“I guess I’m just a rotten judge of character,” he sighed as his shoulders slumped, clearly defeated.
My new client had made three new sales hires in six months, each more ruinous than the last. He was at his wits’ end and seriously considering scaling back the business just so he wouldn’t go through another disastrous hire.
Employing a team of people to do the work of the business is the real work of owning a business. It’s also the work we’re least prepared to do. We’re all very good at doing the work because that’s what we’ve been schooled in since kindergarten – how to ‘do the work’. We’re praised and rewarded for how well we ‘do the work’.
What we’re not explicitly taught is how to ‘lead the work’.
‘Leading the work’ as the business owner means you bring a diverse group of people together to effectively and profitably perform the necessary operational roles in the business. It’s only when you have an effective team, working together for the benefit of the business, you as the owner achieve the freedom you originally went into business for.
The biggest mistake most business owners make is not that they hire the ‘wrong’ people.
The biggest mistake business owners make is they hire before they really know what they’re looking for.
“Not me,” you’re thinking.
Let’s go back to my new client and his three disastrous sales hires.
Did he know what he was looking for? Well, he thought he did. He wanted a ‘sales’ person.
Except he didn’t.
He wanted a sales person who was great at the front end – hunting opportunities, following up leads, and leveraging their networks – AND would process the orders from start to finish, check all the paperwork, manage the onboarding process and nurture them through their client lifecycle with meticulous notes.
His first hire was great at the front end… and shoddy at the back end.
His second hire was meticulous with the details… but wouldn’t seek out new opportunities.
His third was just lacklustre across the board – neither a gun with sales, nor meticulous with details, but hired because he seemed like a ‘bit of an all-rounder’.
Before I let my new client re-run his job ad, we sat down and worked through the process I’m about to share with you. My suggestion to you, if you want to have the best chance at employing the ‘right’ people for your business, is take a ‘bums on goal post’ approach to recruitment.
Answer the following questions in this order:
PS. To help you work through these questions for your next hire, we’ve prepared a worksheet to assist you. You can download it here (no email required).
This question is the one 99% of business owners miss in the recruitment process. It’s also the most important. The focus of this question is the results that you will see. The clearer you know why the position is needed, the more likely it is you will find the ‘right’ person to do the right job and the right time. When you answer this question, you understand exactly what outcomes the right person will give you. Which means both you and the person you recruit will know how their performance is measured.
Why did my new client need the role? He needed it to take away the administrative load of his gun salesperson, so she had more time to do the work she was already exceptional at.
Once you’ve determined the outcomes you’re looking for, it’s much easier to determine exactly what the new hire needs to do. What are all the tasks? How often do they need to be done? All co-related tasks can be grouped together as an accountability.
Together my client and I listed out all the tasks the new hire would have to do to achieve the outcome of freeing up his salesperson.
When the tasks and accountabilities are established you can then identify what skills and knowledge are required to perform them. How much and what sort of experience does the new hire need to have had? What personal qualities are you looking for? I define skills and knowledge as the things that you can learn. Personal qualities are things that a person either has or doesn’t have. For example, not everyone has attention to detail or can think strategically. Also, from my experience, I’d hire someone who is the best fit for my business over the person who has the highest skill and experience level.
With questions one to three now answered, my client and I documented these points into a position description. Surprisingly to him, he learned he wasn’t looking for another sales person but a great administrative professional.
One of the biggest mistakes that business owners make is to rush into recruiting someone. Usually, as a result of the job being done poorly or not at the all, the requirement to fill the position becomes urgent. Thus, the temptation is to take the first person that comes along.
Brian Tracey says, “be slow to hire, quick to fire”. The best time to recruit someone is to follow all the steps contained in this blog and then wait until you can be most confident that the person you recruit is the best fit for the role and your business.
With the position now clear in my client’s mind, the temptation was to hire the first person who ‘pretty much’ fit the description. Fortunately, the pain of the previous hires was still fresh enough to be a deterrent to jumping at the first likely prospect. With a little bit of patience and some persistent searching, my client was rewarded with a great hire who had most of the technical expertise required and exceptional personal qualities.
As with all marketing (which recruitment is another form of), you need to ask the question, where does this person hang out? Will you find them on social media, recruitment sites, reading the newspaper or registered with a recruitment agency? Different positions require different mediums to source your best recruitee.
The other BIG mistake business owners make in the recruitment and selection process is to only conduct an interview. Studies have identified that interviewing alone only gives you a 10% chance of finding the right person. It is imperative that your selection process contains a wide range of activities including but not limited to personality/behavioural profiling, doing a work sample (getting them to do something that the role does), reference checks, and meeting the team.
The hard reality is that even if you do everything I’ve outlined here, it will only work most of the time. You’ll have an 86% chance of finding the right person, in fact. So yes, it’s not perfect, but it sure beats the Russian roulette approach most owners use.
Apart from providing the successful applicant with the necessary employment engagement documentation, such as a letter of offer, confidentiality agreements, a copy of their position description and a Fair Work Statement, it is imperative that you develop an onboarding process to ensure when your new hire starts they are inducted into their role and your business.
Communicate to them from the get-go your vision for your business and how their role fits into that. Do a mid-term minimum employment review and then before their minimum employment period is up, ensure you do a comprehensive review.
At the end of the day, your leadership will be the make or break of your relationships with your employees and the success of your business.
If you want to know more about how you can ‘lead the work’ as the business owner and have your people effectively and profitably perform the necessary roles your business, giving you the freedom you originally went into business for, then contact us. We’d love to help you get the business and the life you deserve.
What does it take to actually remove yourself from the day-to-day grind of business? Learn from our panel of Business Owners who've Been There, Done That.