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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

04 Hiring Top Tier Ecommerce Talent Part 2 - Harry Joiner

Harry Joiner of continues his discussion with Tim and Erik about hiring top-tier Ecommerce talent on this week's episode of the Digital Velocity podcast.

Whether you are hiring or looking to be hired, Harry gives great insights about the hiring process and things to consider when interviewing candidates. He suggests the following, "At the end of the day, you want people who are driven. They're hard on the issues and soft on the people. They take great notes. They're academically rigorous. I'm not saying they made good grades in college. I'm saying they're academically rigorous and they're insatiably curious about stuff.”

Harry also explains his "Load-bearing Wall Theory" as it pertains to hiring the right people for Digital Marketing and Ecommerce.

About Our Guest:

Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter for marketing and e-commerce. He's been interviewed by Success Magazine, and he has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, MarketingSherpa's "Great Minds in Marketing" series, BusinessWeek,, Internet Retailer, and more.

He is utterly blessed to represent some of the best and brightest clients and candidates in the global online marketing community. Many of them have appeared in publications like Fast Company, Business 2.0, Internet Retailer, Search Marketing Standard, Multichannel Merchant, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. 


Erik Martinez: Hello, this is Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine,

Tim Curtis: and I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne. We'd like to welcome you to this episode of The Digital Velocity Podcast. Today, we continue with part two of an exciting discussion with Harry Joiner from

Erik Martinez: Let's pick up where we left off last week.

So let's take that in the context of hiring internally versus hiring and outsourcing an agency for various functions because I think what you're hitting on is kind of the core problem with our earlier conversation [00:01:00] about dialing the channel and dialing for jobs and whatnot.

How do we strike the balance of understanding when the right time is to bring that person in house? Or do we supplement with external people, whether they're the single guy sitting in their living room that specializes in just one teeny-tiny aspect of what you do or hiring an agency that provides every service under the sun? Where is that dividing line?

Harry Joiner: Yeah, so I thought a lot about this last year. This is one of the things that I did with my spare time last year. I read a lot about this. I read an article about The Rolling Stones, just on my journey. One of the things that I learned about The Rolling Stones, this is back in the day.

So I don't know when exactly this was, whenever it was, The Rolling Stones had a hundred people in their worldwide organization.

Well, Who's irreplaceable? Well, [00:02:00] let's look at the list, shall we? Mick Jagger. Is he replaceable or not? He's pretty irreplaceable. What about Keith? He's pretty irreplaceable. What about Charlie? Charlie's pretty irreplaceable. What about Ronnie Wood? Pretty irreplaceable. What about the bass player?

Well, I don't know who the bass player is, so he's replaceable. What about the guy who aligns with the merchandising suppliers and sources the t-shirts from Timbuktu? Is he replaceable? So, you get the idea. Here's my theory. This is the Harry Joiner load-bearing wall theory.

There's something out there called Price's Law of Economics. I had no idea we were going to talk about this, by the way, so this is all just off the top of my head. Ready? Here it comes. So there's Price's Law of Economics. Price's Law of Economics says that in any population at all, half the economic value generated by the population can be attributed to the square root of the number of people in the population.

What does [00:03:00] that mean? Well, it means that if you take the population of plastic surgeons in Los Angeles, California. The square root of the number of plastic surgeons in Southern California are making more than half of the revenue.

So let's say there's 500 plastic surgeons in Los Angeles. The square root of 500 is 22.36. Let's round-up. Twenty-three plastic surgeons are making more than half of the money. This is a different version of the 80/20 rule. It's a different version of the 5/95 rule. Basically, it's been studied before. Most populations in an American society, 1% of the people are rich, 4% of the people are prosperous, 15% make a good living, 60% are struggling, and 20% are living hand to mouth and nearly broke. You can cry about that all you want. I'm not here to go down that rabbit hole.

So, in any company, what that means is that you take the number of [00:04:00] employees.

Let's say, Disney. How many people do you think are working at Disney worldwide? Square root of a hundred thousand is 316. So just like in The Rolling Stones, you've got Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ronnie, and then everybody else. At Disney, you have 316 people who are like that, and then everybody else. Literally, that's what you have. To have a company, I mean, basically what is a person these days, but like a little micro-business.

