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Finders Keepers – Recruiting and Hiring Your Team

By REDC Business Advisor Kerri Salls

Finding and keeping the right team is one of the toughest and most important tasks you take on as a business owner. It’s a big step when you start to hire a team.

Yet it doesn't always get all the attention it warrants. Business owners are more apt to focus on the work itself that they are very good at.

In contrast, when investors (Venture Capital groups or Angels) look at a business they are likely to focus more on the team than the business. Why? As Jim Collins substantiated with his Fortune 500 research for his bestseller From Good to Great, it's the team that creates and sustains success.

So, when you're thinking about the team you want around you, as you grow your vision of the business, here are seven tips to do it well, right from the start.

Two men at construction site discussing paperwork

Seven Steps to Get and Keep the Right People on the Team

1. Think First - It's tough for solo business owners to think past the next utility bill. But before you hire, think through:

  • What skills and experience do I need now in that position, to accomplish what, and by when?

  • When the business is thriving in 3, 6, 9 months, what skills and experience will I need in that position?

  • What don't I do well and need somebody else to do better?

  • What are the characteristics of people who've done well working for me? Done poorly?

  • This is not about titles, organization charts, or job descriptions. It's about the right people.

2. What Can I Offer - Once you know what skill sets and characteristics you need short term and medium term, think through what you can offer:

  • Salary

  • Equity/Bonus/Promises

  • Perks

  • Location

  • Work environment

  • Schedule

  • Career Growth

Add it all up, not just for one person/the first person, but for every person you add to the team. Too often sole proprietors look at each hire separately, in isolation, rather than visualizing the overall impact on the team and on the business.

A woman and man at a job interview

3. Look Beyond the Resume and the Job Description - Now that you think you know what skills and experience you need, be prepared to discard your requirements for the right person. Good to Great companies learn it's more important to get the right people on the team and then figure out where to place them. When you have the right people, they will do everything in their power to build a great company. Not because of what they will get out of it, but because they simply cannot imagine settling for anything less.

4. Friends are Good, Stars are Better - Entrepreneurs instinctively - and correctly - want to be in the foxhole with people they absolutely trust. So we first turn to friends to hire and work with because we know, like, and trust them. But is that enough to build your business on? Not always.

Be careful to distinguish between how much you like - or even trust - potential and current employees, and whether they will be standout contributors. You need stars in every position, not just someone who can fill a slot. Also, you need the straight truth, with no sugar-coating. Sometimes friends and family can't do that - they are friends and family first.

Then there are some jobs where you never want a friend. For instance, I want my accountant to provide stellar intelligence to grow the business, save us money or protect our interests. I don't need him/her to be the office glue.

5. Questions Nobody Asks But You Should – Be sure you ask the tough questions before you invite them to join your team, for example:

  • What should I watch out for if I hire you?

  • Name a couple of people who don't like you and why?

  • Describe your last failure.

Don't bother with clichés like "Tell me about your weaknesses." Everyone has canned answers to them.

Man on computer at a virtual job interview

6. What Candidates Should Know About You – Prospective employees need to be able to trust and respect you quickly, so it's important to be clear about your values, work style, and strengths too. Be sure they know:

  • What you do well.

  • What you do poorly.

  • What you don't get around to doing.

  • When you will interfere and why.

  • When you get mad and why.

  • What you really want from them.

  • What your priorities are in launching/growing this business in this location.

7. When To Stop The Bleeding - The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you've made a hiring mistake. The best people don't need to be managed. They want to be taught and led.

If you wait before acting, it is unfair to strong performers and you risk losing them. It is also unfair to the person who must get off the team. You're stealing time that they could spend finding a better place where they could flourish.

If you have someone on your team, who is just not quite working out, and you've explained why and what you expect, but it's been a month and it's not happening, what do you do? He/she goes. Now.

When you build a great team, they will build and sustain your success.

Four people around a computer in an office


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