Finding Your People

A carefully selected partner or employee is an essential element of success in almost all projects, and as the venture grows, and the number of people you work with increases, it remains that most essential element.

When all is in place—your inventory is ready, the plan completed and the money lined up—you now have to find the, no, your people to make it all happen.

In this context, it may sound strange, but I like to think of people as a special type of asset, with a known capacity to produce, a known cost and a known price. However, with the unknown variables of being living, thinking beings and having their own character and, therefore, are unpredictable.

For these reasons, you should select your people carefully.

Firstly, describe what you expect your human asset will do. Write a Function Description, a concise and complete summary of the job to be done by the individual.

After that, write down what skills, experience and characteristics the person should have. That becomes your Candidate Profile.

If you are lucky, and you already know exactly the person who fits these requirements, still interview them as an outside candidate, and if they pass the test, hire! Congratulations, you have saved yourself a lot of time, effort, and potential future disappointment. But don’t forget, good friends do not necessarily make good partners. It sometimes is a good idea to keep a good friend a good friend.

Organize a realistic process to review candidacies, and take the time to meet with them. All of this is an extra effort, but make the effort, it will pay off handsomely.

The interview process is a subject on its own, which we will cover in another letter. But in brief, do not interrogate, let the candidates sell themselves; you will find out much more that way. Also, sell yourself. Show them who you are, talk about your own ideas, objectives and character traits. Effective interviews are a two-way street, as they give candidates the confidence to open up.

Lastly, after all these cold and rigid methods, let your heart have the last word. Do you like and trust the person? Do you feel happy and confident with the idea of working with your new partner? If they do not excel on all test fronts, do they still feel like a natural fit? Do you admire their potential? Is there a certain spark that shows an unmatched level of motivation and drive?

I’m reminded when I was a senior manager and speaking to a young man who, for some reason, had slipped through the pre-selection net. On paper, he was obviously underqualified. But he was bright, enthusiastic, well informed and, although he knew he was the least likely candidate, he appeared totally at ease. When I asked him about his goal in life, he responded without blinking an eye, “To have your job.” I hired him, and he proved to be one of the most valuable people I ever worked with. When I left the company, he, indeed, got my job. And now more than a decade later, we remain close personal friends. Never have I been happier to let my heart speak.