July 8

Episode 43: How Talent Acquisition Feeds Innovation with Scott MacGregor


In this episode, Mike O’Neill speaks with guest Scott MacGregor about innovation and its relation to talent acquisition and retention. Scott talks at length about ways leaders can change the way they acquire talent and how they can change their company to retain that talent. In building the foundation for people to feel empowered in what they do, a company will maximize its potential for success long-term.

Scott MacGregor’s Biography

Scott MacGregor is the founder and CEO of Something New, one of the fastest-growing talent strategy companies in the United States. In the 6 1/2 years since Something New launched, it has been recognized six times as innovative. Scott is also the founder of the Talent Champions Council, a membership community for innovative talent strategy.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • What drives innovation as a company, and what type of talent you need to be successful.
  • Why it’s critical for a company not only to give back but to be able to show how they are giving back and making the world a better place.
  • What type of mindset to focus on so that you maximize your potential for success.
  • How to attract the best talent to your organization and how to retain them.
  • How and why to shift focus so that people (your talent) are above everything.
  • How to remain competitive and retain talent in the wake of Covid.
  • How to evaluate how you are taking care of your people and what things don’t promote healthy company culture.


  • “My whole thing is showing up differently… all the time, in every possible way. And that kinda begs for innovation”— Scott MacGregor
  • “I named my company something new so you can imagine that if we were doing the same old thing 6 1/2 years later we’d pretty much be a fraud. So naming your company something new kind of in and of itself means that you have to be constantly innovating.” — Scott MacGregor
  • “Companies are nothing more than a collection of people that are producing products, services, putting processes in place.”— Scott MacGregor

Links & Resources Mentioned…

  • Something New “I highly recommend Something New. Scott and his team do amazing work and we have successfully hired several highly qualified sales and account management associates.”
  • Talent Champions Council– The Talent Champions Council is the leading private membership community for innovative Talent Strategy and is for anyone who believes people are a company’s greatest asset.
  • Scotts LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/macgregorscott/


*All proceeds of book sales are donated to various charities. 

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Read The Transcript

Episode #43

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck & On Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we're business coaches who love to help leaders sleep better because they solve their tough planning process in people problems. In this podcast, we're talking with thought leaders to get their insights on ways to help you or your business get unstuck. Joining me today is Scott MacGregor. Scott is the founder and CEO of Something New, one of the fastest growing talent strategy companies in the country. He's also the founder of the Talent Champions Council. Welcome Scott. 

Scott MacGregor: How are you doing Mike? Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. 

Mike O'Neill: I'm doing great. This is going to be a lot of fun. Your energy level, comes through I'm I'm really glad. Why don't we just kind of jump right in. You founded Something New, not that long ago, but in your short history, you've done something that I don't know has ever been done before. You started the company. And that company has been recognized, six times as being innovative. Tell us about Something New and what is it about Something New that caught the attention of the American Business Awards? 

Scott MacGregor: Yeah, thank you. So you know, six and a half years ago, I launched talent strategy company called Something New. Prior to that, I was a Chief Revenue Officer. I was, you know, had grown a company from about five people to about 300. And through that process was really disenchanted with the way that talent strategy worked. Recruiters, headhunters, whatever you want to call them. I said, I, I know I can build a better mouse trap, to solve the problems that I was having. And that's really what we set out to do. And, and, you know, obviously it's, it's great to be recognized, by an organization like the American Business Awards. So we have, we want to record six consecutive American Business Awards for innovation, never been done before. And, you know, I'm proud of the team that we put together that executes, on that different model every single day. 

Mike O'Neill: Scott, as you know, our listeners are leaders. These are, decision-makers. A number of our listeners own their business or in senior leadership roles. And we're talking about innovation. Irrespective of the industry that you're in, how in the world, as the founder of Something New, how in a world have you built into the culture, a mindset that innovation is going to be part of the DNA? 

