Week 6: Hiring, Recruiting, and Retaining

The decisions of who to hire, from what pool, and when are more tricky than they appear. Unfortunately, there is no “magic formula” for which strategy works best when approaching these decisions, so Wasserman’s Founder’s Dilemmas  offer some useful considerations.

Hiring friends and family can be great…or terrible. The fact that you know and trust these folks is great and your comfort level will likely be very high working with them. Mixing business and personal can make communicating bad news more difficult on both sides. It is also possible that you could be blind to mistakes or lower productivity that would have been much more obvious if it were someone else.

Bplans’ Scott Huntington suggested the following in his article 5 Things to Consider when Hiring Friends and Family.

  1. Is he or she qualified for the job?
  2. Did you hire the person for the right reasons?
  3. Will they disrupt your place of business?
  4. Is the person trustworthy?
  5. Will you be able to handle firing them?

Wasserman and Huntington agree that if someone isn’t qualified or capable of doing the job, then hiring them is a bad idea no matter how much you believe in them (or how badly you know they need the job). Your first responsibility is to ensure that your business is positioned for success, so avoid spending money on people that aren’t going to add enough value to advance the company towards its goals. It will only hurt the relationship further if you have to let them later on.

That said, you may have extremely qualified people in your network or the networks of your leadership team. If you’ve had the opportunity to work with someone and know they are a rock star at what they do and great fit for the culture of the company, it seems silly to hire a stranger from an ad. As you cast a wider net using search firms and job postings, it will get increasingly hard to ensure that the people you hire are great fits.

Herrenkohl’s How to Hire A-Players gives some practical advice for thoughtfully retaining your best employees. These include:

  1. Invest time with your A-players first. These A-players are the solutions to current and future challenges.
    1. Ensure role clarity.
    2. Give plenty of responsibility.
    3. Schedule regular meetings.
  2. Provide your B-players with coaching and accountability.Often, with a little effort, they can move to the A team.
  3. Turn some borderline performers into A-players by scaling down their roles.Recognize when focusing their efforts in areas they have strengths will help them move to the A team.
  4. Replace C-players and below with people from your farm team. After you’ve tried to lead and coach them and you haven’t seen them make the necessary progress, have the courage to move on to give someone else a chance.

The bottom line of this advice is that it is tempting to spend a lot of time on the low performers, but this sometimes is at the expense of your best. Some believe that if they are performing well they need less time, but this is a dangerous assumption. In reality, they need a very different kind of time from you: recognizing, encouraging, thanking, challenging, and exchanging ideas. They should see opportunity to continue to grow and recognize that a runway toward advancement exists in your company. Know what their goals are, how their current role fits, and have a plan to help them get there.

4 thoughts on “Week 6: Hiring, Recruiting, and Retaining

  1. This is an exciting blog post! Honestly, my mind has been opened so much larger/wider than I expected through this course. I have honestly learned as much about entrepreneurship from these BLOGS as from the excellent texts provided!

    That being said, I always thought I would start a very small company, on the side, see if it clicked, watch/help it grow, hire some folks close to me, build a moderate base/following, and then sell the idea to someone who could take it to the next level. That being said, through the study we have done this semester, I have started to wonder (and actually see myself) in larger, grander opportunities. Your blog post – particularly the framing of what to consider IF hiring family/friends – really got me thinking about bigger things. Anyway – I appreciate that as we all know that a single idea can awaken a version of ourselves that we have never met!


  2. Jeremiah,

    I like the strategy mentioned in your post about spending more time with the A-players and less time trying to build up the C-players. Making the A-players better, more productive and wanting to do more for the company. And C-players can be replaced. I also like that you can bring B players up to A players easily through accountability. You could partner a B player with an A player that is there accountability check in and can help coach them.



  3. Hi Jeremiah,
    Your post is informative with many different points to consider from Herrenkohl’s How to Hire A-Players. The A, B and C player steps to improve performance and create a stronger company team is essential to a successful business. My down fall from previous management positions, which I have learned…not to do…, exactly what you talking about was the part about putting too much time into low performers. I may still put over the limit what many consider is an acceptable amount of time into these employees, but I always want to give others all possible opportunities. I am still learning and will continue to make better choices when it comes to hiring and also training. Great job!!


  4. I was initially surprised to read Herrenkohl’s statement that you can’t “coach up” a mediocre employee. I’ve seen a few people really start to shine given the right opportunities to develop and grow into new responsibilities. But alongside those success stories, I’ve also seen some folks that seem to continually fall short despite the added care and attention given to them. Those folks might be a little more polished and savvy after awhile of special treatment, but upon close examination there are still some fundamental problems. For example, if they were sloppy once, they still lack real attention to detail afterward. Enjoyed the post!


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