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I’ve hired thousands of people in my career and I can tell you there are really only two kinds of people at work, and learning to separate them can save you a lot of time. There are expanders and there are containers, and rarely is one person both.
Expanders thrive on change and need to see how far they can go. They’re happiest pushing the envelope, making new friends and taking lots of risks. Containers are exactly the opposite. They naturally like to keep things in order, build good systems and stay on top of all the details. They can clearly see the logic in any situation and they don’t live well in chaos. Expanders like to spend their money long before they have it, but containers always lock their money up and are adept at keeping you from losing yours.
The day my future business partner walked in to interview for a sales position at The Corcoran Group, I had five empty desks to fill but no intention of letting her have one. Esther explained she was an executive secretary, and judging by her beige double-knit suit and low-heeled shoes, I believed her. Everything Esther told me about herself was opposite to what I had learned would make a good salesperson. I ended the interview politely with my usual ‘one, two, don’t call me, I’ll call you,’ handing her my card. When she tipped her little black purse forward to put it away, I was shocked to see that it was set up like a miniature file cabinet inside, with little colored tabs and even labels! I knew that moment I had met my new business partner and hired Esther Kaplan on the spot, figuring that anyone who could keep her purse looking like that could probably keep my business in perfect order too.
Esther proved herself the consummate container, good at everything I wasn’t good at. Esther hired our support staff, vetted suppliers, and ran our legal, technology, and accounting departments. She managed cash flow and wrestled larger and larger credit lines from our lenders as we grew. Esther handled all her responsibilities twice as well as I could have done, and she thrived on it. That left me all the time in the world to do what expanders do well – recruiting, schmoozing, marketing, advertising, and promoting and growing our business. We were a team of opposite talents that couldn’t be beat and together we built the biggest residential brokerage firm in New York City. Learning to hire the right person for the job is essential to building any business, and using the expander and container in the roles they naturally do well is the key.