Erik Martinez, you are in business for yourself. Harry Joiner, you are in business for yourself. Mary Jones down the street, she is in business for herself. REI, they're in business for themselves, JCrew, they're in business for themselves. Right? So if the hiring process is no longer a hiring process, but an RFP, then it's essential that the Erik Martinez's, and the Harry Joiner's, and the Mary Jones', and the whoever's who apply for those jobs, there's values confluence there.

That there's a [00:05:00] connection between the values and the vision and the mission and the strategy and the tactics that everything Erik Martinez does for a JCrew, is brand decretive. How do you interview for that? Well, you get people talking about broad open-ended things. That's how you do it.

It's like Warren Buffet, he'll ask somebody a question and just see how they think through an issue. So there was a thing earlier this week, a LinkedIn update on my LinkedIn feed. So you can look me up on LinkedIn. Plug. I think it was May 11th or May 12th. It was about an interview question that somebody had mentioned in the comments for a job interview kit that I gave to my LinkedIn audience.

I had this big LinkedIn audience built up. There were two executives there. One is Brett Trent, and the other is Russ Summers, brilliant guys. Russ said the interview question that I like best is, step me through how we make money. You just ask the candidate, how is it exactly that we make money?

You're Erik Martinez. You're applying for a job at [00:06:00] JCrew. Great. Step me through how we make money. Shut up. Let them talk. Then, this is where it gets amazing. Brett Trent said, yeah, I love that question. He said, but my version of the question is, step me through how we make money and how that needs to change in the next five years?

My head exploded. It was one of the best comments I've ever read on my LinkedIn feed. The issue isn't really does the candidate get it right or wrong? It's just, I want to see if they can connect the dots between how we make money because we're in the emotional bond business. The customer has to feel better about themselves because of their relationship with our brand.

So the purpose and values and viewpoint and story and all that needs to pop across every customer touchpoint, because all of that is a leading indicator of how many customers we get, what's the average order value, what's the order frequency. So if you make people feel better about themselves because of their relationship with you, guess what? They're coming back.

Marshall Fields said a hundred years ago. People will always return to the place where they've [00:07:00] been proactively made to feel special. So if you ask a candidate, how do we make money and how does that need to change in the next five years, it implies that they understand that you've kidnapped the customer and you're taking them on a journey, and here's where we're headed, and here's why that's a dead-end or why it's long, straight, dry open road with beautiful scenery.

Erik Martinez: That totally makes sense.

Tim Curtis: It's demonstrating a line of thinking or the ability to think along a line of thinking and it's unusual, but it lays bare whether or not you can answer that question.

Erik Martinez: Here's the next question that's related to that.

The way I'm interpreting your answer to my earlier question of when do we hire internally, when do we hire externally? I think basically what I'm hearing you say is it doesn't really matter, as long as we have a confluence of values, we're marching to the same piece of music, we are emotionally aligned, and at the end of the day, we're creating a brand [00:08:00] result that's kidnapping the customer and taking them to a destination.

So maybe the answer to the question of whether we insource or outsource is more about, do we actually have the candidates in the pile that can help us meet that mission or not?

Is that a fair characterization or did I oversimplify?

Harry Joiner: You always have to oversimplify, but basically the concept is you buy your straw hats in the winter. You borrow money, even if you don't need it when interest rates are low. If you run in a rock band and the right bass player pops up, you get them to join the band.

I think you have to hire somewhat opportunistically and always ask yourself when you interview somebody, assuming I can win with this person, assuming I can go to the Super Bowl with this person, assuming this is a person who will contribute something lasting and meaningful to my existing management mix, and my customer would hire this person, [00:09:00] would I be really upset if this person went to work for my arch competitor?

Erik Martinez: Yeah. That's a great question.

Harry Joiner: So if the answer to that is yes, then it usually pays, assuming you get a good deal on them. Which I'm not talking about picking people off, but assuming you're not paying through the nose for somebody, you get them to sign up and just come along for the journey.

 I'm not normal. There's nothing normal about my approach to the business. I hate recruiters. I hate them. Recruiters are idiots. You can put that in the podcast. I'm a marketer and an entrepreneur. If I weren't a recruiter, I would just go be a marketer and an entrepreneur.

