve learned almost anything can happen. People under stress will do and say the craziest things! Take those moments in stride and give grace when you can. But don’t forget that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
  1. Be resilient. Be positive. Be persistent. Push forward. Things are going to go wrong, but YOU choose your response to them. Re- siliency, as a part of our culture, helped us get here; resiliency will help us get through the next 20 years!
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