How one company built a team-powered business machine.
In the summer of 2017, I joined an eCommerce business.
At the time, the CEO and his bootstrapped team of 10 just sold a piece of the business in a lucky deal.
Despite this, the business was falling apart at the seams.
That’s when I was brought on.
Digging my way through the company’s structure, I quickly learned that the root of the problem was a major disconnect with the team.
There were no set roles, responsibilities or expectations.
No structure to track progress or accountability.
Things had to change for us to scale.
That same month we let go of half the team.
We created a vision and values board focused on internal growth.
We nurtured culture and cared for employees.
And within 1 year, we built 4 successful businesses on half the manpower.
Just the Beginning
That team went on to create amazing side businesses, new products and bigger visions. I stepped back to continue serving entrepreneurs on a consulting basis.
After 7 years of hiring over 300 employees for different industries and a variety of roles, the 7 Deadly Sins of Hiring was born.
Mistake #1: Treating Job Experience as the Holy Grail
One of the most common misconceptions employers have is:
Work experience comes first. The belief that if someone is skilled enough, they will succeed.
Unfortunately, hiring by years of experience doesn’t guarantee motivation, drive and/or accountability.
Most times, a few months after hiring, a hard truth emerges:
This person has to go.
And at the end, you might end up asking yourself:
“What could I have done differently?”
“How should I change my approach so that never happens again?”
After many interactions around what creates a successful or failed hire, the simple answer revealed itself.
It was the complete opposite of our initial assumption:
Test for character over skill level.
Now here is the mind boggling truth:
Most people can improve their skills through different platforms, courses, experiences and more.
They are able to pick up new techniques and stay up to speed on the latest methods for their industry through a variety of tutorials and training.
But character and personality are built like a house — through the blood, sweat and tears of upbringing and adult survival.
The biggest factor for success or failure has really come down to:
Selecting the candidate that has the persistence, perseverance, accountability and independence to execute on your project.
When you build a system that tests for character:
Healthy teams began to sprout leading to successful scale.
Mistake #2: Filling The Role vs. Filling the Vision
CEOs focus on putting out fires in their business.
And most times, believe filling a desperately needed role is the way to do that.
These day, culture fit is widely talked about and described in many books such as the brilliantly written Traction by Gino Wickman.
But here is one very important thing that most CEOs miss out on:
Considering the role a new hire will serve in the long term needs of the company.
Their alignment with the vision and direction.
Here’s a blast from the past example.
A friend of mine lost 6 figures in recruitment and marketing costs when he made a simple hiring mistake.
He owned a real estate investment firm and desperately needed more deals.
The company was losing its profitability fast. A good deal hadn’t come along in a while.
In a rush to find a quick fix, they decided FB marketing would be a good first step in their lengthy marketing strategy.
They spent weeks finding and recruiting the right fit. They tested skill level through and through.
But they forgot one very important piece.
To check whether this new hire would be willing to continue on their overall marketing strategy after the initial FB marketing.
A few months in, it became clear that the hire wasn’t interested in the company or its strategy. He completed his role and immediately went on to other projects.
They ended up losing money and hundreds of hours on hiring and later rehiring.
What started as a quick fix, turned into a quick disaster.
Moral of the story:
If you build a company with a team that understands and is aligned with your vision from the start, they will evolve as the company evolves.
Mistake #3: Overlooking the Growth Mindset
Have you ever found the most amazing team member, and later was disappointed with the countless questions and time the new hire required?
Truth be told, so have I.
Years ago, I’d hire candidates who passed every test with flying colors, but later would start dragging me down.
More into the weeds than ever before.
I always encourage questions, but things would go too far. I felt confused, frustrated, and did not understand the “why”.
Simple things weren’t done without my hand in it.
It took my focus away from the development or operational work I was supposed to be doing.
The big changes that would make the most difference in the business.
This is what I realized, and have been using to this day with many companies and clients:
If a perfect candidate doesn’t have the desire to constantly learn and explore growth independently, they will never succeed in your company.
By including this important assessment factor to the hiring process, you can easily start building a team that will work in your business and enable you to focus on scale.
Mistake #4: Valuing Effort per Hour Over Successfully Completed Tasks
Have you ever felt that an employee was more focused on the number of hours they worked than the actual work they produced?
Employers become exhausted with time tracking and frustrated with under-delivered results.
Here’s my personal experience with time-tracked jobs:
Back when I had that one job where hours were tracked, all I could do was stare at the hours thinking:
“If I do too little, does that mean I didn’t work hard enough?”
“If I finish too fast, does that mean I won’t be paid fairly?”
While on the other end of that stick, employers often wonder:
“Why is this task taking so long?”
“Why am I spending so much money while tasks aren’t completed?”
Through the years, I’ve met and have spoken with colleagues, friends, and business owners and we have ALL agreed on something very important:
Everyone’s focused attention span, speed, and style of work differentiates.
