Essential Hiring Tips for Entrepreneurs

Essential Hiring Tips for Entrepreneurs

Follow these tips to help make the right decision when hiring for your next team member.

Hi, I’m Ken Lear.

Your business has been growing steadily, which is great. But one day you realize that you’ve reached the point where you need to hire other people to help you run your business. Hiring is generally a fraught situation: How do you know you’re going to get the right person? Are they going to be a help or a hindrance?

While you’ll never know for sure you have the right candidate until you start working with them, here are a few tips that will get you pointed in the right direction.

Know your values and what you need

It’s critical that you know—or at least, have some idea—of what you’d like your “company culture” to be. What are your values, and how do you act on them through your business? Finally, ask yourself if there are any tasks that you struggle with, or even just tasks that make you miserable. If accounting makes you want to yank your hair out, it would be a good idea to hire someone with accounting or bookkeeping skills. Do a full self-evaluation of both your ethical alignment and business needs to figure out what kind of person, with what kind of skills, you need.

Embrace diversity

This tip may seem to be the opposite of the previous one, but it really isn’t. If your company culture encourages creativity and outspokenness, you want to make sure you’re going to hire people who can open you up to different perspectives. If you hire only people like you, you’re all going to be looking at a problem through the same glasses. People with different experiences can be a great asset to an entrepreneur with a growing business.

Check out my Q&A about my path to entrepreneurship on

Check references

You’d be surprised how many employers don’t actually check a potential hire’s references. Even if your candidate seems like a great culture fit and they appear to embody everything you need for your company’s success, you’ll only know for sure if they have the qualities you need by contacting their previous employers. If you can do “blind references,”—contacting people the candidate didn’t list on their resume or reference list—you’re more likely to get “real” answers than you are with prepared references.

Hire people who are smarter than you

Yes, that seems counterintuitive if you want to be the boss, but if you’ve honestly assessed your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know that you can’t be awesome at everything. Why not hire someone who is smarter than you to help in the areas where you need assistance? “I like to bring in a team of people who I consider smarter than me in various different areas,” said Daymond John, founder of FUBU. “If you create a culture where people feel they can thrive and think, sometimes your mentors can be the 20-year-old kid that knows social media better than anybody or any service you can ever hire.”

At the same time, forgo the applicants with big egos

It’s challenging at times to find someone who’s both brilliant and humble, but it does happen. You also want to hire someone who will be able to work in a team without steamrolling over everyone in service of self-aggrandizement. “You absolutely have to bring in people who are smarter than yourself, but who also don’t have big egos—that’s really important in a small, entrepreneurial environment,” said Noosa Yoghurt Co-founder Koel Thomae. “You have to have people that are willing to roll up their sleeves and maybe be doing things that they did early on in their careers, but who are also experts in their field and can mentor the people around them.”

Trust your gut

Even if your rational mind says “this candidate is perfect for the position,” listen if you hear a small voice that tells you something’s wrong. Maybe you’ve subconsciously noticed that the applicant’s body language doesn’t match what they’re telling you, or you sense that their needs don’t match the requirements of the position, no matter what they said in their interview. On the other hand, if your gut tells you the candidate is great, but not for that particular position, think about creating a position for that person.


The Fundamentals of Building a Productive Office Environment

How to Become More Valuable to Your Organization

You spend as much time in your office as you spend sleeping—if not more. But if your office isn’t inspiring you to do your best work, you’re not going to thrive there. You don’t have to make your office as tricked out as a Google or Facebook; after all, most businesses can’t afford pool tables, daily catered lunches, beer on tap, and climbing walls. Here are some accessible and affordable ideas you can use to make your office a more productive place.

Control the temperature. In most offices, people are either too hot or too cold. In order for people to be productive, they have to be comfortable. Before you rent an office space, ask the landlord about the office’s HVAC system and whether you or your employees can regulate the temperature in the office. If you’re already renting a space where temperature control isn’t an option, consider providing small fleece blankets that employees can use when the office gets too cold. It’s not a perfect solution, but it will show that you care about your team members’ comfort.

