This is an issue I get a lot from my clients who were recently capitalized, or have been growing capital organically, but in either case they’re ready to hire. They spent weeks and months perfecting their deck, getting it ready for a panel of investors to scrutinize their efforts, going back and forth to investor offices and/or having people come to their office to take a peek at the atmosphere and poke around the product. Oh, and that business plan! How many times did you tweak that?
Eventually, you got the cash and…now what?! A lot of times, it seemed so far away to get to this point that people never really thought as long and hard about their hires as they did about the color of the slide deck. But now you’re posting on job boards or asking friends for leads, or hiring search firms, or doing whatever you can to get the best talent possible. I so often hear people say “My goal is to hire the best talent and the smartest people possible” and, of course, that seems entirely logical. I’m here to tell you to first think long and hard about what the job actually entails, what type of personality needs to be sitting in that seat, how subordinate you’re going to need that person to be, and THEN search for that match. I can guarantee that’s going to help you in the long run.
Why? Well, not only does every position NOT require the best and the most talented (for which you’ll eventually overpay), but even more importantly, you need to think about the dynamic you’re creating. This story is not a client story, but rather a story that I have personally relating to my ten years running our software firm, Emochila. We had the very same sentiment out of the gates about which I’m speaking: To get the best minds we can with what we could afford.
Here’s the problem, the actual business, that globular, unfeeling beast that it is, required some really redundant work. When we sold a new client, as a keen example here, we had to either transfer a domain name, or purchase a new domain name for that client. Transferring a domain name could be a little tricky, especially if we were transferring it to change the A and C name records, but keep the mail settings as is. Either way, we were signing up about ten clients a day, and that meant that someone was responsible for transferring all those domains, and I had drawn a nifty little flow chart for that person to follow that was the path of least resistance with each registrar from whom we needed to transfer.
After signup, we also needed to personalize the websites in terms of putting up a nice little banner design in the header, but our price point didn’t warrant spending hours per client. Actually, our price point warranted spending about 15-20 minutes for client (it’s actually amazing what you can create in that amount of time). Basically, we’d put up a nice photo of something in their hometown, place their logo over it, add a drop shadow or some quick Adobe trick, and off we went. And our clients WANTED them to look the way they did. Accountants don’t generally want the sparkle and fade (it’s true, go to a CPA convention; you’ll see what I’m talking about).
The domain transfer position was a full-time person, and the designer position was a full time person. And as we grew with the staff we had initially, the awesome “smartest people in the room” group, we had to put some of those people into the positions that the company simply needed to survive. Those jobs needed to be done, and they were repetitive, and the skill they required was really about not making mistakes. Some of the smartest people make a lot of mistakes, and some of the most talented or hardest working make a lot of mistakes. Additionally, they tend to get EXTREMELY BORED with a job that has this level of monotony. Can you imagine how our designer felt, making ten banners a day with essentially the same formula that our clients wanted. Well, I can tell you how she felt, because she didn’t look too happy with her position, but it’s the position we needed, and she eventually left. The person we thrust into the domain name registrar position? They eventually resigned, too.
But we found people who LOVED those two jobs, and people who have done a lot of hiring know exactly the type of person who fit these positions. They’re dependable, they’re accurate, they’re not risky, they want a steady income and want to know what their raises are going to look like over the next eighteen months. As we grew, we learned how to hire for the position needed, not ideologue or IQ, and that’s absolutely, positively a skill that is acquired over time. The “fast track” statement here, though, is not to default to a room full of geniuses. Position your team like a chess board.
Bonus Statement – I’ve found this bizarre (but not really, if you think about it) correlation between seeing a cover letter and resume which utilizes the correct forms of “your”, “you’re”, “there”, “their”, and “they’re” and that person being a great hire. Just saying…