Slow To Hire…Quick To Fire – Zig Zag Principle #42

September 29th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

On the flipside, at this same time I made a couple of horrific hires, in part because we didn’t have our value system clearly in place.  During this time I was literally living off three to four hours of sleep a night and I hired an executive assistant who had a good resume, but what impressed me even more were her outstanding grades and recommendations. I had some concern that her work experience was a bit thin; but I needed someone quickly, so I hired her assuming her grades indicated a solid work ethic. 

One week while my partner, Ron, and I were working a trade show in Florida, I kept trying to call into my office.  I tried at several different times, but I just could not make contact with my new assistant.  I finally called another recent hire who was supposed to be at the office.  She did call me right back and said she was on a short lunch break and would call me back, which she failed to do. After four days of not being able to reach anyone, I called my wife and asked if she would go by the office and find out what was going on.  When she arrived, the front door was locked and all of the lights were off.  She found the main telephone was set to voice message.  She did find an engineer in a back room, where he was working on a project.  When she asked him what was going on, he told her that these two women, who were supposed to be answering my phones and greeting people, had decided that since I was gone that they would “work from home” that week.

Needless to say, I had to terminate both these women when I returned from my business trip.  I made the mistake of hiring two young women who weren’t hungry for the work I offered and who had a safety net at home that would rescue them.  I also made the mistake of not screening them effectively against my organizational values, one of which is that we value hard workers. 

Since that experience I have learned to not be too busy to pay close attention as I add resources.  I’ve also developed a series of questions and skills assessments that I run potential hires through, especially my executive admin, who I believe is my most important hire. 

One of my best hires is a woman named Colette Marx.  She is a mother who, by mutual agreement, is working for me from her home (which is yet another way to conserve resources).  When I hired her, I gave her a copy of my book, Bootstrap Business, and told her she needed to read it and then take a test.  The other people I hired at the same time all went home and skimmed through the book.  But Colette wanted to succeed at this job; so she read the book, and then she went back and read the book again, this time highlighting it and making copious notes. When she brought it into the office to take the test, it was dog-eared, it was tagged, it was well used.  Not surprisingly, Colette scored a perfect score. She’s the only one to have done that.  (She even scored higher than I did, and I wrote the book!)  Colette didn’t come with the strongest resume or the most extensive experience, but she is one of the most committed and engaged employees I have ever had. 

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