You can do a lot with “smart.”
An intelligent, competent person is capable of learning the necessary procedures and policies that make your business tick. But dedication, motivation, and passion? Those crucial traits can’t be taught.
At Lexion Capital, our administrative branch is composed of a tight-knit team who hail from a wide range of backgrounds. More often than not, they don't have finance experience. In interviews, candidates for our back-office positions often make a point of qualifying that they lack finance experience. They are surprised to learn that I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has worked at a finance firm; I’m looking for bright, enthusiastic individuals who share our values, love our mission, and have a history of very high achievement.
As CEO, I realize that great ideas can come from any level of the company, from people with all levels of experience. A smart staff who bring a patchwork of perspectives and are excited about the company generate creative, inventive solutions. Fresh to the world of finance, they often have different ways of looking at our problems.
Know what can and can’t be trained.
Skills can be learned. Attitude is a different story.
I have a friend who is a very enterprising restaurateur. His initial restaurant was a true labor of love. A tight-knit team helped get the venture off the ground. Now, a few years later his franchise is very successful, with several locations.
At one of his locations, the general manager was bringing down the entire team with his poor attitude and negativity. Even after a conversation with his superiors, the general manager failed to change. Though he was competent at the work itself and had been with the restaurant since the beginning, this person was no longer adding to the success of the business--he was significantly detracting from it.
When I asked my friend how he felt about having to let this person go, he admitted that it was very difficult. The general manager was stunned. “But we brought in someone new,” my friend said, “who is not just capable but happy to be there.”
As an entrepreneur, each and every employee is an investment. Ask yourself: Does this person add unique value? You literally can’t afford the naysayer who discourages or detracts from the team’s efforts. In certain cases, enthusiasm goes farther than mere experience. A bright employee who is eager to learn can become a standout contributor, given the chance to build a foundation in the necessary skills. These employees can make more valuable additions to your team than those who may have the more traditional backgrounds but lack passion for the larger mission. An investment in the right people will yield infinite returns--and the benefits can only compound.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.