"The People Question, Part 1"

One of the most important questions for a business owner is when to hire. It is a decision that has huge implications on the business and for the individual being hired. I prefer to be understaffed rather than overstaffed and usually delay hiring until it is absolutely necessary. One reason is to remain as lean an organization as possible. The other is the value I place on people's lives and what it means when they come to work for us. You see, I have been the guy who is hired, moves his family to an unknown city, and goes to work after an upheaval of my life. If the business owner is flippant about hiring, and the employee isn't a good fit, then he has disrupted his life for nothing and will possibly have to disrupt his life again.

I am going to discuss when you should hire, who you should hire, how you should hire, and then what to do if you make a hiring mistake.

First, when should you hire? You should never hire out of desperation. Hiring should always be strategic. If you have a question about a certain candidate or whether or not you need someone or can afford someone, don't hire. If you have an immediate need, that it seems like you can't move forward without filling, don't hire. Step back and look at what your needs actually are. Below, I will list 5 things you should do before you hire. This list isn't all-inclusive. I arbitrarily stopped at 5, there could be 10 for your situation.

  1. Get input from your team as to what your needs actually are. If you don't have a team, ask a friend, spouse, someone who can look objectively at the situation and help you see things from their perspective.

  2. Review your budget. Some consultants say that you should start a bank account and pay into it for a few months what you would have paid the new employee to see if you can afford the new hire.

  3. Write an activity-based job description of what that person would do. Then see if those activities, need to be done or could be done by someone else without being a burden to them.

  4. Take another look at your core values. Remind yourself what you believe is important to look for in a candidate. It is more important that the candidate fit with your culture and values than that they are competent. Read that again.

  5. Write down the expectations of the position, the goals, tasks, objectives for the position and how will they be measured. Knowing this beforehand will give you an advantage in the interview process and after the candidate comes on board.


When you have hashed out these 5 things, then you might be ready to start looking for the right candidate. Or you may have decided that you actually don’t need another person right now, you may need to train or develop some of the people you currently have or even yourself.

The next point is extremely important. Who should you hire? You should know that people are not your greatest asset. The right people are your greatest asset. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says that it is more important to have the right people than what those people will be doing. It is the "first who, then what" principle. In point 4 above, we talked about how important your business' core values are to the hiring process. There are lots of books that discuss emotional intelligence, level 5 leadership, what makes a good team player. Basically, they all have to do with aligning values of the individual with the values of the business. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, written by Patrick Lencioni, he describes an individual who is very competent but is not committed to the success of the team. They didn’t have the same values as the other team members and that kept the team from trusting them. Sometimes the team member may fit with the team but isn't in the right seat. You should take care to find them a seat if they share your values and you believe in their value to the organization.




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