Hiring Guru: Luke Weil, Putting Trust in Others

In my observation, Luke Weil is an unexpected story of those who don't have to work, but work anyway; and he works hard, to the benefit of others. Dismissing the usual scrutiny and critique of the wealthy lifestyle, Luke dons the suit of a CEO to direct his creative lot of investments. Instead of waiting for the trust fund, he's delegating real trust into partners, companies and executive teams who are endeavoring to change the world.

This change begins in Latin America where Mr. Luke Weil's investment vehicle, Andina Acquisition Corporation, is exclusively focused on investments there. In addition to Andina, he is on boards of several companies, including Runa, a rapidly growing energy drink company, a tech startup SkuRun and he's a partner in an aircraft leasing company, LW Air.


Andina Acquisition Corporation was established to pursue investments in the Andean region of South America. (Listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange under ticker symbol ANDAU.) While this creates tremendous foreign investment opportunity, it provides pan-regional entrepreneurs access to much needed growth capital and expertise.

Luke admirably spends a good bit of time on philanthropy, helping to improve health care and efforts towards saving our planet.

He is co-founding a first of its kind hospital in Ecuador. It's called Rios Nete and it will combine traditional Amazonian medicine--which uses a plethora of plant-based compounds from which a wide variety of pharmaceuticals are derived--with western medicine.

He's been involved in a number of environmental groups and recently founded a non-profit called The Long Island Marine Purification Initiative, to support grassroots cleanup efforts for Long Island's on and offshore bodies of water.

So you can tell this guy is busy working on diverse interests and his view on hiring, team-building or partner selection is pertinent. I interviewed Luke to discover how, along the path he was blazing, he was attracting and landing others to put trust in for his broad array of corporate and philanthropic activities.

With so many ventures on foreign soil, what experienced wisdom would you share specific to hiring or even M&A proceedings?

"I make as much use as possible of local contacts I've acquired over the years I've spent in the region-- now for Andina and for Rios Nete, as well as when I ran business development in Latin America for Scientific Games.

"When you are doing business in a foreign country, the smart thing to do is to trust the judgment of local people you know to be smart, plugged-in and trustworthy themselves. That was certainly the case in our acquisition of Technoglass."

Have you ever backed-out of a deal due to the personalities involved or other human factors?

"Without going into specifics, yes. Because of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and how vigorously it's being enforced these days, you can't be too careful. Acceptable, common business practices in many other countries nevertheless violate the FCPA, so if someone seems cavalier in either their business or personal life, I'll back out."

Do you then have an anecdote or philosophy that would sum up your thoughts about hiring?

"Trust your gut--the intangibles you sense but can't put into words often matter a lot."
Great minds... quoting my Ten Truths for Hiring the right person the first time and every time in my book The Naked Interview: Hiring Without Regret, Truth Seven - Trust Your Gut Feeling. Sometimes, you've got to go with your intuition. The importance of the way someone makes you "feel" is paramount to his or her ability to strike a balance. It also determines how much the company is willing to invest in a new employee. This investment establishes the candidate's "worth" in your eyes.

If your gut says this prospective hiree could work out great, go the extra mile to make it happen. If your gut is uncertain and queasy, you're more likely to be looking for reasons that candidate will fail. Make sense? Trust your "gut feeling", always.

To what degree do you keep your finger on the pulse of hiring for your ventures?

"I try to keep my finger on the pulse at all times, but, truthfully, that's not possible. I am perhaps too well known for late night or weekend emails asking for updates, throwing out ideas, or following up with people. In my defense, those are the best times for me to catch up on emails, but I must admit I actually think everyone is better served with the discipline of weekly meetings or conference calls, with tasks and deliverables assigned at that time. Spontaneous emails and an ongoing dialogue are important, but scheduled weekly report-ins puts everyone on the same page and promotes accountability."

How do you go about selecting your personal staff?

"Actually, other than an assistant and a financial analyst, I don't have a personal staff. I prefer to outsource. My staffing needs are pretty varied and it makes more sense to have flexibility and a broad base of skill sets to call on when I need them.

"At any given time, I may need lawyers, bankers, accountants, IT experts, PR experts, fundraisers--even, in the case with Rios Nete and LIMPIA, health care providers and water quality experts--and in multiple countries. Even if it made economic sense to fill those diverse needs with employees, I think I am better served by having a roster of talented people who I can contract with for specific needs at specific times."

With that said, what criteria do you have for your high-level executive team?

"Even though my team members are not employees, my criteria is the same for leadership in companies I've acquired or oversee as an investor or board member as it is for the people who work with me in my philanthropic endeavors. Integrity is an overused word, but to the extent it means living up to commitments, respecting others, honor in business dealings and being willing to tell me the truth whether or not it's what I want to hear, that's what I look for first and foremost. Adaptability, resourcefulness, an inquisitive nature, and the ability to play well with others are traits I seek as well."

Shifting gears slightly, what has driven you in building such success?

"A strong family work ethic and a realization that I've been given an abundance of advantages and am ethically obliged to put them to use. I love the creative challenge of identifying promising companies and helping them grow, but I am also glad that the financial rewards of doing that give me the means to become involved in philanthropy. For me, it's not about writing a check; it's about identifying needs where I can make a difference and then rolling up my sleeves and actively helping."

Along the way, during your growth, is there a people-related decision you made that you consider accelerated your personal rise to success?

"Early on, I put on retainer what the French call an "eminence grise"--Laura Murray. She's a lawyer/strategist/PR guru, who I rely on to help me build teams and to keep me focused on my priorities. She is savvy and wise, and given that I've literally known her since I was 15, I can count on her to be totally straight with me."

In closing, what's the best interview question you've used?
"If something work-related is keeping you awake at night, what is it most likely to be and what have you done to resolve it?"

Terrific question and I'd be willing to bet what keeps Luke awake himself would be along the lines of "How can I help more people through my activities? and have I put my trust in someone to resolving this every day?"