In a recent interview titled Jason Wachtel of JW Michaels & Co: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line by Fotis Georgiadis of Authority Magazine, JW Michaels & Company Managing Partner, Jason Wachtel, weighed in on how diversity can increase a company’s bottom line.
[Authority Magazine] Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?
[Jason Wachtel] I grew up in a suburb of New York City and come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather was the co-founder of the Members Only clothing brand, and I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself.
Ten years after graduating from Syracuse, I fell into recruiting and discovered I was good at it. It was 2008, and the financial collapse made starting a business risky. But I decided to focus my attention on recruiting compliance and legal talent in the asset management space, and it paid off. After many years of hard work, JW Michaels & Co has grown to a team of 160 people with 14 offices and is an industry-leading executive search firm placing professionals in the right positions.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
None of us imagined that when we closed our offices for two weeks when the pandemic first started that we’d still be working remotely a year and a half later! The pandemic has been a struggle for businesses and the country as a whole. Personally, I learned through perseverance, hard work and creativity, anything is possible. As a company, our team learned we can thrive under any circumstance and even in the most challenging times if we hire the most amazing people and support them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
I always say, “You have to work harder and smarter than your competition.” I started JW Michaels 11 years ago in a closet with no windows, and I was competing against other entrepreneurs who graduated from Harvard. It was pure determination and grit that helped me build my business. If my competition was in the office at 9 a.m., I was there at 6:30 a.m.. If the other guys left at 6 p.m., I stayed until 9 p.m.. I worked harder and made more calls. In order to succeed, I realized that I wasn’t just competing with other people, I was competing with myself too.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My grandfather is a big role model for me. He started from nothing and became extremely successful, co-creating a global clothing brand. His perseverance and determination have set an example for me for a long time, and I admire him greatly
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The caliber of people we hire at JW Michaels makes us stand out. We prioritize high ethics and morals, team players and great schooling. We support and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, and our employees feel like they’re running their own business. As the company’s Managing Partner, my job is to coach and guide them. I’m proud to say that no one has left our business to go to another firm during the pandemic, and not many companies can say that.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We are continuing to expand our footprint and create an even better work environment for our employees. We thrive for the best work/life balance that people can have by creating a culture where we work hard but don’t sacrifice time away from our families.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Giving back is very important to me, and I’m proud to serve on the board of Cohen’s Children’s Hospital in Long Island. I also believe in paying it forward by providing people with an opportunity to make more money than they ever thought was possible. Helping people create wealth for themselves is inspiring. Most importantly, being a good mentor to my kids is what keeps me going.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Meet Customer/Clientele Expectations
Customers and clients want to work with companies that have diverse talent because a diverse workforce not only gives businesses better insight into their customers/clients, it also helps them connect with them in a more empathetic way. Without it, consumers will choose to go elsewhere.
2. Foster Innovation
Diversity allows for different thoughts, ideas and a wide variety of opinions. A person or team may come up with a brilliant idea simply because of the experience and perspective they bring to the table.
3. Attract Investors
Investors care about diversity-owned businesses because they know it matters. In particular, studies show there’s a correlation between how diverse a company is and its success — the more diverse, the more successful. Having a high-performing diverse team can attract the right investors.
4. Attract a Broader Talent Pool
Companies that embrace diversity broaden their talent pool. They attract a wider range of eligible candidates — and thus, a wider range of talents and ideas. At JW Michaels, we work to make sure 50 percent of the candidate pool we send to our partners is diverse. We know one of the keys to a successful company is seeing value in diversity and how it completely transforms an institution. We deliver, and companies are better because of it.
5. Attract the Best Talent
Candidates joining firms want to know those firms care about diversity. If a business wants to attract the most exceptional candidates who bring value and revenue to their firm, they have to have a diverse workforce.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?
Empowering your people is important. Bottom line, you should hire for ethics, morality and hard work. You can teach people just about anything, but no matter how smart people are, you can’t have success without ethics and hard work. Never sacrifice ethics for intelligence.
What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?
Try to be even-keeled and don’t be too emotional. It’s good to have emotional intelligence, but we must try to balance our emotions in order to have clarity and make the right decisions.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.
I would love to sit down with basketball legend Michael Jordan, who I’ve met twice before on the golf course. He got cut by his high school varsity team, and look at him now. He worked harder and smarter than his competition, always — no matter the setbacks or losses. His work ethic is amazing, and no one could outwork him. That’s inspiring.