For more about Ken Lear and his path to entrepreneurship, visit the About Me page on

Lighting is key. It’s no secret that eight hours under fluorescent lights isn’t very healthy, so try to provide each employee with some natural light. One easy way to do this is to use compact fluorescent light bulbs because they more closely resemble natural light. Full-spectrum fluorescent lights for ceiling fixtures can also help. If you can’t do either of these things, see if you can provide employees with indirect light through task lamps on desks.

Have collaboration space and quiet space. Most offices are open and designed for collaboration, or they’re cubicle farms that close people off. Not everyone thrives in an open environment, and even those who do have times when they need some alone time for maximum productivity. If your office is an open environment, consider adding some spaces with doors so that people who need quiet to focus can do so.

Ergonomics are important. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are the nation’s most common and costly workplace-related health issue, costing more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation payments. Not only will providing ergonomically correct desks and chairs improve your employees’ comfort and productivity, they have a positive impact on your bottom line if you don’t have to pay out workers’ compensation claims for repetitive stress injuries.

Check out Ken Lear on CrunchBase for additional information about his background in leadership and entrepreneurship.

Make it personal. Let your employees know that it’s okay to personalize and adjust their workspace to maximize their personal comfort. A little bit of decoration in the form of photos, art, and knickknacks can make employees feel more “at home” in the office. Consider allowing employees who are not in customer-facing roles to dress casually. Giving employees these freedoms will allow them to maximize their productivity.

Be flexible. Gone are the days when people had to be at the office from 9 to 5 in order to do their work. Many jobs can be done from home or other locations outside the office, and oftentimes employees can be more productive if they have occasional “work from home” days. Also, if an employee spends a few minutes here and there checking their Facebook page, it’s not going to affect their productivity like hours of online shopping might, so consider cutting your team some slack when it comes to occasional checks of personal email or social media.

Keeping Up With a Fast-Growing Company

Keeping Up With a Fast-Growing Company

Keep the momentum going as the company grows rapidly.

Hi, I’m Ken Lear. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Ken_Lear for additional leadership and entrepreneurial advice.

We all dream about a day our business takes off, and suddenly the orders and money start flooding in. But it’s one thing to dream of it and another when it actually happens. If you’re not prepared for growth, you may find that success could kill your business. Here’s how you can keep up with your company once it starts growing quickly.

First, find a mentor. Especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneur, a mentor can provide valuable insight that will help you scale your company and keep you focused on your professional and personal goals.

Have a plan. You never know what’s going to get your company to take off. Maybe it’s a mention from Oprah, or maybe it’s a social media post that goes viral. Whatever the cause, you need to know how you’re going to adjust your company’s capacity if and when that huge order comes in.

Have scalable solutions. Doing your bookkeeping with an Excel spreadsheet might work for now, but when your company grows quickly, you’re going to need to buy accounting software that integrates with your various payment options. Why not invest in that accounting program before things get too hard to manage? It will make everyone’s life easier in the long run.

Learn more about Ken Lear on his personal website:

Keep your customers happy. Customer service and QA teams may be overwhelmed by the fast growth of the company, and as a result, you may find your customers displeased by a lack of attention or a lack of product quality. Part of your scaling plan should include hiring people in those vital customer-facing positions.

Conversely, drop dead-weight customers. If you have a customer who demands the vast majority of your time, or who tries to talk you into providing your services or products for less, you can afford to lose those customers when your company starts growing. You simply won’t have time to meet all the needs of a difficult customer and treat your new customers well, too. Here are some tips on how to fire a bad customer and leave them with a good impression.

Maintain the mindset. Your mindset and attitude are just as much a part of your brand as the product or service you’re selling. Remember as your company grows that your customers have come to expect that certain things from your business, and it’s crucial that you keep your feet on the ground while you reach for the stars.

Learn how to delegate. Once your business grows past a certain point, you simply will not have the time to do all the tasks you’ve become accustomed to doing. The best thing you can do as your company grows is to delegate. Of course, that begins with trusting your employees to do the tasks right, or perhaps even find a better way to do them.

Subtract while you add. It’s tempting to add new process after new process as your company continues to grow. But the best tactic is to get rid of one process or procedure for every one you add. “Scaling is a problem of less,” wrote author and professor Robert I. Sutton. “There are lots of things that used to work that don’t work anymore, so you have to get rid of them. There are probably a bunch of things you’ve already done that slowed you down without you realizing it.”

