21st November 2013

It Starts With Who – Part 2 by Ian Kinnery

The second most important decision we make when we go into business is who are we going to work with, either as colleagues, employees, partners or associates. (The most important decision is the decision to go into business in the first place!).

In my experience we rarely give that second decision, the who decision, enough respect, time, consideration or skill. Jim Collins made the point that getting the right people on the bus is the prime predictor of success in any enterprise and if you accept for a moment that your competitors can copy your products, your delivery, your advertising and your distribution there is a valid argument to say that your only true point of lasting differentiation is the people that you work with and how they work together. Yet so often we either don’t recruit early enough or we make a real hash of the recruitment process.

Small businesses in particular tend to recruit friends of friends, someone they know and even relations. I understand the value of recommendations and having someone you trust is a critical part of the decision making process but these are pretty poor selection criteria.

The fact is that if you populate your firm with anything other than “A” players you will be making life harder and more frustrating for yourself with every hire that you make, and so as your business grows (if it grows given that you have the wrong people on the bus), life becomes more difficult rather than easier.

It is no wonder that so many business leaders rate the people they work with as their biggest problem if they have done such a poor job of hiring in the first place, and given the United Kingdom’s extremely stringent employment laws our reluctance to exit poor performers may mean that we are stuck with “B” or “C” players for far too long.

So let’s just ponder, for a moment, what is an “A” player?

An “A” player is someone who consistently delivers the numbers he/she has agreed to deliver and he/she also is a living embodiment of the values that you and your firm have stated that you live by. Now clearly this brief statement can highlight either a problem or an opportunity. Does every member of your team have written and documented numbers that they are expected to achieve? Are these measured daily/ weekly and monthly? Are the results visible? If not it is impossible to determine whether any of your team is an “A” player or not.

Have you spelled out your firm’s core values, the things that are important to you as a business and the behaviours that underpin and demonstrate that your colleagues are living those values? If not it is impossible to determine whether any of your team is an “A” player or not.

As you ponder these questions and what you can do about all of this you might want to consider your response to this question. “Would you enthusiastically rehire all of your team?”