Hiring the Right People

By Chuck Violand

February 15, 2016

No doubt you vividly remember when you hired your first employee. You did well with your early clients and built the business to a point where you just couldn’t handle all the work… although you tried, probably to the point of near-exhaustion. Hiring someone was a huge and frightening step because it represented turning a corner in your career; you went from doing a job to managing a company.

At almost every stage of a company’s growth, the owner or CEO needs to be actively engaged in selecting and hiring the right people, something author and business guru Jim Collins refers to as “getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.”

This principle holds increased weight in small companies, where there are far fewer seats on the bus. Having even one wrong person, or the right person in the wrong seat, can have a destabilizing effect on our companies. At the same time, hiring the right person, someone with the skills, knowledge, talent, and drive to really propel our companies forward, can be intimidating and, quite frankly, threatening.

We get comfortable being the smartest guy in the room and, when faced with the prospect of bringing talented outsiders into our company, we flinch. “What if they are better at running the company than I am? Will they stay with me or leave in a few years? Will they steal my customers and start their own company?”

These are real concerns, and while no one would intentionally ignore a more talented candidate out of the fear they will one day overshadow or turn on us, many business owners subconsciously make this potentially fatal error based on those fears.

In college and professional football, the common wisdom of recruiters is that you either recruit speed or you chase speed. If your opponent has faster players, your only option is to chase them and try to keep them out of the end zone.

The same concept holds true for our businesses. We can recruit top talent and lead in our field, or we can face the exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying prospect of always chasing our competition.

Given the reality of today’s “free agent” workforce, where top talent scrutinizes potential employers to determine which offers the best opportunities for them to achieve their own professional goals, the starting point for recruiting top talent is to evaluate the culture and environment we’ve created within our companies. And, as I stated in Part III of this series, a company’s culture is largely a reflection of the owner or CEO.

Throughout our involvement with our businesses, one of our responsibilities will always be seeking out and hiring top talent. Although some discomfort may result when these high performers push us or question us, realize that we need these people to help reduce our day-to-day involvement in our companies and get us out of our role as a doer. They will enable us, instead, to migrate to our much more critical role as a leader, which will drive our organization to higher levels of performance.