Who’s The Most Important Hire? – Zig Zag Principle #46

October 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Eating Our Own Cooking

In our test business, we hit profitability one month ahead of schedule.  We then documented processes, which helped ensure that when we began hiring people, they would actually know what to do.  Shane, our college student that was so helpful in the beginning, graduated from college and was able to join us full time.  The next person we hired was Koral, my executive admin. I believe this hire is always the most important.  We vetted and screened hundreds of people before we found Koral.  She has been a perfect fit with our values, and she has brilliant skills.  She is now the gatekeeper of our values and does a screening of every person who enters our organization.  She makes sure that they are a valued fit.

To help document the process that made our company profitable, I identified twelve parts of our operations that needed to be managed in order for us to be successful.  I then stapled a piece of paper with one of these items written on it to a $20 bill and posted these around the office.  I told everyone that the first person who wrote up the process for that step got to keep the $20 bill.  We now have twelve documented processes, each with their own set of simple steps written out so that each new person who joins the business has a clear picture of what needs to be done to make our company work.

After hiring Koral and a few other key positions, my partner Curtis needed to hire a very important individual for our sales team.  At this point, we had created our values filter, and we had the skills test assembled to give to our future hires.  Curtis was thoughtful and pragmatic as he ran a large number of candidates through this process, even though we had an urgent need to fill this position. After screening all the candidates, one in particular stood out.  He was very talented and had the skills we needed.  He had passed all of our tests.  I told Curtis to just hire the guy, but Curtis slowed down just a little because he saw some red flags.

Some of the red flags had to do with this individual’s work history.  He had not had real consistency in his employment.  We figured we could overlook this because we knew he had dealt with some health problems.  Another red flag was that in our interviews, this man seemed to have more motion than momentum.  Even so, I was convinced this guy was a good hire, but Curtis was still concerned. After I kept prodding him, Curtis decided to extend the offer.  As Curtis and the man were talking on the phone, Curtis could hear the man’s wife in the background.  She was shouting things like “If you agree to accept this, make sure they let you work from home two days a week!” We hadn’t discussed that in the interviews, but Curtis thought it might work.  Then Curtis heard her say, “Make sure the health insurance kicks in immediately!”  That was fine because we offer a good health insurance package.  Then he heard her say, “Find out how many vacation days they’re giving you, and then ask for a week more.”  In a bad economy with a lot of competition for this position, there was no gratitude or excitement about the offer.  There was no dialogue about how he was going to add value to our company. It was all about take, take, take.  After four or five of these demands, Curtis paused and simply said, “I’m sorry, we’re not moving forward.” He knew our company’s values, and he knew we would not be adding a resource that fit.  Even though we really needed this position filled, Curtis went back to the drawing board and started all over.  Fortunately, we soon found a delightful woman named Chiaki who fit our needs perfectly.  She is aligned with our company values and has been the right hire for this job.

 

Summary

After you have hit profitability in zig number 1, zag number 2 is all about adding resources.  You are making the transition from working harder to working smarter.  You are going from determination to discipline.  You are going from being the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker to cheerleading a team and turning over control to others.  Remember that this will involve letting them make some mistakes and do things a little differently than you would.  But if you do this effectively, you are increasing your profitability, adding resources in to the system, and documenting the processes.

This is where the culture of your company will be defined.  It’s one of the most fun phases of your business and where stories will come that will define the life of your business – good and bad!  Your values will be tested for the first time, so hold strong.

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