Dear Entrepreneur,

There is an old proverb that says “Where there are no oxen, the barn is clean, but much increase comes through the strength of the ox.”  I take this to mean, if you don’t want a mess, don’t have any animals in the barn.  But if you want to get work done, you can’t have one without the other.

You can’t grow your business without doing the work of finding, adding and nurturing good people.  It is and always will be your most difficult challenge in building your business. And yet it will provide you with some of your deepest rewards.

We said goodbye to Ricky last night, one of my evening cooks that is moving off to New York to attend culinary school.  It’s a bittersweet departure, as he carried quite a bit of responsibility for me, but his future looks so bright, a guy like him will certainly need shades.  He came to our kitchen completely green, like me, with no experience.  But his drive and desire caused me to steadily increase his duties, and I had no problem doing so.

In the professional kitchen, I’ve come to accept the revolving door.  I embrace that talent needs to come and go.  Instead of grumbling about it, I choose to cooperate with it.  I’m learning to see it through the eyes of abundance.  Anytime someone leaves, instead of leaving a hole, I see it as opening up a chance to develop someone new and allow that person to step in and step up.

I like to tell my employees, “make it hard for me to replace you.”  In other words, do your job well, so that when you leave, you’ve raised the bar for the next person behind you.

Hiring is always a challenge because of the risk involved.  It takes a lot of time to seek out, to interview and to train new personnel and you want to minimize the chance of it being a waste of time and having to start the process all over again.  Here are a few things I implement in when adding new staff.

1.       Take your time.   A wise businessman gave me this bit of sage advice years ago; hire slow and fire fast.  In his experience it is better to take your time on the front end making a hiring decision than to rush into it without fully thinking through what you need.  But once you see that an employee is not a fit in your organization, it’s no help to anyone, for you, your staff or the employee, to drag out the departure.

2.       Know what kind of person are you looking for.  Every position you need to fill has its own unique requirements.  Make sure you have a good idea of what qualifications you need.  This is why I am willing to take a risk with people that lack experience. Most of my current positions don’t demand it.  I am present in my kitchen and am able to train and allow the development of skills.  If I was assembling a team for an entirely new restaurant, the need for proven track record would be much different.

3.       Listen to your existing staff.   Good chemistry among your employees is essential and you want to assemble a team that enjoys working with each other.  Sometimes there is no way of knowing if people will get along until they are thrown into the mix.  But there is a little homework you can do before the decision is made.  Try asking your staff for recommendations of candidates for an opening.  If they enjoy their job, they will more likely suggest people they know and want to work with.  Some of our best people joined our team in this way.

We are hired for what we know, but we are fired for who we are.  Don’t rely solely on a resume that looks impressive.  Do what you can to discern character, because good character always trumps experience

The Constant Work of Assembling a Team
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