Scott MacGregor: It's , my whole thing is showing up differently. So I want to show up differently in the way I live my life in the way I run my business. It's just who I am. And it, it gets, it's everything from kind of like high level to very granular. So I think when you're around me and you see it every day. And if you're certainly, if you're on our team, you see that I want to show up differently all the time in every possible way. And that kind of begs for innovation. You can't, also, you know, I named my company Something New, so you can imagine if we're doing the same old thing, six and a half years later, we pretty much be a fraud. So naming your company, Something New kind of in and of itself means you better be constantly innovating. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, my sense is the nature of your work is you help organizations find the right talent for the specific need. That applies to you as well. When you're looking for talent for your own organization, you're looking for certain skill sets, certain aptitudes, how in a world do you gauge the potential for innovation for individual? 

Scott MacGregor: You know, I, I think it's really creativity. Not everyone needs to be innovative. They need to be open to innovation because innovation means that the company is going to change. So they need to be people that they don't have to be the most wildly creative, innovative people, but they have to be somebody that's going to be able to say, okay, that's what we used to do. And now we've figured out a better way. So we're going to be iterating and innovating constantly. So that's definitely something that we consider is, is that person adaptable to change? Or are they somebody that just is very set in their ways. So, you know, we've, we've just, really vetted, very particularly for that specific skill, to be able to be adaptable. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, so far we've talked about you, the business owner and, and what you set in place and how you've assembled a team to embody these kinds of things. Let's look at it from the receiving in, from the clients. You've been doing this with this company for six and a half years. What's the biggest difference between the service and how it's delivered today than it was when you started out? 

Scott MacGregor: You know, we've, we've added a lot of additional tools and services. So we have two advisory services that we have now. One is called Something New Labs, where we teach hypergrowth startups, how to do talent acquisition, onboarding, and retention the right way, how to build the foundation. And that's something that's been an evolutionary process. The Talent Champions Council is a separate organization.  But that again is, you know, kind of melds into what we do at Something New that community and, and, and how that's managed and run. And then our give back component has evolved tremendously, over the six and a half years. So, you know, when I started the company giving back was a critical component. To me, it was probably my number one, why, and that has evolved over time, and has become more and more robust and, and a lot of fun. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, it's interesting the giving back now is seen as kind of a must in today's business. When you're trying to attract people to your organization, they need to be able see how, what this organization does this company does that makes a difference in the world. I want to come back to that a little bit, but you know, we've been using this term, talent acquisition, talent management. Those terms can kind of get a little bit muddy in people's eyes. When you say talent and how important talent is elaborate. 

Scott MacGregor: It's really your people strategy. How do you look at your organization? What do you prioritize the most? We have a, a slogan, called people over everything, and we believe that every leader from CEO down in order to be successful and in order to maximize your potential for success you have to have a people over everything mindset. And from that, you'll think about how do we attract the best people to our organization? How do we welcome them into the family? How do we onboard them? How do we support them? How do we retain them long-term so that, that tribal knowledge stays with the organization? It permeates everything that you do. But it's, you know, it's really your, your people strategy companies are nothing more than a collection of people that are producing products, services, putting processes in place. The Genesis for everything is people, but oftentimes companies get enamored with their technology or their go to market strategy and they forget that it really all boils down to people. And if you've got the best people's strategy, you're probably gonna win. 

Mike O'Neill: If you look at how you display people, over everything. It's I think if I could describe, it's almost like it's a fraction. People is the numerator everything is a denominator. And there's a line below that. I thought it was actually kind of brilliant. Let's say we've got a listener now, a business owner who kind of has to sheepishly admit, people aren't the front and center like they ought to be. What might be some practical suggestions you would have for a business owner for a business leader who has listened to you and say, gosh, I want it to be better at that. What might be some good first steps they should consider to move in that direction? 

