S4 E115 | CXR Podcast: Joe Wollan shares his origin story

Joe Wollan shares his backstory of how he got started in recruiting.

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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:21
Welcome everybody back to another CXR podcast. I am excited today. This is one of my favorite topics. This is one of my favorite topics to kind of talk about. There is a history of this conversation within in the recruiting space around Well, how did you get into recruiting? How did you fall into recruiting? How did you did you go to school to get into recruiting? Did you know who brought who drug you into recruiting from some other function? And it’s always always a fun conversation. And so today, we have a particular leader that we have known and loved for years, his longtime CXR member and industry friend, Joe, Joe, say hello to everybody.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 0:58
Hello everybody, Chris is overselling my presence, but I appreciate that.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:02
Well, at the risk of underselling it, Joe, why don’t you give us what I like to call the escalator pitch of who is Joe,nd why does anybody care? What Joe has to say? About about anything in the space, let alone the NFL?

Joe Wollan, Polaris 1:16
Yeah, so we’ll table my side projects, I guess for an everyday but no, seriously, Hello, everybody, I appreciate the opportunity I’ve know Chris, Gerry, Barb for a number of years. I’ve been friends for a number of years. And really, truly I’ve been there from the start of my journey. nta you know, and have been trusted advisors and counselors have truly become friends along the way. But I’ve been in this talent aquisition space for the better part of eight plus years now, all Polaris industries, you know, in different roles really, every fall in 1218 months. So it’s been a heck of a ride, you know, coming to the organization is with absolutely zero experience in corporate talent acquisition. A lot of experience in agency, you know, for a couple of years bounce around doing different things, but never really understand never understood the corporate dynamic when it comes to talent attraction. And, thankfully, versus a culture where we start to bet on people who may not necessarily have every single box to be checked with their experiences come together. And you know, Roger Coker, you know, approached me about this. And he brought me in and said, this is kind of his vision and trusted me to take on different responsibilities. But outside of the company, you know, I have a lovely wife, Heather, and a beautiful baby girl. Her name’s Claire, we’d like to talk about her set obsessive, happy daddy here. But you know, except once you eat dog food, which was a huge mistake on our part, but we got that covered only one time got it out in time. But But yeah, that’s really you know, the gist of who I am and my connections here, but a lot of presence here. Polaris but truth, we believe in balance, and making sure that I’m present at home as well. And I think that actually does support a lot of the different initiatives that we have here is to be able to kind of check out and have those different lives. So that gives you everything link workers, but I’ll fill in more blanks.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:10
Now it does, it does, Joe. And I think that it’s fun, because anybody who sat with you, for five minutes knows that you are very passionate about the work that you do, and the brand at Polaris, and just just the culture that you guys have really forged ahead with there, and the changes that you’re trying to make there, but but for the sake of interest sake, and I get a little bit of history prior to Polaris prior to corporate, but how did you get into recruiting? Did you fall into it? Was it a lifelong goal? Did your parents raise you to be a recruiter? Where did it come from?

