People

Like Robin Hood, no company can begin to succeed until it brings the right people together. Initially, this is a matter of some chance. No matter how well the founders or key players know each other, their personal strengths are less conspicuous initially than their intelligence, energy, or skills.

When you begin to take on other people you have to choose with even more care. The interview technique is notoriously difficult, even among experienced interviewers who are generally considered to be excellent judges of character. A person's motivation for wanting the job and what people they have previously worked for say about them may be the most positive indications of their future performance.

Inspiring, enthusiastic people make for a great working environment. Even so, you don't want all yes men or the pros and cons will never be properly debated. Be careful also to distinguish healthy assertiveness from bullying. Look carefully to see whether the applicant is truly positive minded and supports the groups to which he or she has previously belonged. Drop a sourpuss into the mix and suddenly everyone's trying to get another job.

Taking on people is similar to "perimeter security." You control who is allowed into the firm. Careful screening increases the chances of newcomers being net contributors to the team. You want people who will enjoy the challenge, get along with the others, and add to the environment.

The fewer of you there are, the more you are susceptible to personalities. Human quirks don't usually themselves even out until you have engaged 25 or 30 people.

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