There is a lot of advice out there about building your new business. When you boil it all down, there’s one consistent theme through it all: hire the right people.
Easier said than done.
Finding the right person can be tedious, even when you know what skills the position requires. And if you need to hire someone outside your area of expertise it can be daunting and downright dangerous.
Over the years I have had the privilege of hiring hundreds of people. I confess: hiring experts outside of my knowledge domain is challenging. It took time to hone my hiring skills to sniff out the under-qualified. Unfortunately, along the way I made a few serious mistakes that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
You can avoid major mistakes like this with a little thoughtfulness and preparation. Being mindful while seeking out experts can go a long way to reduce the risk of making a bad hire.
Let’s consider this scenario. Suppose you own a print shop. Business has been steady. You discover your customers could benefit if you were to offer graphic design. At first you get by using contractors. Now the graphic design portion of the business has grown to the point where it makes sense to hire someone into the business.
Clearly you know the skills required to hire someone to help with the printing business; however you don’t have the expertise to intelligently hire a graphic designer. So what do you do?
Here are 4 ways you can protect your business when hiring experts outside of your personal knowledge domain.
Inspect your network and find the most qualified graphic designer. Explain your situation and ask them if they’d be willing to share their experience with you. (Side note: assure them upfront that you’re not going to try and poach them from their current employer!)
Talk to them about graphic design. Find out what types of skills you need to look for. Learn some of the industry jargon. Don’t be afraid to ask your designer friend simple questions like, “What’s the difference between a graphic designer and a graphic artist?” These questions can lead to all sorts of valuable information.
Find out what differentiates a good designer from a great designer. How would they identify a great designer during an interview? If you have a good relationship with this designer you could even ask them to be part of the interviewing process.
Look at the long term objective of the person in this role. Yes, they need to address the immediate need for graphic design. But what will the business need in 6 months? What about 3 years from now?
In addition to design work consider the other job duties you can assign them. The skills that make a good designer will also show up in other tasks that are important to the business. Usually the business owner has been doing those things with marginal success. Having a designer take the reins can immensely improve the quality of work.
Don’t succumb to the temptation to gloss over this step. Think hard about what skills you will need as this role expands to accommodate a growing business.
Once you hire an expert, don’t simply release them to run off to “do stuff” on their own. Stay engaged. Ask a lot of questions. When answers are outside your knowledge base, rephrase the question until you understand the answer. Feel comfortable asking your expert explain their position in layman’s terms.
Another way to get a clear understanding of their work is to craft your questions in terms of cause and effect. One of my favorite ways to do this is to ask, “What happens when…?” This question can open up a lot of helpful dialog.
You can also help your designer by giving your request in terms of outcomes. Explain what it is you want to see in the final product and then let the designer come up with the solution.
In grade school there was always that one kid who was the know-it-all. Do you remember how you felt while working with that kid? Don’t be that kid. The truth is that no one can be an expert in every domain and it’s going to hurt your team and business if you try. So relax and let the experts be the experts.
Instead be open and humble enough to learn from your team member’s expertise. By allowing yourself to be teachable you will motivate and encourage the team to stay at the top of their game.
Bringing on an expert can elevate your business to the next level. It is critical to hire the right one and manage them well. Following these 4 steps will ensure you head down the right path to unlocking your team’s potential and maximizing growth in the business.
Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts by joining the conversation on Twitter!