The only ticket to growth is freedom. The only ticket to freedom for an entrepreneur is a team you trust to follow your business vision.
Established businesses fall into certain ruts. Things are moving along and people on your team will leave while others are hired. This can become routine and done without a lot of thought as long as there are enough people to get the job done. Your job, or your manager’s job, is to simply manage the process.
But choosing your team could represent a significant growth opportunity.
Different businesses place varying amounts of emphasis on the hiring process. Most want to establish a certain standard and hire to that standard. But what if the hiring process was turned into a system that was designed to transform your business? What if hiring to a “model” could change the entire nature of your business?
This article explores this idea within the context of the definition of the term “entrepreneur.” Owning a business is not entrepreneurism, it is often owning a job. Entrepreneurism, by definition, includes the element of growth. Growth in the retail service business (and others) relies heavily on the people upon which it is built.
As you developed your business, you have created a living, breathing entity that is exactly the way you want it to be seen by the world. It is this entity that will free you from the workaday world. The benefit of this freedom is the ability to grow the business and/or open more locations.
This freedom goes away if you are simply babysitting what you own now.
The challenge is to have every hiring decision you make reflect your vision in a supportive way. You must never hire someone who cannot totally support your vision, no matter how desperate you might be for help. Much of your selection process will be with that vision in mind, which becomes the basis against which you compare all of your hiring alternatives.
The Team You Have Now
If you are reading this you have a staff already in place. It may be a team that runs like clockwork and every single person fully understands and buys into your vision, and can help you achieve the freedom business ownership should afford. If so, skip this article and read something else in this magazine.
On the other hand, if you have uneven performance, non-workplace issues that impact execution of your vision or team members that cannot make a decision without checking with you, this article is for you.
The fact is that tire dealers committed to owning an asset rather than a job often need to make some significant staff changes. More often than not, those employees who have been comfortable with the company “as it has always been” may not be part of the future of your business. As difficult as that may be to think about, it is almost always a part of the process.
There is a great temptation to hire people with lots of experience to bolster your management team. You’ll be seduced into the feeling that adding this level of experience will reduce your personal efforts and help your company grow faster.
This feeling is the first step toward the abdication of your responsibilities rather than your delegation of them. If the person is as good as he/she says in the interview, there is the great temptation to let them run with things after hiring them. Experience means that person knows what they are doing, right?
Sadly, no. Building a business is developing your vision of what it should be, not someone else’s. The trouble with “experienced managers” is that they have already been trained in someone else’s way of thinking. They will start to tell you how to run the company. To allow that is abdication of your role as the head of the company and, very possibly, losing your vision.
Alternatively, there may well be people on your current team who buy into your vision and want to become managers. They will have some innate abilities that include communication and leadership skills. They will not come into your world wanting to change it. They will absorb your vision and thoroughly understand that it is your company, your vision and your objectives. Agreeing to support what you want will get them the job, and the benefits that come with it.
This is possible because you will not be asking managers to manage people. They will only manage systems. Systems you built and steadfastly protect. [More about building systems in the tire business can be found in the book “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry.”]
Entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic. They tend to see the best in people, particularly in interviews where everyone is putting their best foot forward. Sadly some people are incapable of grasping someone else’s vision and supporting it flawlessly without trying to “improve” it. Guard against seeing candidates as you want them to be rather than what they really are. Having a system for the hiring process can prevent this mistake.
One of the more common errors is wishfully thinking that you can select people who will “think like owners” of the business. You might have a compensation plan tied to success of the company and assume that it will cause everyone to pull together.
Well forget it! The only people who think like owners are owners. If your employees truly thought like owners, they would not be working for you – they might be trying to hire you. Adjust your expectations that anyone will ever think like you. They can execute for you and to your vision, but they cannot think like you.
Having a written position description complete with obligations, backed up by a written Operations Manual, can have a positive psychological effect on your new hires. It will significantly deter the idea that your vision is negotiable and that how your company will be operated is subject to any interpretation. Using these written documents in the very first interview will assure that you will not lose control of the interview or the candidate before you can make a decision.
There are thousands of books that offer a step-by-step process for conducting a job interview. These instructions are just fine for a large corporation that has a checklist of rules they seek to obey and psychographic profiles they wish to match. They employ a system just as you are being encouraged to do and it works for that type of institution.
Accomplishing your objective does not mean you ignore hiring or equal opportunity laws. It does not mean you are not looking for an automaton. You are looking for an executor; someone who can execute your plan exactly the way you have it written.
Building a team is fun. With the inherent loneliness of entrepreneurship, having competent employees milling around. This is particularly true if they all share a passion for the vision you hold. You need to make sure every new hire withstands the needs test. Over-hiring is just as bad as hiring the wrong person; the drag on the business may be impossible to overcome.
Successfully growing your business, to your vision, is infectious and thrilling. But doing so means taking a hard, systemic approach to team building.
Steps for Systems-Based Team Selection
• Outline the attributes of the ideal candidate for the position for which you are hiring.
• Review all of the applicants’ resumes and select those that exhibit the basic qualities and education to be considered further.
• Invite potential candidates to a group meeting at your office or public meeting facility such as a hotel meeting room.
• In a formal presentation, describe the history of the company, make the Mission Statement come alive with “Your Story” and describe your vision for the future.
• Answer questions from the assembled group in a manner that confirms the commitment to your vision.
• Narrow the list of applicants based on their appearance, perceived understanding of the company mission, quality of questions asked, observed interaction with other candidates and physical reaction to the message delivered.
• After narrowing the field, meet with each surviving candidate individually. Discuss their reaction to the description of your vision without reviewing the details. Observe the comprehension of your message in each candidate.
• Discuss their background and experience and how they visualize themselves fitting into the vision as described. Listen for how the candidates fit themselves into the vision. Be aware of those who want to alter the vision to match their own objectives.
• Thank the candidate and give him or her some idea of when you will have a decision.
• Make the decision and inform those who did not get the job that they did not get the position, and thanks them again for their interest.