Put simply, Ola Ayeni would rather hire a foreigner.
It’s the conclusion this entrepreneur has made after four years of hiring for his tech startup. Ayeni thinks immigrants show better work ethic than the average American.
“Here in the United States, we do a lot of talking,” he said. “Foreign people talk less. They just do. Results is what pays the bills.”
That’s why Ayeni supports U.S. immigration reform that would make it easier for foreigners who graduate from U.S. universities with degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) to stay and work.
On one hand, there’s the matter of cost. Ayeni said hiring the best American candidates can prove too expensive for a startup, because larger companies typically offer them better wages.
Instead of settling for second-tier American candidates, which would put him at a competitive disadvantage, Ayeni would prefer better access to “Class-A” foreigners.
There’s also his view on their work ethic.
Ayeni feels that many Americans take for granted their inherited economic opportunities, the kind he didn’t have back in Nigeria. The pursuit of entrepreneurial dreams in 1997 drove him to the United States at age 26. After several years in academia and the pharmaceutical industry, Ayeni launched the restaurant marketing company Eateria in 2009.
He values his six American employees as much as he does his two European workers. But the three employees he’s fired so far — all American — have shown a lack of ambition.
One former employee was an account manager who had the nasty habit of going absent without explanation. On four separate occasions, she sent Ayeni text messages saying, “On my way,” but she never showed up.
Another was a sales agent who refused to attend meetings. The third was a sales agent who claimed to be working from a nearby Starbucks but didn’t produce a single account in 90 days.
Meanwhile, Ayeni describes the effort he’s seen from his European staff as all execution and no excuses. He said they have a different mindset and “push themselves more than an average person who was born and raised here.”
The key, he explained, is that foreigners have more on the line.
“The mentality is just different. Those who come from overseas have this huge drive to succeed,” Ayeni said. “When you come here, your family expects you to succeed no matter what. You can’t come here, the land of opportunity, and fail. They’ll think you’re crazy.”