If there is one thing that offers challenges to small companies as they start to grow and expand, it is the hiring process ... every single area. The issues that can arise run the full spectrum, from "finding good help" to that ubiquitous catch-all "training" and everything in between.

Of course, the gold standard would be to have a complete hiring and training system set up to easily onboard new hires and simply plug them in when they meet the standards that you, as the owner and entrepreneur, have set within the company.

Unfortunately, you have to start somewhere, and that starting point usually means that you are creating a hiring and training process as you are physically going through it. For most owners, these early hires could be the guinea pigs for the systems that you are looking for and as a result, you have some decisions to make.

Do you hire based on competence or on character?

Competence gives you the assurance that the individual can do the job based on the fact they have experience in the field.

Character gives you some assurances that your new employee will do the job the way that you intended it to be done.

Of course, the "right" answer is to have employees that have equal doses of both, but at the same time, if you and your small company are at the point where you need team due to growth and scaling, then you, as the owner, may not have the luxury of hand-holding to train.

It is, honestly, a chicken-and-egg problem. Your new business needs people to fill the roles that you and your original team can no longer fill, but you needed them to be fully trained last week. At the same time, since you are building a new company, your hiring and training processes are likely to not be very robust, so taking a newly-minted CPA and expecting them to fill the role of CFO is obviously a fool's errand.

So what is the right mixture of competence and character?

The answer is complex, so, for example, if you are hiring an experienced driver, then there is a tremendous structure already in place in the form of traffic and transportation laws to govern their actions. On the other hand, if you are hiring someone to cook in your restaurant, then they need to have a certain set of skills long before they put on your apron.

The same balance has to be struck when it comes to a CPA, a mechanic, a house framer, or a salesman.

Now, if you are truly in a pinch - and you are because you are "busy, busy, busy" - then you have to decide how much time you can dedicate to developing the training process that will make anyone competent and, in so doing, you need to heavily weight the character side of things. Personally, I would track down 3 or 5 people who can meet the "competence" level you feel comfortable with and then, as you interview them, drill down heavily into the character side of an interview.

The world is littered with the tales of small businesses in the dire straits of hiring that spent time and money they couldn't afford to hire people who couldn't perform. The result? Disaster - either the shuttering of the company or the growth of the business being retarded back to the "Company of One" that no entrepreneur ever strove to be.

No matter how you hire, ensuring the systems are in place to manage the process will be critical in allowing you to find the right people to carry the standards you set. Don't neglect that duty!

Published on: Oct 5, 2017