Steal or Save, The A Game

I worked for a regional bank that did exactly what Eric Herrenkohl suggests, “Hire A-Players.” This bank was founded by a previous CEO of a regional bank and he hired the best of the best in the city. His executive team consisted of the brightest and the best talent that money could buy. “The success of your company depends entirely upon your ability to attract and hire great people.” (James) Yes they were given padded salaries, but they were worth it because they took one man’s vision and made it a billion-dollar bank within 5 years. That was definitely “exponential impact.”(Herrenkohl, 4) There was such an explicit level of loyalty amongst the initial team. The CEO hand-picked them from his social network. These were the people that he could trust with his life which was the company. I heard a gentleman say in a seminar that real leaders build people, not buildings. I believe this statement to be true. I would also add that great leaders have the ability to be successful at both. This bank offered me an opportunity to actually dive into my field of study in college (corporate communications) with the ability to shape the culture of the bank. It was like living a dream. Even my salary exceeded the average for this region. It was made possible because this CEO wanted to be the best regional bank on this coast. He positioned people to make that happen. We grew faster than what had been forecasted by building and acquiring other banks.

You may wonder why I say steal or save. It’s easy for a person to be lured to the competitor when they are being offered and impressive compensation package and what appears to be a dream career. At that time, retail banking employees were told that would not have sales goals and benchmarks that would stretch them beyond their comfort zone. All they had to do was bring their portfolio with them. People don’t bank with buildings, they bank with people. If you hire the best people and they bring their loyal customers, you create a win-win all day long. “Talent begets talent. Merely hiring one A-player begins to create an environment where other A-players want to work.” (Herrenkohl, 11) We were a magnet for seasoned talent and the beauty of it all was that over three-fourths or the people were from extensions of social networks. Many of my employees were people that I had previously worked with at other banks. Whenever there was a job opening, I would call them first. I can remember a couple of them were not ready to leave with my initial call. But eventually, they called me. Our bank was able to save them and offer a way of escape from their current situation. I am so glad that it was not always based on money, but instead on reputation, autonomy, respect and freedoms that were not offer by their current employer.

It was by far the best part of my banking career; a career that ended with us being acquired when the housing market crashed. Ironically, the iceberg investment that caused our titanic to sink came from an outsider who was acquired in one of our acquisitions. He was not a part of the original team. But as we have learned from Noam Wasserman there are often tradeoffs between wealth and control. Our CEO chose to be “Rich” instead of “King” and the kingdom crumbled.

James, Geoff. (2013, October 22). Hiring: 6 Secrets to Attracting Top Talent. Retrieved September 19, 2016 from

Herrenkohl, Eric. (2010) How to Hire A-Players. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wasserman, Noam. (2012) The Founder’s Dilemmas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

3 thoughts on “Steal or Save, The A Game”

  1. Interesting post – it sounds like the bank really excelled at the A-Player game if it went that far in five years. It really is amazing how many doors a robust social network can open. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Michelle,
    I enjoyed the story of your time in banking. I was not expecting the demise and was anticipating something better. It sounds like that experience gave you a great opportunity to use your social network then and now in your current endeavors. If the CEO had chosen to be King instead of rich do you think during that crash it would have mattered?

  3. Wow! I actually read your article twice. Very well written! I loved that you gave an example of a founder making a decision and its results. While it wasn’t a happy outcome for bank, it does happen, and it shows the true reflection of difficult decisions business owners have to make. I am sure the Founder was somewhat devastated that something he worked so hard to build ended up in shambles.

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