Scott MacGregor: I think they've got to really think about why isn't it, their number one priority. And I think sometimes people think when you start talking about it, your people strategy or anything HRish. They think all of that's, you know, touchy, feely feel good, but having a rock solid people strategy or talent strategy is the best predictor for success. It's the best way to, to have a healthy bottom line. So I think first leaders have to say, why, why am I not focused there? What's what's distracting me. And oftentimes people actually think that they are doing the right things. So one of the things, I was talking to somebody about today is audit yourself. What you prioritize is where you spend your time is what you prioritize. And if you look back at the meetings that you sat in on over the last week or month or whatever, and you put them in buckets, how filled up with the talent strategy bucket be? How much time did you spend thinking about how to do that better? The answer for most leaders is a very little time at all. Which is a little perplexing because when you think about it, I always ask CEOs this question, what's your number one expense? The answer Mike, that I get a hundred percent of the time is labor. Labor is people. Okay. So people are your number one expense. And then every company wants to get to a next level. That could be, they want to go public. They want to get their next round of funding. They want to hit a milestone event. And the question is, okay, what do you need to do to get there? Most of the time they focus something around people, but then you ask that next question, which is how often do you and your executive leadership teams sit down and talk about your people or talent strategy. And they go yeah, we don't do that very often or we never do that. It's, it's a huge disconnect. And I think there's lots of reasons for it. If you're VC backed, you're probably hyper-focused on, you know, well, how much runway do we have? When are we going to get our next round of funding? So it, if you're a public, you know, you're beholden to wall street and quarterly numbers. That all causes short-term thinking. And I think when you think in the short term, it's hard to say, okay, I'm going to invest in these things that will really benefit me tremendously, but it's, it's gonna take a while. And I think that's one of the reasons why more companies are aren't where they should be. 

Mike O'Neill: That's very interesting. Scott, I know you are very active in the Society for Human Resource Management. Our company is as well. I'm going to pull up the summer issue to HR Magazine and it, they literally, the cover reads The Turnover Tsunami, how to prepare for the surge of employees expected to leave for new jobs. Do you believe that that is likely going to happen?

Scott MacGregor: I do think it's going to happen. I think more than ever, and a lot of this, we were trending in this direction before COVID, but COVID has really been the accelerant on people really saying, am I happy? Do I like what I'm doing? And really evaluating their jobs in a different way and being willing to leave. And now want to be one of the things that is, is really important to people is the flexibility to work from wherever they want to work from. And I think when companies dig their heels in, they're going to find that they're not as competitive. They're going to lose some really good employees. And you know that that will cause a tremendous amount of turnover. We're hearing it already from candidates that are saying, you know, I just am not afforded the flexibility. They want me to come back to an office and I've got a 45 minute commute and I don't get it. I don't want to do that. I really enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Or most people want a hybrid. Because there are aspects of working in an office that I think are, are very appealing.  So I do think we're going to have a, I don't know if it's as tsunami, but we're going to have a pretty significant turnover issue. 

Mike O'Neill: Yeah. I know in the business that you own that a windfall for your business. But I also know in your business that one of the consulting services that you mentioned a few minutes ago, was the Something New Labs is that you help clients not only develop their own talent acquisition and onboarding and retention. Of those three retention is probably the area that,  probably doesn't get much attention. What is it that companies need to be doing business leaders need to be doing right now if it's not a tsunami, but let's say as an uptick. What is it we need to be doing right now to make sure that we've at least acknowledged that potential. And we need to begin working immediately on? 

Scott MacGregor: I mean, people just, they need to, to really evaluate, are we taking care of our people? And taking care of our people doesn't necessarily mean what you're paying them. It doesn't really mean the benefits. It certainly doesn't mean in, in, in my world where we work with a lot of hypergrowth startups. Sometimes they, they feel like, oh, we have a good culture because we have a bunch of ping pong tables and we have, you know, beer on tap. That that's not a great culture. It's not an indication of a great culture. Those are kind of just window dressing. It's really how do you show up for your employees? What are you doing to enrich their lives? Are you giving them opportunities? Are you listening to them and the things that they really want? Whether that is flexibility or the ability to learn and advance. Are you, are you accommodating them? And are you, are you listening? Now you know, there's a lot of tools out there that companies can use to get feedback, from their employees. But a lot of it is just, you know, do you have managers and leaders that are listening and really have the pulse of their people. Or are they just driving them towards whatever goal it is? Because that's a, that's a recipe for long-term disaster. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, we've been talking about talent internally. But you also have formed this Talent Champions Counsel now in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm one of your newest members of that council. So I'm brand new to this council. I could explain why I joined, but why did you form this council?