5 Book Recommendations for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

5 Book Recommendations for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Great books for entrepreneurs are a great way to keep improving.

You could go to school for years to learn all the ins and outs of building and running a business. But most people aren’t fortunate enough to have the time or resources to do that. The good news is that there are lots of books about entrepreneurship that can guide you through what you need to do to start and build your business. Here are five of my favorites:

Lucky or Smart? By Bo Peabody

Bo Peabody was an Internet multi-millionaire and serial entrepreneur before he turned 30. But did he achieve such phenomenal success by being lucky or by being smart? Truthfully, it was because he was smart enough to know when he was lucky. This quick 50-page read will teach you how to put yourself in a position to get lucky, create the right situations for success, and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Nail It then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom

One of the reasons most startups fail, argue Furr and Ahlstrom, is that even though the founders are doing all the right things, they’re doing them in the wrong order. What first steps do successful serial entrepreneurs take, and what are the most common failure traps? Through the stories of luminaries ranging from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, Nail It then Scale It provides a step-by-step guide for you to achieve victory.

The Power of Broke by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner

Far from being a liability, being broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage, says Shark Tank star and Fubu founder Daymond John. He started Fubu with no funding and a $40 budget, and has built that company into a $6 billion enterprise. Drawing on his own experience and that of other entrepreneurs who started from broke and have now become wealthy, the author shows you how you can leverage the power of broke to achieve phenomenal success.

The Saint, the Surfer and the CEO by Robin Sharma

Although this is a work of fiction, it is designed to teach some important lessons around self-discovery as a tool for business success. In this story, Jack Valentine ends up in the hospital after a car accident. There, Jack meets his long-lost father, who tells him to ask himself three questions: Have I lived wisely? Have I loved well? Have I served greatly? Through his father, Jack meets three individuals—a “saint” in Rome, a surfer in Hawaii, and a CEO in New York. All three of these individuals provide Jack with lessons on how to be a good leader by listening to your heart as well as your head.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This international bestseller takes you on a tour of the mind, explaining that there are two systems that drive the way you think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional, while System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Through a lively conversation about these processes, the author reveals where you can and cannot trust your intuitions, and how you can tap into the benefits of slow thinking for building your business.

Looking for more entrepreneurial advice? Check out Developing Effective Leadership in Young Professionals on my personal website:

The Pillars of Leadership Coaching

Ken Lear Entrepreneur Leadership Coaching

Ken Lear is an entrepreneur based in Farmington Hills, MI. Learn more on his personal site here:

The process of always improving and getting others to be the best version of themselves is never-ending for entrepreneurs. While mentoring comes from the experience of the individual, leadership coaching is a little different. Leadership coaching focuses on using the individual’s own plans to make their success. Mentoring will usually draw from the mentor’s own experiences, while coaching aims to inspire leaders to reflect on their own path and make their own decisions. Coaching leadership is built on the following three pillars:

Leadership coaches are all about that action.

Leadership coaching pushes professionals to create a plan for improving and changing their behavior for the better. This requires leaders to draw their own conclusions and develop solutions that make sense for them. Whether it’s a career coach, leadership coach, or a business coach, having someone with a wide-range of experiences can only help broaden the mentee’s plan of action.

When it comes to leadership coaching, a coach has no emotional investment in the matter and is focusing instead on doing his or her job. In times of change, the coach serves as a solid backdrop of support. A great leadership coach can help reign potential leaders back down to earth, and get their feet planted firmly on the ground.

Leadership coaches don’t do all the work.

As a coach, the goal shouldn’t be to give your potential leaders shortcuts. Instead, the role should be to coach them on how to make decisions, not just pointing out what decisions they should be making. There’s a world of difference between the two. It’s just like the age-old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Being a great leader can be complex, and the more experience the leader has, the more complicated it can be. Most of the battle in working with new leaders comes from dedicating the time to focus on them. If they can make the time, a leadership coach can imprint their own style on a potential leader, and help them reach their own goals.

Leadership coaches offer some direction.

When a mentee turns to a leadership coach, they are usually seeking some sort of guidance. They ask themselves the question, “who can lead me out of this rut, and open my eyes to solutions?” They often fear how hard the journey ahead will be. These people are looking for a specific kind of leadership that provides them direction and a safe environment to learn, grow and explore their options. If for any reason they veer off the path, a leadership coach will steer them back in the right direction, providing the guidance and leadership that is required.

