How to shoot yourself in the foot.
Everyone once in a while I get a resume from what appears to be an ideal candidate, you will to. As with most things in life, you can’t judge a book by its cover and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do yourself, your company, shareholders and employees a favor and find out why this person is suddenly available and knocking on your door.
Recently I received one of these ‘ideal candidates’ and thought better of pulling the trigger. There are a few similar, if not competing, tech equipment companies in my neck of the woods. When an excellent candidate comes knocking after being with a different company for a long time, there is probably a valid reason why and not likely to be the reason you will hear from them. Why would a superstar want to jump ship voluntarily only to make a lateral move? I wouldn’t be a very good businessman if I jumped on the opportunity without examining the possible consequences.
What if this person had been fired for harming or endangering another employee, stealing corporate information or assets for personal gain? Even worse, what if they were fired for harassment and are in the midst of a legal battle? Do I really want to invite this behavior into my organization? Hiring this person may have some short term positives, but ultimately the reason they are available will be repeated and will become your problem before long.
Wisely, I called the former employer and got the real story before making a bad decision.
Running a business is easy!
I lied, sorry. There are a lot of important things to do and mistakes to avoid in building and running a business. I’m sure you know plenty of these, but so do I and I’ve still managed to repeat a mistake here and there. This is as much a reminder for myself as it is advice for others. If you take anything away at all, remember that the only constant in business (and life) is change. Embrace it!
- Plan to run the business for your forever rather than to exit: This may be a wholesale change in mentality forcing a long term vision and a focus on planning out projects and goals without the distraction of short term objectives. If you can’t get away from it, you are more likely to be cautious in operating it and meticulous relative to the details and strength of its foundation. This also allows for a more relaxed and deliberate management/operational environment.
- Be conservative with your finances and do the math before you spend: Particularly important and so easy to overlook in a young and rapidly expanding business. I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but beating this drum a few more times in hopes of helping others can’t be a bad thing. Get a growth calculation tool and plug in some numbers. One thousand a week for 10 years can grow to more than $600,000.
- Get your financing in line (and keep it in line) before you need it: By this I am referring to working capital and credit. As clearly demonstrated by banks and lenders this past year, when times are tough, purse strings are tight. If you had a bad year and need some cash to help get back on track, it is often likely that the help will not be there, at least not in the form of anyone with a reasonable interest rate.
- Hire slowly, fire quickly: Oh man, I wish I remembered this one every day when I woke up. There is little of greater importance than having the right people on your team(s) and when you find out an apple has gone bad or a you found a worm in a seemingly perfect apple, get rid of it asap! The old adage is often true, ‘some dogs can’t hunt‘.
- You get what you inspect: I’ve spouted off about this one more than once also. When the company grows beyond just you and it comes time to delegate the things you used to do with your eyes closed, don’t hand it off and walk away. You absolutely have to circle back, more often than you’d like, and make sure that the work is being done the way you want it done before the results come back as something completely different and often useless. You get what you inspect, not what you expect.
Some good reminders for all of us, especially myself. There are hundred of more things to remember and mistakes to avoid. Add your comments and words of wisdom if you have time.
Great employees, friends or foes?
Hiring the best and brightest, even those more gifted than yourself is key to success and growth in any business. Even if you can run a business, it certainly doesn’t mean you are without weaknesses in certain areas. In the early days, you most likely need to be a jack of all trades. As things progress and business grows, embracing delegation is of great significance. (I had a hard time with this in my first company). Once you do delegate, don’t forget the golden rule; You get what you inspect, not what you expect. If you do choose to or are forced to delegate tasks, it remains your responsibility to follow up on them and ensure they are being completed to your specifications or you may be sorely disappointed when the work is “completed” and it is no where close to where it would have been had it been your handiwork.
What happens when you hire great people, they perform well but have greater aspirations above their current role(s)? Do you support and encourage them or stifle them to (as you might hope) your own benefit? This has happened to me more than once and is difference each time, but your core values need to remain firm. Me personally, I don’t have any issue with people pursuing their dreams and am extremely interested in helping them for their sake alone so long as there is no conflict of interest, thievery or competition. I encourage it yet the result is nearly always the same.
What to do?? If you do encourage them and offer support yet they go behind your back anyway, what then? When there is no competition or conflict of interest and their work is still getting done, who are you to care?
Well, I should digress. The interview is where it starts and should be a process combined with intuition. I can say with confidence that there is not an employee at the company that I did not personally interview prior to them starting to work for the company. There are a few past employees that I did not interview and the result was usually the same. Last in line, after HR and management, my interview is not planned without specific questions. Who is this person and why should they work here is all that is of importance. To each their own style, but I’ve got some great people working for the company and many have been there for 6-7 years now without any regret on my part.
- Start with a phone interview, listen to how they represent themselves.
- Have your management team interview them but don’t ask for feedback until you’ve interview them.
- Are they on time? Are they dressed appropriately, casual or overdoing it? Don’t over do it.
- Are they respectful or are they cocky and/or carry a sense of entitlement? If the latter, send them packing, eighth place doesn’t get a trophy anymore.
- Do they have any questions and did they research you and your company? They should.
- If they are in sales or a sales related job, shouldn’t they simply ask for the sale (the job) ?
- ‘Google’ body language and understand what they don’t realize they are telling you.
Everyone hires differently, these sort of things seem to have worked out pretty well for me despite constant re-evaluation.