By Eric Greene

Do you want to accelerate your success? Do yourself a solid. Be real about what you don’t know and what you aren’t good at. Surround yourself with talent in those deficit areas. Then watch your business go.

This is exactly what I did at a diet food bar startup, and it was a big reason why we went from scratch to $27.5 million in annual revenue in two years’ time. Yes, we had a great product concept and a vivid brand, but:

  • We didn’t know enough about digital marketing, so we found a guru who did.
  • We didn’t know enough about SEO, e-commerce, and user interface, so we found a total baller who did.
  • We didn’t know enough about generating organic buzz and public relations, so we found a born carnival barker who did.
  • We also needed a numbers person, a sales heavy hitter and someone adept at all things operations.  So rather than just flailing and flubbing, we hired smart full-time people to fill these holes.

(You get the idea…)

Fact is, at the above-mentioned company and in other organizations where I had leadership roles, I was known for always hiring strong talent.  And it’s no accident that these organizations grew and thrived.  

Below are the principles I used to find the right people.  Here goes…

Maybe you need to hire contractors because that’s what you can afford. 

There’s no shame in that.  The only shame is when you keep bumbling and stumbling when should just find an expert.  Your investment will more than pay for itself in improved output.  Plus, you’ll learn gobs from these subject matter experts.  

How do you find the right expertise? Don’t overthink it.  Heavily leverage your word-of-mouth network.  Who do other trusted entrepreneurs know? Who do they like? Who really has specific game and gets results in areas you seek? Results speak louder than words, so rely on contractors who have already delivered for people you know.

Or maybe you are in a position to hire.  Here’s how to find great people.

Yes, you need people with job skills, knowledge or ability in the area you are hiring for. But based on years of research from leading companies and business schools, your odds of hiring great talent go up if you deliberately look for candidates that have these key intangibles:

  1. Leadership: Your candidate doesn’t need to have led a large team, but does need to have the built-in ability to motivate others and get them to row together.
  2. Teamwork: They must understand the overall cause is more important than any individual, and that every person must check their ego and play their role.
  3. Track record of success: Has your candidate made a mark at every stop in their life? Have they demonstrated a progression of success? Odds are they’ll keep doing it.
  4. Poise under pressure: Can the candidate stay calm? So key….
  5. Passion for / understanding of your business: Did they do their homework? Can they say why specifically they want to work at your company?
  6. Ability to juggle (prioritize, focus): Absolutely essential attributes to individual and team success.
  7. Analytical/strategic: Simply put, can they think?
  8. Communicate (speak, write, persuade): A highly underrated but critical factor.
  9. Emotional IQ: Can they read the room? Can they get along with others?
  10. Creativity: They don’t have to be able to draw pretty pictures, but can they creatively solve problems and see opportunities?
  11. Caring for others: Do they do things for others? You don’t want selfish people if you can help it.
  12. Fun and interesting: Are they cool? Can you see working with them? You’ll be spending a lot of time together.
  13. Flexible and versatile: People in startups need to wear many hats. Are they game? Capable of switching gears when need be?

Recognize that almost nobody possesses every single one of the above intangible attributes. That’s a unicorn scenario and if you find somebody who does, HIRE THEM IMMEDIATELY. But no matter the position you are hiring for, look for people who possess as many of these attributes as possible.  You will be amazed at how powerful and strong your team will become.

How to screen for these attributes: Google “behavioral interview questions” +  any of the terms above.  The idea is to ask questions that candidates can’t prepare for in advance.  Instead, these questions elicit honest answers based on a candidate’s point of view and experiences.  This quickly separates the contenders from the posers.

In the end, good/smart people can overcome so much.  Find them, hire them and you will kick way more ass.  Period.

Eric Greene is a proven executive turned success/executive coach + team facilitator at the Greenehouse ( Pouring my experience (startup, 3 successful entrepreneurial ventures, former President, CxO, EVP/GM) into helping you work smarter. Lead better. Stress less. Kick ass.  And find more joy in doing it.


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