When I went to work in the Dominican Republic I spoke no Spanish at all. Learning Spanish was a real challenge for me, however in my office most of the staff and our clients didn’t speak English so it was a must. One of my tasks was to assist in hiring a new sales team for the business and the most logical option was to hire new staff who spoke both English and Spanish.
After placing an advert on a local recruitment website, the interviewing began. Myself and my colleague interviewed several candidates and eventually chose a guy who was very experienced and very confident. He seemed like the perfect choice. He had worked in a similar industry, had many contacts and was very results driven. We offered him the position and he accepted. He required very little training and got straight to work making sales. For the first few weeks this was fantastic, he was bringing new customers every day and business was great. However, there was a catch, he knew he was great and after a month he was already asking for more money. I agree that hard work should be rewarded and of course he was earning commission however he wanted an increase in salary too. At this point the business wasn’t able to offer him more and after another month of negotiating he decided he wanted to move on.
We were back to square one and we started interviewing again. We didn’t find anyone with the same experience and were getting worried that we’d made a mistake letting our top salesman leave. But then we met Ramon Polo Torres.
Before I tell you his story, allow me to give you a little background on the Dominican Republic. There is a huge divide there between rich and poor and, to make matters worse, racism exists in society in quite an obvious way. If someone is fair skinned, they are thought to be wealthy, if they are black, they are thought to be poor. There are even bars and restaurants who have been known to not let customers in because they are black! This can also affect someones chances at a job interview, with some employers immediately deciding they will not hire them based on their appearance. For me, coming from London which is one of the most multi-cultural cities on earth, I found it very difficult to understand that this type of racism still existed. So, when Polo arrived for an interview, the fact that he was black didn’t even cross my mind, the only thing that I noticed was that he was an imposing man with a deep voice!
“I don’t have the experience but if you can teach me, I can learn.”
The interview began and we asked him the usual questions. What experience he had and why he felt he would be good for this role. We were expecting the usual replies that we had been hearing all week but he said something that surprised us. His reply was “I have no experience for this position.” Naturally we asked why he had applied if he had no experience and then he surprised us again, he said “I don’t have the experience but if you can teach me, I can learn.” He went on to tell us more about himself and his story was very inspiring. He had grown up in a very poor environment, as many people in the Dominican Republic do. As he got older he realised that he needed to do something different to change his life and so he began teaching himself English. If you can speak English in Dominican Republic it opens up many opportunities. He decided to move to the capital city, Santo Domingo and became a teacher at a local university, teaching young students English. When he came to us it was because he still wanted to do more. He wanted to learn more and to have another opportunity to further improve his life.
After hearing this story and understanding how motivated he was we decided to take a chance. If he was willing to learn, we were willing to teach. He started right away and we made sure he had our full support. As the weeks went on his confidence grew and so did his sales. He continued to impress us with his positive attitude and desire to succeed. He came to work with a smile every day and never once complained. After 3 months his sales were on a par with the previous salesman we had, it had taken him a little longer but he’d got there and he did it with gratitude.
I was so proud of him and felt so pleased that our decision to give him a chance had done just that. He had almost doubled his income compared to his previous job and was enjoying his work. He even continued to teach his students part time.
This experience taught me a very valuable lesson. I will never again hire someone based only on skills and experience. In future I will also use my heart and hire those who have passion and who are willing to learn. If the people who are working for you are only there for the money then you will always struggle to keep them happy and motivated.
Ramon Polo Torres is very humble and will probably not believe it when I say this but he has inspired me. I felt it was necessary to share his wonderful story, which he has given me permission to do so.