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Mary Anne Moment

in 2010, Mary's Gone Crackers founder Dale Rodrigues met Mary Anne Madonia at a health food store in New York City. She was walking through the aisles with a bag of Mary's Gone Crackers pretzels.

Recognizing her as a brand enthusiast, Dale came up to her. "Tell me about those pretzels you've got there."

"I LOVE these pretzels. They changed my life. They are so delicious. I like to eat healthy, whole, vegan food and they give me something delicious and easy to eat. I eat them all the time."

"Would you like to meet the founder Mary?", Dale asked.

Mary Anne acted as if he'd just asked, "Do you want to meet Meryl Streep?"

After finding his company co-founder Mary, who was on a different aisle in the store, Dale invited Mary Anne to join them the next day at the Fancy Foods trade show they were attending.

Mary Anne, who worked in the fashion industry, arrived at the Mary's Gone Crackers booth in a chic dress and heels worthy of Sarah Jessica Parker.

As Mary's Gone Crackers' Communications and Culture Strategies, I was at the trade show with Dale and Mary. My primary objective was to ensure that, as Mary's Gone Crackers grew at an annual rate of 40%, the innovative culture responsible for those numbers wasn't lost. How could the company maintain the intangible set of qualities that was propelling its success?

At the end of the show, Dale and I were standing at our booth when he asked me, "Should we hire her?" Knowing she was apply for other jobs, I said, "Yes, immediately."

Mary Ann had little relevant experience. Yet she had something greater. She had a heartfelt passion for the brand, an outgoing effervescent personality, and an immediacy that made you feel like her best friend.

Dale did not have a position to fill. Yet right there at the trade show he invited her to spearhead New York sales. That was 2010. Today she is their Vice President of Sales.

Supported by hiring people that align with its articulated values, Mary's Gone Crackers is still growing at lightning speed.

Reflecting on the hire, Dale also noted that he liked hiring people from different industries. They brought a different perspective to the company.

The Mary Anne moment represents an emerging model for how to make values-based leadership hiring decisions. That means recruiting the people who are going to make your culture rock.

How do you do that?

Know who you are and what you stand for. I'd been working with Mary's Gone Crackers to define their core values and stay true to them in every decision they made. That kind of alignment gives staff and customers something to feel passionate about!

Find your brand ambassadors--the people who share your values and are passionate about your brand.

If you can, let high potential candidates interact with staff and customers before you hire. Get a feel for candidates by bringing them to an event and having them show you their skills in action.

Hire to your values-every time. Notice things that were missing in this hiring process: a resume and a long list of qualifications. Mary Anne was hired, not for what she had done, but for who she is and what she cares about.

In this case, the winning recruiting formula was: get clear on who you are as a company, look for the people who already connect to your brand, test their skills in action, hire to your values and train on the job.

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