So the recruiting aspect is just really just something that I kind of bolt-on. It's something basically that I use to justify being able to yap on the phone all day about marketing and e-commerce with so many people. You can tell I'm fascinated by everything that I get an opportunity to do.

It's not about me. It's about the people that I work with.

Basically [00:10:00] I do think you have to hire somewhat opportunistically. When I worked for my dad's company, which is the 10th largest privately held company in Georgia. So they did $1.5 billion in sales last year. Okay. It's this huge business that they built and it's spectacular and a very sophisticated company.

He used to say, when I worked for him, you always put your best people on your biggest problems. Well, what if the best person doesn't have any experience in solving an accounting issue or doesn't have any experience negotiating a new line of credit with a bank or whatever. It's like, they'll figure it out.

Right. At the end of the day, you want people who are driven. They're hard on the issues and soft on the people. They take great notes. They're academically rigorous. I'm not saying they made good grades in college. I'm saying they're academically rigorous and they're insatiably curious about stuff.

They'd bring 80/20 thinking to everything they do. So 80% of the results [00:11:00] is driven by 20%, and then 80% of those results are driven by 20%. So basically 64% of the results are driven by 4% of that. Where's the load bearing activity in anything that we do or touch or are about is this company.

You just want people who are just driven to just plug and play in an organization in a way that's hard on the issues and soft on the people. Doesn't coddle, but I'm talking about it doesn't involve a lot of hurt feelings and broken glass, but they're not afraid to face trouble when trouble comes.

That's a very special person. That's a very, very special person. I've gotten to know a bunch of them in my career as a recruiter. Wasn't something that I was necessarily driven to do. It's like finding a hundred-dollar bill on the street. You're sort of always looking for it, you know, and you can recognize it when you see it.

By the way, this is just friendly advice that I would give to you, as business owners you're always recruiting, but you have to engage people in conversations. Ask them what [00:12:00] they think about stuff. Ask them why do they think the things they think. We make money and how will that change in the next five years?

Why do you think that?

Tim Curtis: Follow-up question to that. You're obviously talking about a lot of the things you've gleaned over the years, obviously the change in the industry, et cetera. Let's go back and kind of pose a little bit of a different question, but it's one that gets a little bit more introspective in terms of the shifting around your thinking.

That's, what's one thing that you wish you had known when you began your career that you now know.

Harry Joiner: Yeah. I saw this question on the preplan sheet and I was really glad you asked it. How companies make money. Honestly, I wish I thought more like an owner. What that means is I wish I'd had an HP17B calculator, which is menu-driven and it has a solver function in the back.

I wish I'd known to build a formula into the back of an HP17B that's just revenue equals customers times the [00:13:00] AOV, times order frequency. What I didn't know, and I actually wrote this down for this podcast because I thought it was worth sharing.

If revenue equals number of customers come to AOV comes frequency.

Most people don't really think that there are a million ways to make a million dollars. They don't think about that. I'm not speaking figuratively, like mathematically, there's a million ways to make a million dollars. You can sell one thing to one customer for a million dollars, or you can sell one thing to a million customers for a dollar and all points in between.

So you can sell two things to five customers for a hundred thousand dollars. If I'm selling skirts for $65 each to a young woman every other year, and I need to grow a $5 million, top line to seven and a half million dollars, then I made, do acquire 77,000 new customers, all things being equal.

Literally, that's something that you can put into the back of a calculator. There's probably apps with solver functions that you can download for your [00:14:00] phone. Anybody can go into your business and say, okay, let's say we're a $4 million agency. Let's say that our average or value is $800 a month.

We bill customers quarterly. Do the math. Here's how we need to improve the number of customers or the average order value or the order frequency to be an $8 million agency. What does it take to decrease the randomness, increase the frequency, increase the transaction size? Do we need to bundle content and bonuses and services?

Do we need unique offers? It's not genius-level stuff. It's just being able to toggle through some menus and just sanity check. Here's another thing, this actually happened. So yesterday this candidate calls me for a job he's interviewing for.

