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Employing the right person

Recently we interviewed a pretty impressive candidate for a role, and he was quite wise to ask us what our pitfalls are when it comes to employment. I guess he was trying to canvass what could possibly make our relationship unwind – a smart move from a very talented executive (and of course this question only sharpened our feeling of a suitable match)!

Over the years James and I have interviewed thousands of people and employed hundreds. So, what has this taught us along the way? Well first, we fall in-love fast, on balance I’d say too fast. We meet someone and focus on all their wonderful qualities and project our hopes and dreams on them. And at times it has been like a summer romance where the flame quickly sparks and then equally fast burns out.

So how do you prevent the burnout and ensure that you employ the right person up front?

  1. Attitude trumps skill-set every time. Someone once told me that you should hire on skill-set and fire based on cultural fit. If your dynamic with someone doesn’t work or work in the wider business (for whatever reason) this can be almost impossible to remedy.
  2. Not everyone belongs in a start-up.  A start-up and in particular an “explosion start-up” such as My Food Bag goes through incredible growth. Not all people are cut out to deal with this, you need to assess the persons ability to adapt, work at speed and be flexible. If they are too rigid or unwilling to compromise, they simply won’t cut it.
  3. Set clear expectations. Air any dirty laundry before the person is employed so they are walking into it opened eyed. If some of your processes aren’t working tell them this in advance and don’t get defensive when they start pointing out areas to improve, after all that’s why you employed them.
  4. Open & transparent communication. Transparency wins every time! Make sure you are openly communicating with any new hires and that you focus on building a strong rapport. 3 months in a key question should be “so how does the role meet you expectations so far?”
  5. Make sure it’s the right bus and seat. Not all talent is suited to all businesses, make sure that the talent is suitable for the bus that you are driving and that the seat you have available matches that talent. Sometimes we come across incredibly talented people, but they simply don’t belong on the bus we are driving.

The fact is that ultimately, we don’t get it right all the time and while we nowadays get it right more often than not, if it’s not working out for whatever reason, my best advice is to rip the band aid and start over. Generally if its not working out for you, its not working out for them.

As a business gets bigger your circumstances change and what I love about being in a large company is the ability to be able to re-home talent who are in the wrong seat (but have the right attitude). Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible but when it is, you can have your most significant wins and can create real loyalty through swapping seats. After all, we all want to feel like we are valued (and winning) in our roles and if for some reason it isn’t working, we need to ensure we address it.

Ultimately our greatest benchmark for how well we’ve done with employment has been our teams desire to follow us. I feel that says a lot about getting the relationship right and ensuring that you’re surrounding yourself with the right tribe. Oh and needless to say we fell head over heels for the guy we were interviewing and while it took a while for us to seal the deal – we were finally able to sign on the dotted line recently. Watch this space…