Hiring for your startup? Value passion over skills

When and who to hire is a critical dilemma for new business startups. It’s costly, it’s risky and it’s energy consuming. What’s worse than not hiring soon enough, or hiring too soon, is hiring the wrong person.

Hiring the wrong person (been there, done that) can be very costly and disruptive.

Starting a business is often like having a child. For many, having a child is simple and cheap. What’s difficult and expensive is raising the child and making them independent.

I elected to hire three people at once, only 18 months after starting the business. Over the next 17 years, I added people who I felt would help us achieve our purpose. I realized that I could not achieve the level of excellence alone and this required a collaboration of others who shared the same passion and vision. This was not easy for me to understand in the early years.

I now know what I am looking for. After 17 years, and 17 businesses, here is the conclusion I have come to.

I seek to hire people:

  • With a high capacity to learn
  • A passion to help
  • Who are collaborative
  • Who are system thinkers
  • Who are open to constant feedback

I won’t repeat these hiring mistakes:

  1. Don’t hire on skills: hire on talents. Skills can be taught. If someone has critical skills that you desperately need but few talents, consider renting their skills.
  2. Don’t hire those who seek instant fortune and fame—passion drives practice. Practice drives excellence. Excellence results in fortunes and options. There are no shortcuts or get-rich-quick schemes that succeed.
  3. Don’t hire those who need “security.” Security is a result of excellence. Hire people who are confident in their abilities and who understand that their abilities allow them to achieve security. Security is based on providing customers relevant solutions and delivering them flawlessly.
  4. Don’t hire those who need titles and boundaries—ego-focused, boundary limited, control-seeking people will undermine a collaborative learning environment. They make it about them, rather than the team and the customer.
  5. There is no substitute to going with your gut—if you are 100 percent sure that the person is wrong – they are.

Source – Upstart Business Journal – May 2 2013