He's not my candidate and it's not my job. Okay. So it's just a friend in the industry. Like you two guys are friends in the industry. He calls me and he goes, I got this recruiter who's got me under consideration for a VP of e-commerce role [00:15:00] and I need you to tell me if this sounds crazy. I'm like, why don't you ask your recruiter? He was like, the recruiter's an idiot. I roll my eyes. I'm like, yeah. With the exception of Jerry Bernhardt and a couple of other people, recruiters are pretty much are idiots. Okay. A fact. All right.

So I'm like tell me what's going on in the business and he goes, well, they currently have a billion-dollar omnichannel e-commerce piece and the CEO wants the VP of e-commerce to grow it to $10 billion, billion with a B. Well, what's their average order value, right? $800. Well, what's the order frequency. The average customer buys once every four years.

Put that into a calculator and now all of a sudden, the size of their house file is two and a half million people, and you start plinking around and you realize, well, they need to acquire 22 million new customers. This actually happened yesterday. These are real numbers. 22 million customers to take the business to $10 billion.

So let's start here at [00:16:00] what percent capacity are these guys operating now? Well, they're operating at 80% capacity? Okay, great. So they have a billion-dollar business. They maybe have the capacity to grow it if they were completely efficient, grow it to 1.75 billion.

There's no way they're getting to $10 billion without adding a lot of capacity or changing their product mix and going to a mostly drop ship model, which it's debatable whether or not they would lose their competitive advantage and purpose and values and viewpoint and story and style of marketing gets lost in the translation with all of that.

Do you see where I'm headed with all this? Now all of a sudden the numbers don't make sense. I used to work for a guy, one of my first bosses out of college was the guy that didn't go to college and he was a high school graduate. He was a terrifically, bright high school graduate.

He probably had an IQ of 150, brilliant guy, but he just didn't go to college. He was constantly misusing words and we were in a [00:17:00] meeting one time and I've read off a long column of numbers and he knew that the numbers didn't add up.

And he said those numbers don't copulate. Which I think he just meant the numbers didn't add up, but we laughed. I was like, I don't think that's what you mean, but I know what you're talking about, the numbers don't copulate well. So the numbers damn well don't copulate if you want to grow a $1 billion thing to a $10 billion thing, and all you know is that you know what the top line is, but you have no idea how big the house file is, how many customers you have to require, what the average order value is going to be, the order frequency, any of that other stuff.

Erik Martinez: That's awesome. Just fantastic information and advice. Let's take a slightly different track here and I'd be curious if you're talking to a hiring manager or an executive that's trying to fill a very specific role, what advice do you give them today in this environment?

You mentioned earlier in [00:18:00] our discussion that we're in transition and the candidates or the employees are taking a very different approach to their careers. So what's the advice that you'd give these guys as they're looking to hire talent to help make a difference in their organizations?

Harry Joiner: I would ask him, you think you need this person do you really need this person? So we get 150 inbound calls a year from companies wanting us to handle their searches. I spend a lot of time disqualifying people who call me. I love them. I'm not here to hate. I just wanna make sure they actually need me.

 So the first thing I'll ask is, do you have a problem? Step me through what you think is the problem. Then I'll ask in so many words, is the solution to the problem, a person. Sometimes it's not a person. Sometimes it's more money. Sometimes they need a different technology stack. Sometimes they need different product, different inventory at different margins, and different availability.

Sometimes [00:19:00] they need a different concept. Sometimes they need a new market opportunity, but sometimes they need a person. So I'm an e-commerce recruiter, right. That's how they found me. So then I'll dig in, like is the right person on your team already? Can you promote, can you reassign, can you train?

Do you have enough time for that? Now sometimes the answer is no. So if the answer is no, then your options are an agency, or Task Rabbit, or whatever, it's an attempt to perm type thing. Or you can call one of those rent a CMO type companies like an interim person, or you can give a project to a freelancer or whatever, call an old employee, or you can outsource the thing, or you can use Harry if what you need is a load-bearing wall.

So if Nick leaves The Rolling Stones, I'm the guy you call. If Keith leaves The Rolling Stones, I'm the guy you call. If you're looking to replace a load-bearing wall, right? Somebody who's a member of what I call the square root [00:20:00] club, right? We talked about Price's Law of Economics a little while ago.