Working with a leadership coach who provides direction makes it easy for potential leaders to explore all of their options in a place where they can feel safe. Being able to have vision and focus on any opportunity will enable their mindset and career to blossom.

Learn more about Ken Lear on SlideShare:

Perfecting a Work-Life Balance

Ken Lear Entrepreneur Work-Life Balance

“Is this really possible? Is it possible in the current business climate?”

It takes more than a week to build good habits. It takes years of practice and discipline. It is said in the business world that it will take you 15 years to be an overnight success. What are we telling young professionals today? Are we telling them you can achieve wild financial success and have balance? If you are, you’re wrong.

Crafting a work-life balance that works for your life takes time. Meaningful change never happens overnight, so take time to observe others and the life they live and ask yourself what is the life you want? Do you want to work in your 50’s and 60’s or do you want with some freedoms in the next 15 years? Your own decisions today will determine your life tomorrow. Some simple tips to help with the now are below.

Hi, I’m Ken Lear, a business consulting and leadership expert based in Detroit, Mi. Learn more about me on my website,

Schedule Your Activities

Use a calendar to record and prioritize all of the things you want to do each day, each week, this month. If you have interest in creating more success in your life, block time in your calendar for learning, calendar time for a professional coach, for working out, things that will expand your mind, and push your physical limits. Creating a work-life plan is similar to packing a suitcase. Once it’s full, remove five items.  There are time-wasters you can remove from your day that create time for more important priorities.

Make Time for Family and Friends

Regular activities with family and friends strengthen feelings of well being by nurturing connections with the people in your life. Schedule time for a trip to the beach, a sporting event, a hike, or other activities that you can share with family and friends of all ages. Focus on scheduling serious relationship building time. When we are all are on our deathbed it won’t matter the car you drove or the size of your castle, it will matter the people you impacted and the lives you changed. Whatever works for you!

Learn more about Ken Lear’s professional background and portfolio on LinkedIn!

Become More Efficient at Work and at Home

A healthy work-life balance requires clear boundaries between your career and your personal life. At least that is what some will tell you. I don’t believe separating things is possible. I believe your career is who you are, it is what people think about when they think of you, if it is truly career. Perfecting a work-life balance is one of the hardest things a young professional attempt to do.

I wish you the best in your efforts, starting a company at 23 years old I definitely had my fair share of challenges with balance. My belief though is if you want balance, first ask yourself what that means.  Then step back and ask how focused you have to be on work, do you go all in like a doctor would in medical school for the pay out or do you do the other option?

5 Reasons to Get Better at Networking

Ken Lear 5 Reasons to Get Better at Networking

Learn more about Ken Lear on LinkedIn:

Ken Lear here!

Networking is an important part of modern business, and one could argue that’s always been true. These days “networking” gets thrown around with a lot of other buzzwords, and sometimes those things can start to feel unnecessary. But even if you ignore things like “synergy” or “vertical integration,” here are some reasons you should give networking a serious effort.

It’s expected

Simply put, everyone is expecting you to network. You need to be able to express what you or your company are about if you want to be taken seriously. If you avoid conferences or trade shows, you’re going to have to work a lot harder to get people’s attention in the first place.

It Can Help You Move Up

A lot of times, positions don’t get posted to job sites, but instead end up going to somebody who knows somebody in the company. This isn’t always nepotism either; if somebody knows you and your skill set, they’re more likely to think of you when a position opens up.

It Helps You Find Mentors

Networking is a great way to meet other people in your field, especially those who have been around longer than you and can give you advice when you need it. Networking builds personal connections that can help you learn how to do business better.

It Helps You “Think Outside the Box”

Networking can also help you meet people from outside your field, who can help you improve your own skillset by introducing you to concepts that you might not otherwise get.

It Builds Further Connections

By connecting to new people, you are indirectly connecting to even more people. Your new peers can introduce you to their peers as well, which can bring you all kinds of future benefits, like bringing you closer to thought leaders in your own field.

It might not be your main focus for professional development, but networking is definitely something worth exploring. As long as you put in the time, you can get better at networking and continue to grow your professional contacts.

For additional blogs from Ken Lear, visit his website at