Hiring is one of the most important – and toughest to figure out – aspects of running a business. While I’m in a good place now with my team, I learned many lessons the hard way. Part of it was due to my lack of prior experience in running a business, while some was also due to my own personal nature as a business operator.
My previous experiences on political campaigns represent the hallmark of what a strong team can achieve: everyone buys into the mission, understands what’s at stake each day, and comes in with a strong desire to achieve both their own and the organization’s goals. Most importantly – and most difficult to achieve, in my opinion – is getting your team members to take ownership over their work so they treat the business as not just another job but as an extension of themselves. I still haven’t achieved this last part completely, but I’ve put some practices in place that will help me achieve that goal in the long run. They are:
1. Hire believers
Believers are not easy to spot. You can’t really judge whether or not candidates buy into the business the way you do until after they’ve been on board for some time. But there are a few things to watch out for at the interview stage that could come give you a clue. How long were they in their prior role or previous firm? Why are they seeking a new opportunity? Did they research your business or industry before coming to the interview? What do they hope to get out of the job? Where do they see themselves in a few years’ time? These are all pertinent questions that can help you decide whether or not you can count on a prospective hire’s utmost effort. More importantly, the answers to these questions can go a long way to helping you decide if you can convert this person into a believer in your business.
While I’m in a good place now with my team, I learned many lessons the hard way.
3. Personal references produce the best hiring results
While online job postings have yielded some strong candidates, my best employees have come from references via people I really trust. If you are looking to fill a position, tap your network first to see if they know of anyone who they think would be a good fit for your team and organization. Because these people have knowledge of both you and the job seeker, they tend to make solid recommendations that lead to high-impact hires.
4. Push potentials sales hires to sell you on themselves
Selling is the essence of their job, after all! One test I like to try when interviewing sales candidates is to tell them that they might not be a good fit for the role or my team. I like to stand back and see how hard they push to change my perceptions. If they don’t push to sell themselves, there are no guarantees that they’ll succeed in selling your product or business.
2. Don’t view your team as your family
You wouldn’t fire your family, and sometimes – no matter how nice an employee may be – you need to take tough decisions to keep your business afloat. I learned this the hard way. I came to see my initial team at FoodtoEat as more than just colleagues or even employees. I wanted them to like me personally because I thought fostering close ties would be enough to carry us forward in a competitive industry. Unfortunately, this made it even tougher to let people go when I felt they were underperforming and caused some soul-searching when they told me they were moving on to other positions. I quickly realized that I needed to put personal feelings aside and evaluate every action from a purely business standpoint. I do try to foster a collegial working environment today, but ultimately strong, objective results will drive our business forward, not just our personal relationships.