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Small businesses often struggle with hiring the right people. This can be a make or break for a small business – if you get it wrong, your business will not grow. If you want to grow your small business, it is important to ask yourself this question: “Do I have the right people on my team?” It may seem like an obvious question, but many small businesses do not take the time to assess their team and see if they are the best possible fit.

In this blog post, we will discuss what this question means and how you can use it to assess your team and make changes where necessary.

Who are the “Right People”?

The right people are the people who share your values, fit your culture, will act in the company’s best interest, and will work as great team members to help drive results.

If you want to get better at identifying the right people, I’d recommend you read(or listen to) these two great books:

I have implemented wisdom from both of these books into my business. In fact, both of them are required reading for all of my managers!

The Right People share your values, fit your culture, act in the company’s best interest, and are great team members.

Who are the “Wrong People”?

Very simply, this is everyone who is not in the “Right People” category.

Here are some things to consider:

  • They don’t share your values: Even if you find someone with the skills and experience to excel in a position on your team, if they do not share your company’s core values, it will eventually end in failure. Someone who does not share will values just cannot represent your brand in the way you need. Granted, they may be able to do certain tasks and get results on a personal level, but a mismatch of values becomes like cancer and will cause harm to your company.
  • They are not team players: All-star players will not win a team championship. All-Star teams win championships. If an employee is not making the team better as a whole, there are likely hurting the team in ways you may not see or in ways you overlook.
  • They don’t drive results: The only reason to hire an employee is to get a job done. Not just get a job done, but get it done in a certain way, consistently, in a timely manner. Great people love to get results and hate wasting time on useless meetings, water cooler talk, and fixing problems that don’t really matter. I’ve seen employees add things to to-do lists just to check them off again. I do understand that there’s satisfaction in seeing your own work checked off on a task list, but things like clocking in and showing up on time are not real results. Those are just things that great people do.
  • They are not a good fit for the company: I’ve had employees in the past who seemingly shared my company values and who were well-skilled for the job, but for some reason just would not “connect” with the team. This very well could have been a failure of leadership on my part, or maybe they wanted to keep work life and personal life completely separate, which I respect, or it could have been something else. The point is that in most cases if they want to keep the company/team at arm’s length, it’s unlikely to last long…at least that’s my experience over the last quarter century.
  • They are not coachable: Whether you hire someone green with few skills or someone with great expertise, if they are not coachable, they are the wrong person. After all, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. I don’t care who you are, if you are not coachable, meaning open and receptive to constructive feedback, you are not the right person.
  • They don’t fit your company’s culture: Your company’s culture is like the personality of your company and includes your vision, values, the norms of acceptable employee behavior, the expectations of management, and the way you serve your clients and other team members. Employees have to fit into this.

A Word of Caution

The Right People are not people who are just like you. This is a mistake that many business owners make…hiring people just like themselves. When you do that, you end up with a lopsided, unbalanced team that inherits all of your strengths and weaknesses.

You must have a well-rounded team. This means that you need to hire people with different skills than you, different personalities, and different motivations. I won’t go into this here, but as a leader, your ability to appreciate different people, adapt your communication style, and be open to new ideas will be key to building a thriving, well-rounded team.

One Simple Question

Ask yourself this one question for each of your employees: “If Bob came in and resigned today because he got a better offer down the street, would I chase him down and try to convince him to stay?”

The answer to this question is very telling. If your answer is yes, continue investing time and resources in this person. If your answer is no, you likely have the wrong person… more on that in the next section.

Admittedly, this one simple question sounds like nothing more than a gut feeling. I never recommend hiring based on gut feelings, but the gut feeling in this situation is much more than the gut feeling you get during an interview. In the interview, you typically only have a resume’, a few recommendations, and an hour of the candidate trying to sell himself…if you have that much.

No, this gut feeling I am referring to here is much different. You as a business owner are taking in thousands of data points each day, and although you may not take the time to write them down, your mind is synthesizing the data in the background, constantly tipping the scales one way or the other as to whether this person is pulling their weight. Plus, sometimes pure data on a report does not tell the whole story. For example, maybe Jack’s numbers are slumping, but now they are trending upward.

Would you chase him down?

The right people drive results and fit the culture.

What to Do If You have a Wrong Person

Identifying that you have the wrong person is the first step, but I want to clarify that “wrong person” does not mean “bad person.” All bad people are wrong people, but not all wrong people are bad people. It means that they are wrong for your company.

When you find that you have the wrong person, you must find a way to part ways positively. Be honest with yourself and with the employee. These are some of the hardest conversations you will have as a business owner or leader.

If you’re a good leader, you truly care about people…even the wrong people. In fact, I believe that how you handle wrong people is a great test of ethical leadership. Plus, don’t burn any bridges. We are all in the people business. It’s possible to send them on their way better off than when they started.

Here are some ideas on how to separate from the wrong person

  • Be honest
  • Be kind
  • Pay them everything you owe them, including PTO and vacation
  • Consider a severance package
  • Write them a referral letter
  • Connect them with another company or even a recruiter

What if there are Performance Issues?

I want to add that you should always follow the state and federal laws in dealing with people, and if there are performance issues, you should follow your written disciplinary procedure. If you are unsure, reach out to a professional for help, such as a lawyer experienced in employment law.

What to do with a Right Person in the Wrong Position

You may also have the right person in the wrong position. If that’s the case, do your best to reposition the person in a role where they can succeed. I’m not going to dive further into this topic here, but just know that the right people are hard to come by. More than once I have come across the right person and created a position for that person and thanked myself many times over the next year or years for taking a risk for the right person. The right people MOVE THE NEEDLE in the right direction!

Should I Settle on a Wrong Person if I Cannot Find the Right Person?

This is a hard question to answer, and the answer is not always clear-cut. It’s always best to wait for the right person when you can, but sometimes you need to get the job done in the meantime. It’s important to know the pros and cons of waiting for the right person we’re hiring someone who might not be the right person. In times like this, I have literally written the pros and cons down on a sheet of paper in two columns.

Ask yourself the risks of hiring someone now versus waiting for the right person.

In Conclusion

When you have the right people in the right roles with the right operating systems and processes, great things can happen for your small business. Whether you are hiring, repositioning the right people, or working with someone who is in the wrong position, it’s important to be honest and kind to everyone involved. By making the right decisions based on data and empathy, you can grow your small business successfully while helping others do the same.

For further reading, check out this article: How Netflix Reinvented HR