Mary Cook & Associates was founded in 1986 to provide design service to the builder/developer, golf/resort and senior housing industries. The Chicago-based firm serves clients from around the country.
For two decades, Mary Cook & Associates experienced “unprecedented growth,” largely due to a demand for its services in the residential housing industry, says founder and owner Mary Cook. And although the company was able to meet the demand and deliver quality work for many years, there was a problem lurking under the surface, she said. “I didn’t invest the time and money in important things like hiring and training, so I was always struggling with personnel issues and people meeting my standards,” Mary said. When the housing market started to slow down, Mary knew she had to make cuts – so she decided to cut everyone. With the slowdown in business, she felt there was no better time to focus time on rebuilding her company. The overhaul included hiring new team members, establishing much-needed processes for crucial aspects of the business such as hiring and sales, and diversifying the business.
Mary Cook contacted fellow Vistage member, Brad Farris from Anchor Advisors, to help her rebuild her company’s infrastructure. One of Brad’s first priorities was to focus on Mary’s hiring process, or her lack of one. Since her business is service-oriented, her team members need to have creative talent but also specific behavioral traits and disciplines in order to work as part of a team. Previously, Mary struggled to find team members who had the right mix of what she needed. “I used to hire people quickly and then be disappointed when they weren’t what I thought they were going to be,” Mary said. But through Anchor Advisors’ recruiting services, Mary saw how important every stage of the hiring process is, from advertising in the right places to screening to interviewing. “Stacy Reynolds did all the interviewing for me. She would get them to talk about things that I never would have thought to ask, yet they were things that were important to me and my company.”
Once Mary had hired some people who were more suited for her business, then it was time to manage their performance. Jean Bruno worked with Mary to develop performance management plans, and a training and development process.
Lastly, in order to make the most out of the slowdown, Anchor Advisors, Ltd. helped Mary to document and manage her sales process. This enabled her to see all the opportunities in each stage of her process and made it possible for more people to participate in making sales.
Mary said that through Anchor’s involvement in the screening and hiring process, she was able to hire several key people who now play an important role in the relaunch of her business. “Now, having been through what a hiring process should be with Anchor Advisors, I see how vital hiring is to my business. Instead of finding fault with people after you hire them, you can find their faults before you hire them.”
Mary said that although the market slowdown has presented challenges, she is confident that Anchor Advisors is leading her business down the right path. “When the market picks up, we’ll have our processes ready to go and ready to execute.”