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A Talent for Finding Talent

Tim Peterson shares his secrets for building a killer e-commerce team - by Lou Carlozo

"People want to be in a place where they can dig in deep and challenge themselves."

As an e-commerce trailblazer, Timothy Peterson treads where his competitors dare not go. As chief marketing officer and co-founder of LocFree.com, he's slated to launch his website in New York City this summer by combining the daily deal and review paradigms (think Groupon meets Yelp) to create a self-styled hybrid that better informs and involves the consumers who use it.

But when it comes to finding the best workers to help him realize his vision, Peterson draws inspiration from his small-town past. He speaks fondly of his father, who ran a U.S. Post Office with more than 60 employees.

"My dad was a career postal guy and he worked there 46 years," Peterson said during his session on attaining and attracting top employees at Chicago's IRCE conference. "He created a great workplace, and had employees who were happy to work there. I learned from my dad to love where you work, and others will too."

Here are some of Peterson’s best strategies for finding and keeping the best talent out there. "We all know how tough this can be," Peterson said. "You find that great partner or worker to build your business and someone tries to lure them away."

1.) Have a great workplace and workplace culture
First, Peterson advised to make the place you work a place you love to ply your trade. Then he stressed the importance of workplace culture: "Where do people gather? Do they run out of the door at the end of the day? Are there lunches, dinners, events, or anything people can do together? I was at an internet startup 12 years ago and it was a wonderful place. They started a club to make teddy bears for children." Sure, it had nothing to do with the startup's business goals, "but it helped create a workplace culture and was one more reason people felt attached to that environment."

2.) Put people you trust to work for you in finding talent
Peterson said that he turns to two important sources--his workers and current clients--to get referrals on the best employees out there. "The folks you work with should be people you trust, and clients and partners would love to be asked for assistance in bringing people into your workplace." When an employee passes the probationary period, Peterson suggested rewarding the co-worker who refers the new hire, with a day off or a gift certificate.

3.) Don't delay: Ask if the fit is right
Peterson stressed that too many employers wait until after the traditional 90 days to check in with new hires, and the teams they've landed on. He suggested instead that the check-in process could begin as early as a week after the start date. This cuts both ways, not just for the employees, but the new worker as well.

"One of the first times I ever did this, I sat with a new employee who said, 'I hate everything.’ I had no idea this was the case, and it all boiled down to the fact that he had no idea what he was supposed to do," Peterson recalled. Checking in at just the right time can allow you to correct course and make your despondent new workers happy again. 

4.) Invest on people to retain them
It's easy for big companies to offer a higher salary, so holding onto a great hire is crucial. "Losing a top employee or a top tech developer can be devastating, so you have to know what drives them," Peterson said. "If you have five main competitors in your workspace, you have to know what they're offering in terms of salary, benefits, and signing bonuses."

That said, he also highlighted those workplace perks that don't necessarily carry a dollar figure: "Is the workplace fulfilling on a daily basis? Is it challenging? Is it something that offers me a vision of what I can become? People want to be in a place where they can dig in deep and challenge themselves."

He added: "And they want to be happy. So create a great workplace."

About the author

Lou Carlozo is a personal finance correspondent based in Chicago and a former managing editor at AOL.com. He spent 16 years as an editor and staff writer at the Chicago Tribune

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FedEx.