We all know that if we could just figure out how to hire the right people every single time, our businesses would operate with far fewer problems. I’m not saying that people themselves are the problem; rather, its the absence of the right people that creates problems.
After 20 years of building 1-800-GOT-JUNK? with a hand in hiring more than 1,000 people, I’ve analyzed our hires — good and bad — and come up with seven specific things that every business owner should look for in a potential employee:
Whats worked best for me is choosing people whom I believe fit 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s culture. People have asked us how we manage to get on the Best Workplaces in Canada and Best Companies to Work For in B.C. lists. The answer? We hire people who seem to share our core values. Many times, I’ve made the mistake of hiring someone who excelled in a particular skill but didn’t fit the company or team’s culture, and it has come back to haunt me every time. Lesson: Fit first, skills second.
A shared vision
Do you have a clear and compelling company vision? At 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, ours is to make the ordinary business of junk removal exceptional. We share the idea of exactly what that looks like — our two-page painted picture — with potential hires. If their eyes light up and sparkle when they read it, then they share our vision — which means we’ll all be rowing powerfully in the same direction. We also look for people who have a clear vision for themselves: what are their goals, and can we help them reach them; what do they aspire to do, and is 1-800-GOT-JUNK? the place for them? People join a company for reasons beyond simply making money. I believe most of us genuinely want to do meaningful work.
A fire within
You hear a lot about how to “motivate” employees, but I don’t believe you can motivate people. You can encourage behaviours in the short term with celebrations, bonuses and the like, but your people “gotta wanna.” In other words, they have to want to do the work they’ve been asked to do for their own reasons. There has to be something in your business that people find intrinsically stimulating. Do they believe they can positively impact the world through their work with your business? Do they firmly believe in your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and the challenge of doing something that seems almost impossible? Motivation comes from within; and for it to be long-lasting, there has to be a fire burning inside that drives someone beyond what any amount of money can. My longest-tenured people have remained on board by choice — motivated from within; not by a carrot or a stick.
A love of goals
You’re more likely to build a winning company by hiring winners, and in my opinion, winners are people who routinely set clear goals and achieve them. I’ve found goal-setters are more focused, disciplined and successful.
That said, you have to ensure that your people are set up to win. All 1-800-GOT-JUNK? employees post their three biggest priorities for the week and month above their desks. Those priorities define and display what winning is in their position, and trickle up to support winning for the team. I’m a big believer in “what gets measured gets done.” If you define winning, you are much more likely to come out ahead.
A sunny outlook
A company culture manifests itself through the leadership within the organization. I look for people who are optimistic, positive and see the potential in the company and its people. If you have too many negative forces at work in your office, your culture will eventually turn sour and unproductive. Inevitably, things will go wrong in business; for instance, you’ll miss a goal or lose a great employee. People who lean toward the bright side will help you overcome those obstacles.
All businesses go through change, and its the right people who will help you get through it. As the old clichÃ© goes: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Look for people who will step up and push through hard times. Our rapid growth has created plenty of challenging times for us, and I see the same core people rise to the challenge each and every time.
The ability to have fun
We integrate fun into everything we can at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Why? Because when people are having fun, they collaborate more, they communicate more and they achieve better results. So, look for people who can be loose and relaxed. They’ll be more creative and come up with better solutions to complex problems.
Finding the right people is an ongoing challenge every entrepreneur faces. Apply discipline and rigour to recruiting, and you will have far better success. Understand who the right people are for your business — what has worked for you in the past; what have you learned about people? Do more of what works and never, ever compromise. It’s never worth it.