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Hire...Higher: Invest in Quality People
Hiring new staff members requires time, money and effort Ė but many
small-business owners are low on all three. So, they fill their
positions as quickly and inexpensively as they can. And, as a result,
they have to fill the same positions over and over again. What a waste
of time, money and effort!
I know from experience that hiring is not just about finding people
Ė itís about finding the right people. I recently hired new associates
for my business. When it came time to start the hiring process, I put
the word out to people I knew since referrals often bring in some of
the best candidates. Throughout the process, I had the opportunity to
meet a great deal of people. With almost 50 applicants, I went through
the resumes and cover letters before screening about a dozen over the
phone and then actually interviewing six applicants in person.
While many were qualified people with good business skills, it took
more to make my cut. I was looking for something in particular. I
wanted each of the people I hired to know something I did not. I wanted
them to take an active role in the multifaceted position of
Small-business Advisor and offer something I could not to the position.
Thatís because someday I want to become the student rather than the
teacher. The day I walk into the room for a staff meeting as the least
knowledgeable person is the day I know my hiring process was a success.
But some small-business owners take the opposite approach. They have
two criteria for hiring: 1) Are you cheap? and 2) Are you willing to
learn? Hiring your first employees generally happens early in the
growth of a business. At this point, many business owners donít have
much disposable income and, truth be told, donít really know what
theyíre looking for or what they need. As a result, the small-business
owner hires someone inexpensive (sounds better than cheap and makes you
feel better as the employer) and easily within their financial means.
Initially, there is some wisdom to this hiring practice. Inexpensive
help tends to be young, eager and flexible. They want to learn and are
not as concerned about their pay. They are happy to have been given a
chance. Still, inexpensive help comes a learning curve. You can throw
many tasks at them and evaluate which ones they do well and which ones
are beyond their abilities. This learning, via trial and error, can
help you find the right place Ė if it exists Ė for the person. In the
process, you may discover your right-hand man. On the other hand, you
simply may make a position that fits their abilities and strengths
rather than the position that fits your businessí needs.
Most businesses will grow with this process until they have between
10 and 15 employees, or even more. Until, one day, the business owner
comes to the office filled with these young, eager, flexible and
inexpensive employees Ė but no leaders or managers. So, while you may
have created more time for yourself to harness your unique ability and
focus on your own strengths of running the business, you have no one to
take some of the responsibility off your shoulders or help manage the
business and its inexpensive employees. Now, while your business grows,
so too does your workload, your worry and your stress.
While inexpensive help works, it has it limitations, and it is
essential that business owners realize this before it is too late. At
some point, for your business to continue to grow and your workload and
worry to diminish, you need to make the switch from inexpensive and
young to experienced and accountable. There comes a time when instead
of designing jobs around the strengths of your employees, you design
jobs around the needs of you and your business. Then, it is time to go
out and hire the people who have the skills and abilities to fulfill
Unfortunately, this is hard work and time-consuming. First, you have
to determine the positions your business needs and then define the
responsibilities and control points of those positions. You canít hire
a person for a job that you yourself canít explain and donít
understand. Also, the roles need to be established in such a way that
they can be successfully filled (i.e., donít mix roles like IT and HR).
Finding the right person for your position depends heavily upon you
defining the right role for your business and the target applicant
Now, Iím not suggesting that you hire experienced and expensive
people for every role in the company. Certain functions in your company
are handled in a unique way, such as the production and delivery of
your product or service. These areas often can be filled from the
bottom. That is, hiring the young, inexperienced and inexpensive
workers and promoting them when they display competence and
reliability. Similarly, some roles, such as IT, accounting and HR,
require specialized knowledge and abilities that are separate from your
businessí unique ways. Industry standards and legal guidelines often
drive these positions and require experienced, and thus expensive,
A plausible and very viable option for these specialized positions
is ďrentingĒ the experienced people to perform the job. There are
individuals and businesses that specialize in selling such CFO,
accounting, IT or HR services to companies. Outsourcing these positions
provides a less expensive alternative while providing your business
with the necessary experience and knowledge to successfully fulfill the
positions and meet your businessí needs. In other words, you get the
talent and successful track record without the typical high price tag.
Here are a few ways to tell if your business is ready to hire experienced and accountable team members:
When things go wrong, you donít know who to yell at.
When things go well, you have to reward everyone.
Your team members often look to you to tell them what to do. They arenít able to complete tasks on their own.
- Most, if not all, ideas for improvement originate with you. You
rarely are surprised by innovative ideas or improvements happening
without your knowledge.
Some of your people are extremely high performers while others are benchwarmers.
There are several advantages to hiring more experienced people. Here are a few:
You can more easily predict their results.
- More experienced team members often answer their own questions and
troubleshoot problems for others without your involvementósaving you
- You donít have to worry about every detail; you have a competent team to handle things.
- You can reward and challenge people based on their individual performance.
- The team feels more confident with many great minds working toward the same goalóthe success of the business.
- Things improve without your time and effort; your team sees the goal and takes the initiative.
I do not promote spending money for the sake of spending money. But when you invest in quality, you will get quality results. As one of my mentors, Jack Sims, says: ďPay peanuts, get monkeys!Ē Sometimes an upgrade is clearly in order.
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