With that realization, three important and actionable conclusions came about that led to hundreds of successfully completed projects:
1) Give the freedom of flexible schedules –
Give a team member the freedom to complete tasks by a certain deadline, and they will choose the time they naturally are most productive.
This leads to a comfortable employee and successful results.
2) Do weekly sprints –
Provide your team with specific tasks they need to focus on during a set timeframe.
Each task with one specific person responsible.
3) Create project based expectations –
Value team members by the results they deliver in a given timeframe. Whether a tasks takes 2 or 10 hours, the responsibility is on the team member and only he/she has control of the outcome.
So time factors, lack of skills, and/or necessary hours needed for research become irrelevant excuses towards an ultimate result.
These three key pieces create a very simple way to see whether a team member is taking responsibility, managing their time, and performing on the job.
At the same time, a team given the freedom and flexibility to execute, creates a safe and comfortable space.
As a leader, your main goal is to see your company succeed.
Judging by performance is a quick and easy way to track outcome.
Finally, it creates an open and honest team.
Mistake #5: Treating Hires as Labor Providers vs. Human Beings
Back when my dad worked as web designer in the early 2000s, employees sitting side by side in cubicles in stuffy offices was the norm.
People were treated as disposable, office gossip was considered entertainment, and managerial bureaucracy bloomed like algae in water.
Since then, we have companies like Google, Twitter, Salesforce and more that have set a new norm.
Here’s an example of what a corporate employee of a multi-million dollar company has to say about their culture:
“People are so good to each other here. I’ve never heard of anyone talking behind other people’s backs or putting down people. Everybody is so encouraging.” –An Intuit employee
Companies realize how important their team is towards their success:
“To make customers happy, we have to make sure our employees are happy first.” –Zappos CEO
“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.” –John Mackey, Whole Foods Market
So here’s the important conclusion to take away from these companies:
When employers hire, they often forget to embrace the fact that they are hiring real people with real ambitions, dreams, needs, and families.
This means — radical candor, support, communication, and weekly follow-ups can make a huge difference:
If you invest and care for your team, your team will invest and care for your business.
Mistake #6: Hiring Average
In 2014, I was hired to be the Head of Operations & Development at a Consulting Agency that helped young adults work and travel across the world.
Over time, the Agency succeeded in outrunning and outliving their competitors in the local market.
And during one of our Work and Travel conferences, we took home the “Most Impactful Organization” award in our niche.
The success was solely attributed to the director, who focused on one extremely important and vital thing that I will never forget and have seen across dozens of successful companies:
Hiring candidates that have impressively stronger skills than the leader for every new position made.
The director of that agency didn’t care for CVs or educational backgrounds.
When bringing me on, she was looking for only one thing:
Could I outperform her in the job I was being hired for?
If I could do a better job than she could at what needed to be done.
And this way, we built the company.
From one program to dozens.
From 1 office in a small city to 15 offices in 5 countries.
From 3 to 50 employees.
A mini empire was born through a simple but valuable concept:
Focus on hiring employers who are stronger, smarter, and more capable than you.
We definitely took Mark Zuckerburg’s words to heart —
“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.”
Mistake #7: Hiring By Gut vs. Strategy
Big corporate companies put thousands of dollars in HR departments to build unique hiring strategies.
You, on the other hand, might not have the time, resources or need to build complex systems and an HR department.
But no matter your business size, hiring problems still happen.
And every employer is looking for the secret ingredient to attract and hire the best candidates.
Here are some popular phrases from many of my clients in the past:
“Posting on job boards does not bring in the right candidates. Where do I find great people?”
“We work months with new hires before we realize they don’t fit.”
“I struggle to assess which candidates will succeed in my business.”
The biggest issues I’ve seen through many client cases, was that they hired:
-In a rush
-Out of necessity
-Based on a feel for a candidate
-Finalized through one call
-And fired after months of unsuccessful work
Through all these cases, CEOs begin to realize the ultimate key to the entire hiring process.
Skill level, personality, culture, and growth orientedness could only be assessed through:
A Detailed Multi-Step Hiring Funnel.
A thought-through, multi-step process that helps attract and assess candidates in the diverse aspects needed for success.
A funnel usually will include:
- Detailed job description with specific skills/expectations/responsibilities
- Questionnaire focused on skills, personality and work expectations
- Video assessing personality, character, language skills, and certain capabilities (depending on the role)
- Test project focused on task(s) that reflect the day-to-day responsibilities of the role
- First 1-on-1 call with a team member or hired professional
- Second 1-on-1 call with the CEO
- 2 reference checks
By creating a personalized funnel for hiring, you’ll in turn be building a healthy business and team.
Create a strategy for attracting the right type of hires through a detailed hiring funnel.
Test for excellence, character, and independent growth potential.
Test for alignment with your vision and values.
Treat your team with respect and radical candor, while holding each and every one of them to the high standards of execution.