Anthony Sobotik | Crain's Austin

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Anthony Sobotik


Austin-based Lick Honest Ice Creams has been making seasonal and sustainable artisan ice creams since 2011. Free of antibiotics and added hormones, the milk and cream in Lick’s proprietary mix come from the grass-fed cows of a single-source Central Texas dairy. The other ingredients are sourced from across the Lone Star State, with a focus on Central Texas, and are grown naturally and responsibly. Every component is made from scratch in Lick’s kitchen and each pint and tub of ice cream is packed by hand. Since opening, Lick Honest Ice Creams has been featured in The New York Times, The Cooking Channel, The Food Network, GQ, Thrillist, Southern Living, Food & Wine, Tasting Table, Travel + Leisure, American Doers, and People.

The Mistake:

I hired based on the person, not on the position.

For a long time when we were hiring externally, we would hire based on personalities even if a person was not the most qualified, or didn’t have the exact skill set we were looking for. We’d put more value on the person, personality, disposition, and references from previous employers about how they were to work with.

But we found that doesn’t necessarily work very well. Although when you hire, yes – the candidate has to fit in with your company culture and the team you already have in place, but you also need to push the position further and find someone who can bring a certain skill set or level of expertise to the position.

We essentially learned the lesson that you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. If the knowledge of the position or skill set or isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how much everyone gets along with the person or how much they believe in work you do or the brand or company culture it won’t be a good fit.

It actually beings to bleed into other departments that person is touching because other employees begin to question the level of expertise of that person. In cases where employees are answering to that individual, then they end up not commanding respect and it actually hurts them rather than do them any favors. It’s not their fault that they’re not holding the knowledge they need for the position.

Looking back, it makes perfect sense. But previously, we thought if a person is great, has some experience and really believes in the company and product that we’ll get them where they need to be. But we found that 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t work that way.

Not only is it frustrating for the people that work around them, it is also frustrating because you put so much time and resources into training this new person. That takes time away from other departments and it’s not necessary.

One example is at one point we had hired a person we felt really good about on a personal level but not enough experience to handle the particular position. It was a huge challenge and we ended up parting ways. While we all learned from the experience, it wasn’t fair to that individual or the other employees. No one really won in that situation.

We’ve learned that we need to hire people who will only elevate others, rather than drag people back.

The Lesson:

Ultimately, as we’ve grown, we’ve learned that we need to hire people who will only elevate others, rather than drag people back. We have a team that loves learning new things, loves setting goals and achieving those goals.

They want to be surrounded by people that are on the same path. There’s a difference in the way you hire when you’re a new small business as opposed to when you’re a maturing, seven-year-old business. We want to hire people who are going to hit the ground running.

Now we try harder to make it a priority to hire people who have the specific experience we’re looking for. We whittle it down to the top two to three candidates based on the highest level of experience specific to what we do.

From there, we look for who might be the best fit from a company culture and mission standpoint. But we now let experience lead over cultural fit when it comes to making hiring decisions.


Follow Lick Honest Ice Creams on Twitter at @LickIceCreams .

Pictured is Anthony Sobotik | Photo courtesy of Lick Honest Ice Creams.

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