Aunty B’s advice to Desperate

Paul D Hauck writes on Should I stay small and work myself to death: Maybe I’ve misunderstood your advice to “Desperate”? (Aunty B? wrong? Inconceivable.) In our experience, hiring is tough, but more often, small- and micro-businesses actually expect the impossible, and (inadvertently) set new employees up to fail.


Service business principals often work ridiculous hours to over-service clients – on your own it’s difficult to value your service and charge appropriately – but expecting in turn to be over-serviced by employees is unreasonable. It’s not their business, and they won’t share in the upside, either. Many fail to realise that going into business for yourself often means doing what you love for less than 50% of the time, and selling for the other 50+% – and this may get worse as you grow. Not understanding the selling process, many compete on price (exacerbating the problem), or see each client as an up-sell opportunity to feed the whole company. Some just hate selling (a ‘necessary evil’) and escape into any ‘real work’ they have – often trusting ‘word of mouth’ to do the rest. Expecting a new recruit to conform – even making the same mistakes and doing everything with exactly your style – is neither reasonable nor productive.


The most common disaster is when principal-centred businesses hire sales people to take over ‘sales’ from the proprietor. The new hire has to start with the phone book (remember them?) and finish up with a cheque from the sale. Generally, there’s no marketing/sales process, no target database, little or no marketing collateral – often not even a well-defined product or target market. “This is how we’ve always done it,” and since they’re a professional salesperson, they should do it even better. But it’s not their company, and they’re professional participants in a larger process – and not Saturday midnight, either. Many of our contacts went through half a dozen ‘6-month salesmen’ before waking up to this problem – or gave up.


So make sure you’ve got a real position with reasonable expectations before you hire someone. If that position isn’t inviting to you (back in the day, maybe…) it’s probably not realistic – and anyone silly enough to take it probably would be a hiring mistake.


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