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.
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 Ken-Lear.com.
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.