Nexxt CEO's first step: Shying away from being an introvert

Just going by temperament, Rich Milgram is an introvert. But to be an effective leader, Milgram had to change. It

There’s a guy who works at Nexxt Inc. that chief executive and founder Rich Milgram really admires. That would be Steven L. Kraut, the job site and recruiting media company’s vice president of sales — big and boisterous, loud and friendly.

“I’m naturally an introvert,” Milgram, 49, said. “I had to learn to be an extrovert. Steve is completely outgoing. His memory for people is unbelievable. He will recognize you if he met you five years ago. He will be able to tell you how he met you.”

And when Kraut walks into a room and starts working it, Milgram, his boss, watches in amazement. “He’s walking up to people. There’s no fear of rejection. There’s not fear that he’s out of his element. He’s in his element, which is shocking to me.”

So how do you learn to be an extrovert?

I think you have to observe. You have to admire that trait in somebody else to make even a portion of it yours. And it’s practice, right? You have to be willing to be out there and do it. You have to go beyond what your personality suggests, which is difficult. It’s challenging. I was never the person to walk up to a girl in a bar. How do you get the confidence to go do that, or the gumption, or whatever you want to call it? You have to do it.

Isn’t it a must when you are the chief executive of a business?

Yes. I always treated it as if the product sells itself. That’s why I’ve put so much into our company and its inner workings. But if nobody knows about it, then no matter how good it is, it’s not good enough. So I guess I got to the point where I feel comfortable [about the company] when I talk about it.

I feel strongly enough about it and I feel comfortable enough to convince people that’s the case. So that compensates for my fear of approaching them. I’m so confident in what we’re doing here, and I’m so sure we’re going to help people, that I can overcome the fear of walking up and talking to you.

Nexxt is always such a great source of information on job trends, because some of your job boards list jobs by geography, like phillyjobs.com, while others are focused on particular sectors, such as entertainmentworkers.com or hospitalityjobsite.com.

We focus on about 50 job boards. It all comes into a centralized database, and we’re trying to do matchmaking, between job seekers and employers. Last year, we helped 286,000 people get hired, which is awesome. We’ve been very focused on getting the word out to corporations at a more evolved level than just a job board.

We’ve been evolving into a media company focused on the career space. We have about 60 million people [who have posted their resumes on Nexxt’s network]. So we’re focused on helping corporations get the word out about their hiring.

You have children. Based on what you see, what career advice would you give?

I would be torn. When I look at my girls, there’s what their personalities say about them and what their passion says about them, and then where the world is. They’re not always aligned, right? You’ve very fortunate if all three are aligned, but that’s usually rare. You can’t just go into a field because it’s hot. You have to be happy.

What is hot?

Fortunately, and unfortunately, anything that is going to automate and streamline a business is hot.

Meaning?

Engineering, analytics, software, computers, manufacturing, anything that is going to automate a company is hot. What else is hot is anything that can’t be automated, like nursing.

You need a barber, obviously. You can’t put your head in a pencil sharpener.

Right. I don’t necessarily like it, but that’s where we are. I’m trying to improve this company, and the company grows top line and bottom line because of the people and because of the product. There is some marriage of that that says I can’t go off and hire 100 people and cross my fingers that we’re going to sell enough product. I have to be able to sell, to produce profit to justify the hiring, which means automate, which makes things more efficient.

RICH MILGRAM

Home: Bryn Mawr

Family: Wife, Marla, co-founder and general counsel of the business; daughters Lauren, 20, Caroline 15.

Diplomas: Cheltenham High School, Boston University, electrical engineering.

Favorite candy: Twizzler, also the name of his dog. Also Peanut M&Ms, "when I'm over-stressed."

NEXXT INC.

What: Career network and recruitment media company. Operates job boards.

Where: King of Prussia

Revenues: $27 million

Employees: 90

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