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13 Tips from Top CEOs on Hiring and Keeping the Very Best Employees

The tactics–and offbeat questions–Inc. 500 founders and execs use to thrive.

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BY Inc. staff - 11 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Inc. asked the nation's fastest growing, private-company CEOs to answer a series of wide-ranging questions about how they reward and retain top talent. Here's how top execs weighed in on the benefits they offer and why, in many cases, they're not the highest paid members of their team.

Q: How do you attract top talent -- and then keep them motivated?

A: "Quarterly retreats around the world." --Justin Cooke, Empire Flippers | No. 174

A: "We established a personal-development fund that everyone is entitled to. It funds anything that helps that employee push beyond their comfort zone. It's renewed every year." --Courtney Nichols Gould, SmartyPants Vitamins | No. 432

A: "Caring, caring, and caring. To the point of exhaustion. In every way I know how." --Dan Granger, Oxford Road | No. 398

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A: "We fully pay all our employees' medical expenses and insurance. Even their annual deductible. Every penny. We also provide a fun, casual work environment with music, energy drinks, very flexible hours, and tons of time off!" --Steven Eilers, Boost Marketing Group | No. 49

A: "Weekly in-office massages, weekly lunches and occasional afternoon ice cream, in-home-massage discounts, and department and company retreats." --Samer HamAdeh, Zeel | No. 167

A: "Hire great talent and listen to them. Realize that isn't 'creative,' but unfortunately most companies fail here." --Michael Wong, DayBlink Consulting | No. 159

A: "I need to work on this." --Chris Rickerson, Elite Staffing Solutions | No. 160

A: "Focus on culture and morale. We have no dress code (one employee showed up dressed as Spider-Man). The company buys lunch on Friday, and it usually turns into an all-afternoon hangout. We have no formal office hours, and we let employees take extended holidays and work remotely from anywhere." --Jon Fawcett, Fuse Chicken | No. 172

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A: "Have a great company culture. Free supplements, kombucha on tap, strong bonuses." --Josh Axe, Axe Wellness | No. 35

A: "We randomize seating quarterly (we have desk pods that compete quarterly). We put 20% of revenue back into employee engagement. Quarterly conference for all employees. Publicly celebrate wins, big and small, in Slack." --Joseph Taylor, Penrod | No. 442

62% of our respondents said that finding and retaining good staff is the largest obstacle to growth--beating out other options by nearly a two-to-one margin. And 40% said recruiting that talent is their company's biggest contributor to staying innovative. All of which points to the continued importance of getting your work force and workplace right. Luckily, our CEO survey also revealed lots of interesting ideas to check out. (Hint: free massages.)

*Beyond what is required by state and federal regulations

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Q: During an interview, what one question reveals the most about a candidate?

A: "'What is your biggest insecurity?' It's much different than 'weakness.'" --Kyle Hanson, Oolong | No. 312

A: "'Tell us about your first pet.' You get to see creativity, personality, humor, and kindness shine through." --Teddy Jones, 501 Auctions | No. 293

A: " 'How many basketballs will fit into a 747?' " --Henry Jones, Kopis Mobile | No. 384

A: "'How fortunate in life are you and why?'" --Nelson James, Signs.com | No. 105