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Healthy hiring: DAS recognized in the Business Observer

David Schlaifer is big on knowing what you don’t know. To him, a person’s weaknesses can’t always be fixed, but his or her strengths can always be maximized.

That’s a guiding principle for Schlaifer at the health care management firm he founded in 2003, Tampa-based Doctors Administrative Solutions. The business, which assists doctors with the business side of running a practice, has grown to $5 million in revenues in 2014. The last three years the company has grown revenues 40% year-over-year, a trend Schlaifer expects to continue this year.

Five years ago the company had just five employees, and it gradually grew to 10. Last year it jumped from 15 to 30 and Schlaifer says another jump will happen shortly, for it currently has six to eight openings. The company is also moving into a 9,000-square-foot space in the Times Building in downtown Tampa, an office more than double its current space. “With revenue cycle management services, we have no idea what it means in terms of growth, so it could easily double in a year,” says Schlaifer, previously an executive at Hollard Insurance in South Africa.

With growth like that it makes sense that hiring the best, and right, people is a constant challenge and priority at the firm. It’s a task Schlaifer, 56, doesn’t take lightly.

To start with, an applicant interested in any level position at Doctors Administrative Solutions goes through three to seven interviews that cover 70 to 100 questions, including one about relating experiences when they had good service or bad service — and what they did about it. “A number of people felt like they went through therapy in the interviews,” Schlaifer says.

Applicants must also pass multiple tests, including an administrative exam that assesses basic skill sets such as spelling and attention to detail. It doesn’t matter what your credentials are, you have to pass this assessment to continue the interview process. Schlaifer says it’s astonishing how many people refuse to take the fifth-grade level test, though some M.B.A.s struggle to pass. They also take a “teamopoly” test to determine where their personality may fit within a team. The final test is a social event engagement test, where the person must prove that he or she has the passion it takes to finish the job.

“It’s a two-way street,” Schlaifer says. “They can opt out at any time.”

If a candidate backs away from a position after he or she has invested more than 10 hours, Schlaifer doesn’t see it as a waste. That’s proof the candidate wasn’t a good fit.

Schlaifer also says he doesn’t hire for a job, but rather hires to find a good fit within a team. He then creates a job around the person’s strengths. The idea is to find people who will make their jobs obsolete. Schlaifer knows the industry will continue to change at a rapid pace, and expects 75% of business they’ll be doing in the next couple years will be in services they don’t provide today.

Ultimately, Schlaifer hopes to continue hiring people smarter than he is to fill all the gaps of what he doesn’t know. “At the end of the day,” he says, “I’m the dumbest person in the company.”

Mistakes Matter

Schlaifer lives by the hire slow, fire fast mantra.

Within that, he’s not someone who fires for mistakes, but he has zero tolerance for people who do not own up to something that went wrong. There are two reasons for a termination at Doctors Administrative Solutions:

A breach of integrity, or failure to disclose an error within 15 minutes of finding it. “Customers rarely get mad if you own up to it,” he says.