This article first appeared in September 2010.
I’m overwhelmed with work for my new business and I need to take on my first member of staff. How do I ensure that I get someone who has the right attitude and is prepared to stick with the business through thick and (initially, at least) thin?
You need to seek someone with the right attitude for your business, not just for today but also for the future.
So do the groundwork and define what you ideally would like and need in an employee.
Firstly, as you are in small business you must seek a compatible person. That’s compatible, not a clone.
If you are aware of what your strengths are, then you must complement those strengths with a skill set that will add value. You should be willing to delegate, otherwise you are not ready for a team member to start with you.
Secondly, you need to have them buy into your vision and plan. Obviously you will seek a skill set: marketing,business development, financial, etc… But to get your hooks into the right person you will need to sell your ideas and plans for your enterprise. Get them excited.
Don’t guild the lily. If you over promise and under deliver they will be out of there as fast as Kevin Rudd left the Lodge.
Be open and paint the picture. Be yourself and be up front and honest. Just imagine someone considering leaving their current role and considering working for you. If you are unsure, uncertain or vague they will have their BS meter on high alert and you will be unlikely to snare them.
Next, you need to make the role compelling. Always look for their interests and don’t be too focussed on only your needs. For example, in my business there is one major attraction: flexible working arrangements.
I have been able to attract wonderful talent due to the fact that I am not worried about “face time”.
Time when my employees are just seen in the office but are really not being productive.
My team work remotely, from home, and as long as objectives are met or exceeded why would I demand they be in the office from 8.38am until 5.15pm?
It is outcomes I am really after and if my team chooses to deliver those outcomes in crazy times, so be it. Client interface aside, it works a treat.
Finally, you must check their past. Reference check them and look for patterns of behaviour. Look to their past as a predictor of future behavior. This is where you can check “stick-ability” and make a call if they have what it takes. You are looking for a true commitment to you and your business; you don’t want to be going through this process again in a few short weeks or months.
When starting up my own business, after the first two weeks I realised that to run it successfully I needed to admit to myself that I was not good at some things.
I found a driven, organised person who took control of matters. I outgrew them and 18 months later I found someone else to take me to the next level.
There is no panacea but instead there is a growth curve and you need different resources at different times of your business as it evolves.
On every occasion I first looked for attitude in my prospective employees. Four years on I do the same. And it works.