Joe Wollan, Polaris 3:44
Yeah, no, it’s a great question because it fell out of the sky. Truthfully. So I grew up in a family where my father owned his own business for 25 years. Nothing, you know, super sexy, but it was an incredible, you know, journey for him to start this from scratch and build it to what was that, you know, basically fed our family and help my brother, my sister, my mother, and I have our life. I mean, so I watched his entrepreneurial approach to everything that he did, you know, and from office furniture, I was an office furniture distribution distributor. So I mean, it’s not exactly the flashy his life But still, it was something that I got a chance to watch him and be a part of, as I grew up, you know, and we were always naturally attracted to the to the sales side of it, my brother and I, in particular. So out of college after graduate moved to St. Thomas with degrees in entrepreneurship and business operations. Truthfully, we thought that we were going to take over and go work for his company. And he shocked us when he pulled us both aside and said, No, that’s not how this is going to work. This was my, this was my chapter. And you guys, if you want to do this, I’ll help you build the exact same organization, but you need to go through the things that I went through, if you’re gonna have a true appreciation for what it’s like that business. We didn’t do that. We chose different paths.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:02
Wait, oh, but I want to make sure you guys say, you come up to the family, you’re watching your dad. He’s a hard working man. He’s doing honest work, supporting the family, you guys are thinking we’re just going to take the business over and he goes, nah.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 5:15
Yeah, he’s a pretty blunt guys, we put a little bit more eloquent than that, but kind of kind of, I mean, if my brother was on here, right now, he would, he would laugh, he’s older, he kind of thought like, Wow, cool. Give me my thing. And little brother and I are going to take this and we’re going to go, but he literally did. And that was his reasoning, though. He said, Hey, if you want to start your own office furniture company, the exact same, I’ll tell you everything I know. But there is something to having to pull yourself up. And do this for the first time. And I think you’re going to be able to get get to where I am much faster, if you want to do it than I did. But still, you got to learn how to do this on your own. You know, but but truthfully, that that was the discussion. So it hurt a little bit more than probably having more of an appreciation for the approach now. Um, you know, but yeah, it was a frustrating day.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:02
Stings a little when it’s true, doesn’t it.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 6:05
We might not have had dinner that night together. But it’s all right. He’s a wise man. But yeah, that’s the gist of that. But to come back to the question of how to get into admin, so I spent two and a half years at Thomson Reuters, I kind hiding truthfully, I mean, I’m the sales side. But more so in entry level, BD setting the stage for senior sales executive, to go in and trying to sell websites strictly to attorneys. I mean, so talking about kind of just coming in earning your stripes. I mean, it’s cold calls all day long, for two and a half years. So I got a chance to learn what it was like to be in sales and large organization. Obviously, the the flash of large dollars, was appealing when we thought about that, but never really never really felt like I was part of the company and Thompson’s a great organization, but it just didn’t jive with me. I think it’s probably more of that kind of entrepreneur upbringing with massive global conglomerates coming together and figuring out what that is. So I, I was approached by somebody and said, hey, have you ever thought about, you know, selling agents, or selling staffing services? And I said, I don’t know anything about it. And truthfully went through a number of discussions and said, Alright, let’s take a leap of faith, you know, so I spent some couple years of agency different agencies and learned what I learned later, learned from a client of mine. And here we are.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 7:31
Nice. And you did you take to a pretty naturally.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 7:36
I think the agency side, the agency side taught me a lot, an awful lot. And truthfully, it was, it humbled me an awful lot, because I thought the hustle was there when you come from corporate. But when you’re an agency, right, it’s all about last deal. It’s all about the next opportunity. It’s not about even what you just closed three minutes ago, and honestly, I was pretty young, and probably didn’t have enough appreciation for how the business was to operate. I was probably a little too distracted, to kind of continue on with it. But either way, it was just reflections that I have on my time there. But I enjoyed that culture. I enjoyed the people I worked with. And I knew it was just a different chase. Right? So it’s whether it’s chasing for the next deal or chasing a candidate. I mean, there’s still that kind of appeal and lure of going after it. But I enjoyed it.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:30
Yeah. So recruiting by way of sales by way of entrepreneurial path. With what I tell you, with rug pulled halfway through.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 8:37
Yeah, yeah, well, well, I mean, we talked about it, right? I mean, you always have a non traditional path to get in. I mean, that’s that’s part of it. But it’s, it’s, it’s amazing. The amount of synergies actually that are in with recruitment with all different kinds of businesses. Truthfully, it’s just a matter of how you look at it. Is is how I’ve tried to approach my time here, but yeah, no, it’s definitely a non traditional path.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:02
I like it. So Joe, I gotta ask you now you’ve told the history of growing up and watch watching your family do hard work, honest work, and then forcing you to pivot, right? And you pivoted your own way, but there was a pivot that was sort of forced that Claire, your youngster, your little little rug monkey is still running around barely mobile. And what are you going to tell her in 17 years when she’s been watching her dad be a successful recruiting leader? And she says Dad, I want to I want to go into recruiting I want to do what you do. Are you are you gonna go? Nope.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 9:37
Ah, I hope not. I hope not. But I think my question back to her would be why and if it’s anything because anything other than everything, anything close to a you know, what you do, and this is what and that normal I think family relationships It’d be natural. You know, then I think I would want to entertain I would try and help and best that I can choose but I wanted to have the whole world I think like any parent, you know, would, but realities are I probably would I think I’d asked that question. My wife was here she might, you might challenge that thinking but but I think that’s probably where I’d stop. At least I hope I would just explain but why do you want to do that? Explain it to me. And if there’s a real reason, say, Hey, I’m attracted to, you know, you know, bringing more, you know, diverse candidates into or diverse people into specific organizations or I’m attracted to whatever else something that’s actually tangible asked, Hey, I just saw you do it. Then. Let’s go Let’s roll.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:39
Good stuff. Well, like I’ve said it 100 times I’ll say it again. You’re good man, Charlie Brown.

Joe Wollan, Polaris 10:47
I appreciate that. Obviously, it’s we try to have fun let’s put it that way. That’s the only way I think I know how to live.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:54
I think you do great. Joe. Thanks so much for joining us on the show. We appreciate a little bit of backstory over who you are and how you fell into the space

Joe Wollan, Polaris 11:00
no problem I’m happy to be here. Thanks guys.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 11:03
Good stuff. Don’t miss we got another podcast coming up with Stephen Rothberg. And I think the write up we’ve gotten fine on the site, but I’ll read it after 70 years of incremental change college recruiting transformed within months due to COVID and the murder of George Floyd, what changes are sticking around and what seems temporary and so Stephen and I are going to take a shot at that I don’t know if we’ll get much of it right or much wrong, but we’re gonna enjoy the conversation. He’s always a joy to have on until then. We’ll see everybody online in the CXR community at CXR.works.

Announcer 11:34
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