If that's what you're looking for, then I could be your guy, but I want to make sure that you have the budget, the authority, the need, and the timeline, and the ability to actually sell that unicorn when we find them. It's funny, I get about 150 inbound calls a year and my partner Allen and I take about 35 of those deals, 35 to 40 of those deals. Sometimes more in a busy year or whatever, but anyway.

Tim Curtis: So who would you say is an ideal candidate then for you? If you're really limiting who you're going to be taking on for those searches? What's that look like?

Harry Joiner: I'm looking for somebody who can plug and play and drive value pretty quickly. Here's the reason. So I charge my clients 20% of the candidate's first-year base salary, if and only if, they hire my candidate. So gunslingers [00:21:00] don't get paid by the bullet.

So that 20% needs to be lost in the rounding of the incremental value that candidate will drive in the role. Those words were very, very carefully chosen, by the way, over years, lost in the rounding of the incremental value the candidate will drive in the role. In other words, mathematically, it has to be a no-brainer for the client to hire my candidate.

So my candidate has to come in with better ideas right out of the gate about how we get new customers, how we improve the average order value, what do we do to improve the order frequency, are we in the right business, what's our business about, who's our business for, what's the unique selling proposition, is this the right market opportunity?

Are we creating demand, are we capturing demand, what kind of money, people, technology, inventory commitment do we need, time? Do we need to go after this opportunity? It has to be just a magic show during the interview process. Nobody wants to pay me 20%. Who would want [00:22:00] to pay that? I'm like Vincent Vega and Pulp Fiction when he opens the suitcase and there's the shining light, that's me.

Whatever's in the suitcase has better be really valuable, otherwise, you're not paying 20%. So I gotta have candidates who track with that and people who are just better. This is not a sales pitch. I'm just telling you I've been doing this for so long, at such a high level, they just got to be better and they got to win in a blowout.

Here's a new one, right? If anybody's made it to the end of this podcast, I'll be amazed. Here's a reward for anybody who got to the end of the podcast.

Rather than ask, what are your sales? Ask how many orders you're shipping per day. On your Peruvian Connection, how many orders are you shipping a day? Eight. How many ship days per year? What's your average order value? Okay, so then your revenues are X. Well, no, they're higher than that.

Wait a second. That doesn't work. Those numbers don't copulate. Why is it higher than that? Well, because we're doing business on these other third-party markets. Well, okay. Is that [00:23:00] part of the P and L or not? Well, it's not what. what kind of channel conflict is that? so what happens is that you end up teasing out exactly what it's going to take to win in the role and take the business to the next level.

Most candidates cannot do that. That doesn't make me smart. I want to just reinforce this point. None of what I'm saying, I'm saying because I'm smart. I'm saying because I'm like the miserable little gambler who's been at the same blackjack table for 16 years. I've counted my way through a six-deck shoe, 4,000 times basically.

I know exactly what it takes to win in this particular casino, and there's an edge to it.

Tim Curtis: So take that 16 years at that lonely casino table, and that combined with the advice to the candidates you just have to win and to blow out, what's one thought or advice today that you would leave with the audience, helping them understand how to get there, to be that candidate.

Harry Joiner: I think you have to ask a lot of [00:24:00] questions. You have to be the why guy, right? if you Google the words marketing headhunter and then the word, why, five times. So marketing headhunter why, why, why, why, why. There's an article that I wrote about Toyota and their five why's strategy about how every piece of information they get, there's somebody there asking, well, why is that?

Then there's an answer. Why is that? There's an answer. Then why is that? There's an answer, et cetera. Without driving people crazy, if you're a young candidate, a young sort of rising star, you have to constantly ask yourself, why is that?

 Because number one, nobody else does that and number two in a start anywhere, finish anywhere world where a customer could see a pay-per-click ad or display ad or they're retargeted. Then they see a mentioned shared repost review. Then they see your ad on DRTV. Then they call the call center and then they buy on [00:25:00] Amazon. Well, it's useful to know that they did all that stuff before they bought on Amazon, rather than just buying more clicks on Amazon, because maybe we should be selling on DRTV, or maybe we should be doing something different with our call center.

