Hiring Employees for Your Small Business: How to Find Winners

“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.” ~ Larry Bird

I just love this quote from Larry Bird (who was a professional basketball player, and later coach, for those of you who don’t know him). Yes, things always tend to work out, and you always tend to achieve success when you give it your all.

The best is when people look at successful athletes and entrepreneurs and say “look how lucky they are.” Well if you call working all hours of the day and maintaining a laser-like focus on your goals “lucky,” then I guess they’re right. But you and I know better.

I grew up watching Larry Bird. My dad was a huge Boston Celtics fan (which is relatively odd considering he grew up in New York City). So, I became a huge Celtics fan too. And I was a big fan of the heart of the Celtics, Larry Bird.

This guy never gave up. And he nearly always hit the clutch shots.

(If you have 52 seconds and can tolerate terrible video quality, you need to watch this incredible steal by Larry Bird on YouTube. I clearly remember watching this live with my dad in 1987: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0vwJlvB-Po)

But as great as Larry Bird was, he would not have won so many NBA Championships (he won three), if he didn’t have great teammates (same with Michael Jordan).

As an entrepreneur, you also need great teammates. Since you can’t possibly build a great company by yourself.

In fact, great entrepreneurs are more like Larry Bird the coach (who “hired” and coached his players into being the best they could be) than Larry Bird the player (who performed key tasks and made his co-players better).

The key is this — you need to find, hire and then train and coach the best people. Because there are TONS of bad people. I learned this very early on at Growthink. Years ago, I generally gave people the benefit of the doubt. If they said they could do something, I figured they could. And then I quickly realized that some people “have it” and some people don’t.

I think “having it” is the quality of people who “do what they say and say what they do” and always try to do their best. You want people who “have it” and at the same time people who are qualified and uniquely skilled at the position you need to fill. For example, while I “have it,” there’s a whole bunch of positions that I’m not qualified to fulfill or which wouldn’t inspire me to do my best work.

So, how do you find these great people who “have it” and possess the skills you need. Here are my recommendations:

1. Event Networking: great people have several common traits, one of which is their dedication to ongoing education. That’s why great people generally go to events and conferences. You also need to go to these events, where you’ll find some very talented individuals.

2. Being Sociable: I’ve heard lots of stories of people meeting people at sports events, supermarkets, on a plane, etc., and striking up conversations that results in great hiring decisions. I must admit that I’m not the most sociable person outside of work; but I’m getting better at this.

3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great online network to find qualified people to come work for you. Join relevant LinkedIn groups to find folks with similar interests and who are looking to further their careers. And reach out to the best ones.

4. Recommendations & Referrals: Oftentimes the best hires are the ones that were recommended to you by friends and colleagues. Send emails out to your network and advisors asking if they know someone with the skills you need. People generally only recommend people that they believe are competent, since their own reputations are on the line.

5. Executive Recruiters: while this will cost more money in the short-term, executive recruiters (also known as “headhunters”) can find you great candidates. This is what they do. Importantly, they will often find you people who aren’t actively looking for a new job. These are often the best folks. I mean, would you rather hire an unemployed person looking for any company that will take them, or someone who’s thriving at a company but sees great opportunity in helping you grow your venture?

Importantly, in its relative infancy, eBay used executive recruiting firm Kindred Partners to find and hire Meg Whitman. Whitman turned eBay into a multi-billion dollar company and herself into a billionaire.

Using one or more of these five tactics will get you qualified job candidates. But, before you hire any, I highly suggest you give them two tests as follows:

1. A skills test: whenever possible, you should test the skills of the job candidate. If you are hiring someone for a research job, give them a research assignment. If you are hiring someone to be a receptionist, do mock calls with them. Etc. I realize that for some jobs, it may be harder to test, but get creative since you want to make sure they will be able to perform.

2. A culture test: if someone comes highly recommended and passes a skills test, it still doesn’t mean they’re the right hire. They MUST match with your company’s culture. For instance, if they’re a stiff, and your company thrives on fun and creativity, then they’re not the right match. Your company culture is critical, so don’t ignore this key test.

Hiring the right players for your team is critical to your success. There are no wildly successful 1-person companies that I know of. So, follow these steps so you can build a great team and a great company.

Note: I’ve also used Craigslist to find people. I have found good people on Craigslist, but I’ve also found some really bad ones. But it’s possibly worth trying as long as you do the two tests before hiring them.

Suggested Resource:  To become the ultimate leader, you need to do a lot of things, like hire the right people, create the right culture, establish accountability structures, etc.

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