Scott MacGregor: You know, it's a great question. It, it started, on a ride. My wife and I were, you know, stuck, in Connecticut. And we were going a little stir crazy, and we said, let's get out of dodge. So we decided to go to Charleston, South Carolina, and we drove, which is, a long drive. So on the way back, my wife and I were talking about how much I love the business that we do at Something New, because it allows us to help people. And it allows us to give back. The downside is it's not overly scalable, so we can work with about a hundred companies a year, which is great. But it's only a hundred companies and the revenue and profit that we made from that business allows us to do quite a bit of good in terms of giving back. But I always want to do more. So in that ride, you know, I said, how do I, the companies that we're helping are made up of hundreds or thousands of employees that are really struggling to hone their skills when it comes to talent strategy. And then what about all the companies we don't work with, which is, you know, millions of, of companies and, you know, tons and tons of people. And I thought, why don't we put together a membership community that's focused on talent strategy for all leaders. This is not for, you know, just for HR. It's not just for recruters it's for anyone who leads even one person. Help them to hone their skills, do it in a unique way. So we pull from the military, we pull from professional sports and we pull from iconic folks in corporations. To deliver messages around team building, talent acquisition, onboarding, retention, employer branding, employer engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion. And we hold masterclasses and we do a lot of really cool stuff. And we also have a give back component. So, we give back to a, a charity called the Look For The Good Project. And that's all, you know, the membership is dirt cheap. It's $240 a year. So we wanted, we knew that we could affect hopefully tens of thousands of people. And right now we're five months in. We have hundreds of, of members. We just got a member at our, in our 26 countries or 27 country. We just got a member from Portugal yesterday. So we're in 27 countries in five and a half months. And it's, it's fantastic. We just did a masterclass with Brandy Chestain, who's a legendary soccer player and she talked about team building, and you know, everyone was literally on the edge of their seat because they were interacting with a legend, and hearing from her about how those Olympic teams and World Cup teams were constructed. So it's a lot of fun and I think we deliver absolutely massive value. 

Mike O'Neill: It does sound like that. I am looking forward to, participating, learning more and hopefully contributing to that. You know, we've thus far, I've heard a number of things that have really worked well for you. In keeping with the theme of this podcast, would you be willing to share an example where you concluded gosh, I Scott I'm stuck. And if you had that realization, what did you do, Scott to get unstuck? 

Scott MacGregor: So that's a great question. I would say I was stuck in my old job. I grew up relatively poor in a very affluent town, which was a strange way to grow up. So professionally I was very motivated from like the get-go, and it led to a fair amount of success. And I liked my job. I didn't love my job as Chief Revenue Officer, but I was making a lot of money and I could not fathom leaving. Even though I had written the business plan for Something New 10 years prior to launching the business, but I was terrified I had to jump off the cliff and become an entrepreneur. It just as somebody and I, you know, I think it's probably just growing up the way that I did. I couldn't imagine walking away from that kind of money. And it seemed irresponsible. But you know, I think what moves us is pain. And in my case it was pain coupled with encouragement. So the pain of not really being totally fulfilled and the encouragement of my wife, to jump off the cliff and do what I really wanted to do. So I was definitely stuck for a long, long time. And it took that pain mounting, and the encouragement of, my wife. To to say, do this. This is what you think about, talk about, you know, you're always tweaking kind of the business plan, do it, you have my support. And because of that, I, I did and it's, you know, probably the best decision I ever made.

Mike O'Neill: I appreciate you sharing that example. Scott, earlier, you made reference to giving back that that is a core component, not only of something new, but there is also a kind of a component that Talent Champions Council, for those who are listening, you can't see what's behind you for those who are watching this on YouTube. There's a series of posters. And, I believe that's referencing books, but can you tell us a little more about what is it we're looking at? 