Maybe we should be asking the customer for referrals. Who else do you know who might use this thing? We'll give you 50% off if you give us that information. If you're the one who's constantly insatiably curious and working aggressively, stealthily, under the radar to unpack all of this stuff, pretty soon, you're going to be one of the only people in your entire company who understands it.

If you're constantly walking around with a calculator or like an HP calculator app, and you're constantly back solving how much are we increasing our frequency on this one skew? Well, this one turns at a rate of 20 times a year, and this other one turns at a rate of five times a year.

Maybe if I take the one that turns at a rate of five times a year, and I bundle it somehow with the one that [00:26:00] turns to 20, now all of a sudden I've doubled or tripled or quadrupled. So I'm just a recruiter. I'm just a stupid recruiter. I'm just making this up.

My point is I've been around for so freaking long that I've seen some people, most people leave the casino in a body bag, but I've seen some people, a few, make tons of money. The ones that make tons of money, they always can connect the dots between what they do all day and how they bring a dollar in the door, and how exactly reliably, specifically that dollar is a lagging indicator of how the customer felt better about herself because of her relationship with the brand and the journey that she was on in the first place.

Erik Martinez: That's amazing. That's great advice for us all. You have given us a couple of million ideas today that we could take back. Honestly, if we had to go back through this podcast and just pull out all the great tips of the advice that you've given throughout [00:27:00] this recording, everybody has a lot of homework to do.

Harry. Just in closing here, one, thank you again for taking the time to talk to us today and talk to our audience. If somebody wants to reach out to you, what's the best way to get in touch with you?

Harry Joiner: Just Google me. I've spent my whole life being online, but there's no way you're going to Google Harry Joiner and not find me.

In fact, I would prefer that people just find me through Google because then they feel like they're in control of the discovery process, and by the time they get to me, they'll be more committed to interacting with me. I'll leave your audience with this, number one, I'm incredibly grateful to share the time with y'all.

I'm just one dude works from home. I've got a partner who's brilliant, Allan Seibert. If you think I'm smart, Allan is really smart. It's just the two of us. We take every deal on spec. So if you're out there and you're a hiring manager, you're wondering whether or not to do business with me.

I cost nothing, literally nothing [00:28:00] to engage, no money changes hands. It only changes hands after the candidate starts. Pretty much like our terms are net 30, net 45, net 30 strictly speaking. So you'll have the candidate on-site and you'll know whether or not you made the right hire within that time.

So there's really no reason you wouldn't want to engage us, and this is why we get 150 inbound calls a year. One of the things that I learned from watching Entourage, the TV show Entourage on HBO years ago, is that in Hollywood, the richest actors aren't the richest actors because they're the best actors, they're the richest actors because they get the best scripts.

So if we could go back in time magically and somehow give Jack Nicholson a flat tire on the way to read for the part of Nathan Jesup in A Few Good Men, and the part goes to Harrison Ford or somebody and make Nicholson never gets an opportunity to scream, "You can't [00:29:00] handle the truth!" at Tom Cruise. Now, all of a sudden the entire arc of Jack Nicholson's career is interrupted.

So we take searches that can be closed on the back of a single story. We are constantly on the Meg for reputation-enhancing roles with opportunities where there's the right entrepreneur and the right idea and the right product and the right time and the right market. If that's you out there, we want to hear from you.

Yes, we get 150 inbound calls. That's like an agent saying, yes, I read 150 scripts a year. If you have the right company with the right purpose, values, stories, style of marketing, all that other jazz, and you know what your business is about and who your business is for and whether or not you have a unique selling proposition, there is a slam dunk customer, there is a market opportunity, we can help you get the right e-commerce leader who will marshall the right money, technology, people, inventory, commitment, internally and externally, to take your business to the next level. That is the business that we're [00:30:00] in.

We do all that on a contingency basis. Meaning it costs you nothing for us to take a crack at the deal.

Erik Martinez: That's awesome. I think it's one of the things that sets you apart from some of the other recruiters that I have worked with or been a candidate for in the past. So we're going to close out today.

 Again, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. You can reach out to Harry by Googling him and you will find him on all sorts of medias. You can find them on LinkedIn. That concludes today's episode of The Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Eric Martinez from Blue Tangerine

Tim Curtis: and I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

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