It’s well-known in the software industry that a single A-level software engineer is more valuable than 10 B-level software engineers. The A player not only produces more clean code, but also creates fewer bugs that need to be fixed. Software companies with top-gun software engineers hit their milestones faster and beat out the competition. As Steve Kaufer of TripAdvisor says, “Speed wins.”

“The great software developers, indeed, the best people in every field, are quite simply never on the market. The average great software developer will apply for, total, maybe, four jobs in their entire career.” said Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software. But how do tech companies in Greater Gainesville find these talented unicorn employees?

In my many years of recruiting top talent for software companies and creating and launching my own software startups, there are five main ways to hire great talent:

1.    Recruit them directly from other local companies

2.    Recruit them from other cities to move

3.    Catch “trailing spouses” when they arrive

4.    Hire top interns for the summer

5.    Develop their talent from within

As Spolsky said, the best people in every field are simply never on the market. Companies rarely find the cream of the crop applying for jobs posted on Monster, Indeed or other job sites.

For tech companies, I recommend getting to know the top talent locally by attending meetings of local professional associations and meetups. Companies can find the local thought leaders since they demonstrate the most knowledge, and junior people tend to crowd around them.

Companies can also do a simple keyword search on LinkedIn to identify great talent and then contact people on that platform to see if they’re interested joining them.

Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami have much larger populations and tech companies located there. I met a Stanford graduate at the airport recently who is part of the Madden NFL game PR and social media team for EA Sports in Orlando. I lived in Boston for 17 years and while I did enjoy working with top software companies like TripAdvisor, Kayak and other household names, the weather is WAY better in Gainesville! Gainesville is also very attractive to mid-level professionals because of its family-friendly lifestyle. Gainesville offers a top university, a growing tech economy, great school system, far less traffic, much more affordable housing and a lower cost of living that most large metro areas.

Fast-growing Gainesville area businesses, however, face a challenge. Yes, entrepreneurial resources abound and more companies and employees are deciding to locate here thanks to the impressive cultural assets and a strong pipeline of highly qualified entry-level workforce talent. But both employers and employees are suffering from a relative dearth of mid-level and senior talent. 

To address this challenge, member companies of the Chamber of Commerce’s Gainesville Tech Council have initiated a new program to recruit talent from other big cities to Gainesville (and in many cases, such as University of Florida alumni, back to Gainesville). The program will partner with the UF Alumni Association and other organizations to attract and share talent through targeted advertising, a new website that highlight’s the region’s tech-related employment opportunities, and a database of jobs and job candidates. 

Companies would be smart to recruit University of Florida alumni back to Gainesville. Many are still Gator sports fans and may enjoy raising their young families here!

Smart and talented people tend to marry other smart and talented people. UF hires some of the smartest people in the world to its staff. This creates a talent pool of “trailing spouses” who follow their husbands, wives or partners to Greater Gainesville. If companies tap into this pool, they may find a unicorn before other local companies are aware of them.

Info Tech, a large local software and consulting company, has an incredible intern program. It hires a team of the top economics undergrad and graduate students to intern with its consulting team each summer. The interns don’t have experience, but they have the kind of raw intelligence that’s extremely rare.

“By investing in our internship program, we have the opportunity to invest in our future workforce. While running a strong internship program requires a significant time commitment, interns bring an eagerness and enthusiasm to their roles that is only present within professionals just starting their careers. Our interns give to us, just as much as we give to them.”

If companies implement a similar intern program, they can really do a “try before you buy” and help these students fall in love with your company and staff. And besides, they want a job! Jobs aren’t easy to come by for fresh college graduates.

"Great leaders are not born; they are made that way." - Tony Rubleski

Just as companies will train and develop their interns into great employees, companies can develop their own employees with professional training. If you’re looking to promote a superstar from within to management, but he or she doesn’t have management skills, you can send them to a leadership training program such as Landmark in Orlando.

Dave Cobb, general manager of Marc Radio, provides a series of books to new employees to become the best employees they can be. Marc Radio invests heavily in employee development. As a result, it has a low turnover rate. As Tony Rubleski, bestselling and creator of the Mind Capture book series, says, “Great leaders are not born; they are made that way.”

What talent is your company seeking to grow? What people are required to achieve milestones in your strategic business plan? Will you hire from outside or promote from within to achieve those goals?

Sheer intelligence and talent are the required inputs for tech companies to thrive and grow. As Jim Collins, author of #1 best-seller Good To Great, said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

Marsh Sutherland, president of Walden Recruiting, has recruited talent for Boston software startups for the past 12 years. New to the Gainesville startup scene, he also brings years of experience as a serial tech entrepreneur from his time in Boston and Seattle. Marsh is also founder of Gainesville-based startup RedRover, new talent-sharing platform launching in 2019.

Reprinted with permission from Business in Greater Gainesville, Advantage Publishing.