Scott MacGregor: Yeah, so behind me  are three books that I put out, where a hundred percent of the proceeds go to charity. So when I started something new, we started immediately a give back component of the business, which is called Something Good. And at the time we were putting together bags for the homeless, which when I was in New York, which is a couple of times a week,  I was, you know, giving out hundreds of bags and having discussions with, with folks that, that really needed some extra help. And I was very involved in a lot of nonprofits. On boards I was the chairman of the board for Elevate New York. But I wanted to do more. And as a bootstrap company, I couldn't just write a giant check to these organizations. So I thought, you know, what are my assets? My assets have always been my relationships. And I have a very large network of true friends, real relationships that super eclectic. It's Olympians. It's pro athletes. It's bestselling authors. It's, you know, rockstar CEOs. So I thought, why don't I ask 52 of my friends to write a chapter of gratitude for a life lesson that they learn. I'll put it in a book. And then I'll give all the proceeds to charity. So we did that with a book called Standing O, and Dick Vermeil, who coached the Rams to a super bowl. And Tiki Barber who's a legendary player for the New York giants. Coach Vermiel wrote the forward, Tiki wrote the cover quote. And the book did very well and were able to, to really shine a huge spotlight on two great organizations and give, give them money as well. So that worked. And I thought, I think I've got another 52 friends. Let's do this again. So we put out Standing O Encore, this time we gave all the, all the money to the Look For The Good Project. And you know, that worked as well. So both of my boys served in the military and I have a lot of friends that were in the military and a lot in special operations. So I have a real affinity for those who served our country. So I thought, why don't I do a specialty book, with just military. And we have medal of honor winners, generals, just amazing people that was called Standing O Salute all the money, went to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. And that book did well. And now in November, we'll, put out, Standing O Tribute, and we're excited about that. And all of the proceeds are going to go to. The blankets of Hope, which is a, a nonprofit based in New York that I I'm on their board and I'm really passionate about them. So I'm excited about book number four. And I always say, as long as I don't run out of friends, I'm probably gonna keep putting these books out. And they've been, they've been great. This next book that's coming out collectively, already, the authors, have over 10 million social media followers. So it's, it's a pretty good way to publicize your book, is to get other people to do it for you. 

Mike O'Neill: This was absolutely brilliant. Hats off for not just conceding, but seeing it through and now working on your fourth. And I'm sure it's not the last book. You know, Scott, as you began looking back on our conversation, The things we've kind of talked about the importance of people and alike, what might be that kind of takeaways you want to make sure our listeners have? 

Scott MacGregor: It really boils down to your mindset. I think your mindset really dictates how, how your, how your life goes. And your mindset as a business leader has gotta be a people over everything mindset, if you want to maximize your company's potential. And, I think it's sad that we're, we're certainly not there. Not even close. I think most companies really give, give it very little thought. I think right now, some it it's getting a little bit more mind share because I think COVID really shone a spotlight on, oh wow we better really be thoughtful. The market right now is super hot. So companies are hiring like crazy and they're starting to feel that war for talent. And there are a lot of people that are not even going back to work. They're coming up with other things to do or they're on an unemployment. And, and, you know, I think people are being much more choosy. So I think, you know, that, that to me is what I think about and talk about every day is that people over everything mindset, which encompasses a lot of things, including the importance of diversity, you know, and, and equity and inclusion in our, in our workplaces. But that's, that's really the takeaway. 

Mike O'Neill: Scott you shared how many friends you be able to tap into to publish these books? You do have lots of connections, but if there are folks listening, who say gosh I too would like to be connected with Scott. What's the best way for them to do that? 

Scott MacGregor: Yeah. LinkedIn is, is by far the platform. You know, I, I put a lot of content out on LinkedIn. You can also find me on Instagram. Facebook, literally, it's going to tell you, like go to go to my LinkedIn. So connect with me on LinkedIn. Just send me a note, and say that, you know, you saw this podcast, or you're interested in talking about, people over everything mindset or the Talent Champions Council, and I love to have those conversations. If you couldn't tell I'm very, very passionate about it. Because I think it it's something that can change people's lives and, and really change the world. 

Mike O'Neill: Yes. I could tell, I know our listeners could tell as well. And so we'll put your, your LinkedIn profile link, in the show notes, we'll also include links to, both organizations you've talked to, and that is both Something New and the Talent Champions Council. Scott. Thank you. 

Scott MacGregor: Thank you, Mike. This has been a blast.

Mike O'Neill: Also want to thank our listeners for joining us for this episode of get unstuck & On Target. Every Thursday, we upload the latest episode to all the major platforms. So if you haven't already please subscribe. You know, life is too short to let business problems keep you up at night. So if you've been listening to my conversation with Scott and you're realizing that something is keeping your business stuck, let's talk, go to our website bench-builders.com or just go to your browser and type unstuck.show to schedule a quick call. So I want to thank you for joining us, and I hope you've picked up on some tips. They'll help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next.

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