Hire Wisely

In the last few blog posts I discussed the importance of defining a Market Opportunity and controlling Cashflow in order to build a successful business. My original post mentioned a third reason why new businesses fail: hiring the wrong people.

You write up a job spec, send it to the appropriate networks, get some CVs and cover letters that make somebody sound interesting or qualified so you set up an interview. Then you try to understand a person over 3 or 4 meetings of 30-60 minutes each, wading through any of his or her interview jitters and need to make a good impression; at the same time trying to remove any bias you have about finding a candidate that matches a vague but compelling image you have created in your head.

It is almost impossible. So what can you do?

Define who you are first

This is another area in which Mission Statements are relevant. Before you hire, or indeed build a new process, develop your product or do much of anything else, you have to know what you do and why. Have you answered the questions about

  • What problem do you solve?
  • For whom?
  • In what way?
  • Why that makes you the best solution?

Now compose your business values and your business goals.

What does this information tell you about the working culture you want to foster? Write that down too.

Start with the business

All of the above must take into account your available resources. The outcome will tell you what positions to hire first.

For example: a common mistake is hiring sales people in a response to low revenue. If your sales strategy is not complete, if your marketing is ineffective, if your product is faulty, then no number of sales people will improve your numbers. Or maybe the exercise above reveals that you are not a sales-driven company, and are better off investing in customer experience or lead generation.

Start with the business goals and priorities, and from there determine what roles to fill at any given time.

Then consider the person

If your sales strategy is complete, your marketing is effective, and your product is not faulty, then hiring the wrong sales people will still not help revenue growth.

Your business values, culture and goals are a description of a person: the person you want to hire. Use this information to write the job spec and define the person who will work best in your company.

Review Candidates

The perfect person is not the one who can do it all. At he beginning of your search determine

  1. What can be taught – Look at the person description we designed above and determine which skills, tools, language, products, communication methods, etc can be taught on the job. This list can be long and the bullets can be relative. For example, a natural talent for a certain skill can easily be complemented with on the job training.
  2. What can not be sacrificed – What are the essentials for a candidate fitting into your culture, delivering your expected standards of service and performing their job. This list, by the way, should be shorter.

The right candidate is the one who will match your company culture and can carry forward your company values. A simple rule I use is at the end of any interview I ask myself: “would I want to grab a coffee with this person on any given day?”. You will be spending time together, collaborating and occasionally disagreeing. Ensure it is somebody with whom you can do all those things.