I have often been asked as a small business owner, how do you grow your team with the right people? I have a few different perspectives on this, one as an employee and the other as a small business owner.
In my former life, I had the ability to work for a small ($17 Million) organization that went through a pretty significant growth spurt over my eight years there, starting at $2.5 Million. The owner of that company went through a very extensive interviewing process that often times took time, money and rarely produced a high caliber talent that could mesh with into our hectic and chaotic business.
During that time I watched “specialists” come in who had the right background, education and experience, however they could never mesh. They could not buy into the program and had often times competing agendas. I think this was often times due to a lack of communication of the mission and goals of the companies by that owner. With that being said, the one thing that owner was, was incredibly loyal. If you were on his team and showed that you were a “good person”, regardless of outcome, you had a job for life. As a person who struggled with this type of management, I never really fit that model and eventually left the organization.
Based on this experience along with my MBA work at Baldwin Wallace University, I developed the mindset of needing to know the person as a person before I make a decision to bring them on. I often say that my right hand man, Howard, and I “dated” for almost a year before I made the decision to allow him to represent my firm. Tracy and I worked as independent contractors for a shared project for over a year before I brought her on as a full time employee. Sarah and I had a 4 year relationship as friends before we Sarah was convinced to leave her role and come on to help us.
My philosophy on this type of hiring is pretty simple. I dated my wife 3 years before I popped the question, and I spend more time in a week with the people in my office than I do with her (she says she is the lucky one)! How the hell, do I hire people that I barely know, and come represent my beliefs and values in my business? The answer is, I can’t. I need to trust these individuals with my family’s livelihood, I need to trust that they will act morally and ethically with our clientele, and I need to damn well ensure that I can smile when I walk into the office knowing that I love them like family.
I recently read an interview of Ram Charan by Melinda Merino. Ram is a very influential adviser to many of the large board of directors and CEO’s of global companies. Ram indicated a study that he performed on 82 CEO’s who failed, highlighted that the reason they failed was “they put the wrong person in the job and not dealing with the mismatch”. I agree to a point, however, I believe that for the most part you can put a person that you trust their credibility and their intelligence and put them into a role that they can learn and excel in. That has limitations, obviously as you would not put an auto mechanic friend as your CFO.
I believe in the fact that relationships always trump every other part of business, which also comes to light when selecting your next employee. If you hire people that you like, that you want to spend time with and they feel the same for you, you can overcome any obstacle. So when it comes to hiring, review the resume, then put it down. Talk and listen to the person, spend more than an hour with them before you make a decision. Meet their spouse or significant other, learn about their family, and take them to dinner or an event. Remember you have to spend every day with this person, I sure as hell would have never married Mandy with one or two hours of dating time.