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Do as I Say, Not as I Do
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Be slow to hire and quick to fire.  If you heed that advice you can avoid some mistakes I have made in hiring.  For the most part we have done pretty well and our clients tell us so.  Here are two examples of how things did not work out well because I was undisciplined in the hiring process in these cases.

I had decided to fire Paul.  He was a good guy but he was in charge of sales and we had gone two years and he had not sold a penny’s worth of services.  In addition to his salary, he had spent a lot of money trying.  It was an economic disaster and it was my fault – I’m the fellow in charge. 

Two years earlier it had boiled down to two candidates; Paul and one other person.  The assessment test we give job applicants told us not to hire Paul for the sales position but to hire the other candidate.  However everyone interviewing Paul liked him.  He was a Naval Academy graduate, had an MBA from a fancy school, played golf and we laughed a lot with him during the interview.  He was very likable.    

The other candidate sort of looked geeky and did not interview that well and came across as a salesman (duh!!).  The assessments said to hire him.  We ignored the data from the test and hired Paul anyway.  It was a bad decision that easily cost our small company over $500,000 in a two year period.  That was well over a decade ago. 

We are supposed to learn from our mistakes.  But…..

A little over two years ago we opened an office in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.   A gentleman came to us and wanted a job as our salesperson.  We knew the person but not well.  Certainly not well enough to hire him to run our sales operation.  He did a wonderful job selling me on hiring him and again I did not go through the proper protocol on hiring.  As his one year anniversary approached I knew it was another bad hire.  He was not even going to sell a fraction of what we were paying him in base salary.  I knew what needed to be done but I did not act until another 4-6 months.  That fiasco cost us at least, $200,000 in a little more than a year.  This was another really poor hiring decision.  I know better.  Obviously I used something other than my head on these decisions. 

In these two cases I hired too fast and recklessly and it took way too long to act after I knew for certain it was not going to work. 

A bad hire can cost you more than tangible dollars and cents because of failure to execute their jobs.  They can adversely harm your company culture, damage customer relationships and if they are vindictive (and when you fire someone they are not happy with you), they can spend time after their employment hurting your company in the market place.  All of that happened to us.

Your company culture is damaged because others in the 

company understand the person is not performing.  They are wondering what is taking you so long to get rid of the dead wood.  If they are not performing and do not reflect the image you want in the marketplace your customers are wondering whether or not you have lost your mind and should they continue to do business with you.  Both men were bitter when they were terminated and spent time in the marketplace saying unkind things about us.  I am confident it cost us some sales. 

Let me repeat the first sentence of the newsletter—be slow to hire and fast to fire.  There are three questions you need answered:

  1.        Can the candidate do the job?  There are a variety of assessments you can use as an employer to give you some insight.  We actually have some that perhaps we should use ourselves. 
  2.        Is the candidate willing to do the job?  How much drive does the candidate have?  Again, there are behavioral test that can help but this is where checking references and past performance comes into play.  A wonderful question to ask when checking references is, “Would you re-hire this person?”  Also do a background check on the candidate.  That has certainly saved us some grief in the past.
  3.        Determine whether or not the person will be a culture fit for your organization.  Have them talk to several of your folks and have some long non-work related discussions.  What are their interests? 

I hope some of this is helpful. 

If you enjoy these newsletters you may like one of my books which you can purchase from our website

John Covington 

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