Small Company Mistake #7 – Hiring the Wrong Kinds of Folks – 7 Do’s and 6 Don’ts

Your company is only as good its people. An awful cliché, but it is usually true. Hiring the wrong people is the most critical mistake a small company can make, so it makes sense to learn from others. Here are some important hiring don’t and do’s:



·         An all-star team doesn’t usually work. There isn’t enough space for all the egos. Rather, a small company needs the appropriate combination of talent, culture, and most-importantly "drive" to move the company forward. Later on, as the company grows, these needs will necessarily change, but forgo the urge to build a dream team.


·         Don’t hire (only) people like yourself – People prefer to be around similar people. Hiring too many identical people promotes groupthink.



  • Don't be afraid to hire people with more experience or expertise than yourself. Your business needs many types of expertise, no one has a monopoly on experience



·         Don’t discount people who might "rock the boat" –managers are often wary of dissention, so they hire people who won’t be too vocal. Good employees can often prevent fatal mistakes if their input and feedback are appreciated.


·         Be wary of hiring too many people with big company backgrounds –Managers are often impressed with big company names and job titles. These folks are used to working with a support staff that you don’t, and won’t have. Small companies usually do better with people who can "carry their own bags." Look for people with broad experience, rather than narrow, big company backgrounds.. It is not always true, but more often than not, big company professionals cringe at the thought of flying economy, doing their own presentations, preparing their own demos, etc. (There are similar issues related to for-profits vs. non-profits, government vs. the private sector, etc.)




·         Don’t hire people who don’t fit the company culture – For example, if the company culture is a top-down hierarchy, don’t hire people who want to join a more "team-oriented" company. The friction created will be corrosive.




  • Do hire people with growth potential. Often, people who thrive in small companies find themselves "out of water" once the company grows. Try to find those that can thrive in both environments. Look for people who have proven success with this, and check references.


  • Do create an environment where diverse viewpoints and complementary skills are welcomed and hire appropriately. Groupthink and suppression of dissension are two great "company killers."


  • Do hire people who can do lots of different things themselves, without a big support staff. People with backgrounds in managing contractors and outsourcers are particularly valuable.


  • Do find people who can thrive in an environment of uncertainty. Young companies are like roller coasters, since they experience lots of sudden ups and downs, until the company can provide its viability in the marketplace.


  • Do hire people who are passionate about their work. In small companies, the difference between success and failure often depend on the extra effort exerted by key employees at critical junctures. Dedicated employees who spend a holiday weekend troubleshooting a customer’s problem can be the difference between "making it" or going out of business. Compensate accordingly.


  • Do understand what drives your employees, particularly the young ones.  Today’s young graduates thrive in a collaborative environment, and will often forgo higher pay, for a good work environment.  Create an attractive environment for the type of people you want to hire.

  • Do be open to new ideas. You won't be judged by who came up with an idea, but rather by the results.

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