If you do the opposite, you’re destined to learn this lesson the hard way. When you are building your team, don’t make this critical mistake that could cost you your agency.
Following the mantra of hire slow, fire fast, will guide you through the process of finding the right talent and into the journey of growing and running your business with a great team.
But when businesses forget the importance of taking their time to build the team, and knowing when to cut bait fast when something ins’t working out, everything starts to derail. Consider the following story, where “hire slow, fire fast” would have produced a completely different (and better) result.
A small business was growing at a rapid rate and in desperate need of some experts to add to the team. They needed someone to fill a position fast. Proposals were going out, work was coming in, and the entire team was beyond capacity. So when a seemingly qualified candidate entered their office, everyone jumped on the hire-fast train. They were excited because, on paper, he was a perfect fit. So they hired him, fast.
But it didn’t take long until the red flags started to appear. It wasn’t anything major at first. No seriously unethical behavior. But, it was very clear that it was not a good culture fit. But something like that seems petty and the business wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just a personality conflict, they thought. But then clients started canceling contracts. New proposals were taking weeks to go out. Business was suffering. Red flag!
But the sad part of this story is that the business didn’t fire fast. They did quite the opposite. They took almost a year to make the decision. Despite the mutual “gut feeling” around the office that everyone just didn’t feel like it was a good fit, and then the glaring fact that business was suffering, they just didn’t take action. This happens a lot in business. No one wants to fire a person. It doesn’t feel good and it can have a really bad impact on an entire family. So even if business is suffering, the business will make the decision to protect the individual vs. the business.
What happened in that year almost took down the entire agency. Clients were canceling contracts, proposals were stalling out, new business was dwindling, and employees were quitting because the company culture just sucked.
But here’s the thing, when you are running a business, you have to take emotion out of it. Hiring an employee, while it may seem like the advice is similar to dating (take it slow but stick to your ethics and break up if there’s a deal breaker), this is not dating. It’s business. And you could very well be sacrificing the livelihood of an entire team of people to save the feelings of one person who should take responsibility for their own actions.
So what can you learn from this?
Hire Slow: Check references, make calls. Don’t just go with what looks good on paper. If they are leaving a current job, talk to their supervisor or coworkers and ask for a reference. Look them up on LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections who you can reach out to for a reference. Spend some time with them too. Have lunch or coffee with a few members of your team and see how your personalities mesh. One of the best interviews I ever had was one where I sat in a room with the team and we talked about the type of music we like, our favorite foods, and what we like to do for fun. From that experience, we all knew that I was a good fit for the company, and ended up staying there over 10 years!
Fire Fast: Trust your gut. If something seems off, investigate. Don’t fall victim to office gossip, but pay attention to the things being said around the water cooler. Ultimately, the proof is in the results so if you have a sense that someone isn’t a good fit, AND business is suffering as a direct result of their efforts (or lack thereof), it might be time to let them go.
Power Tip! When hiring, begin the relationship with a trial period that is contingent on one project with a solid end date. If things are working out, then you offer them a position. But if they aren’t working out, you simply thank them at the end of the contract term, offer some constructive feedback if you have it, and tell them you’ll let them know if more work comes up.
Here’s the bottom line…
You can’t afford to have someone on your team who isn’t contributing to the overall success of your business and positive company culture. You literally can’t afford it. One bad hiring decision may cost you your business. Leave emotion out of it. Don’t be a jerk, but don’t sacrifice your livelihood to save someone’s feelings, especially if they are hurting your business. We’re only human and we all make mistakes, but know the difference between something that is teachable and something that is not fixable. It’s much easier to train someone who is a good culture fit, than to have a smart person on staff who doesn’t have the best interests of the business in mind.