Networking in Surrey

There's more to the perfect employee than their ability to do the job

Whilst the likes of Richard Branson (Virgin) and Sheryl Sandburg (Facebook) operate in a different universe from small business owners, the issue of making sure you take on the right person for the job remains the same whether you run a multinational conglomerate out of Necker or run a two person business from Dorking.

It may be less damaging to make a poor hire in the larger organisation where a poor hire can be absorbed (but let's not forget the exception - Nick Leeson who single handedly took down Barings! Now that was a bad day at the office!)

But it is absolutely crucial for small business owners who are looking to hire, maybe for the first time, to get it right. Because that person could make the difference between success and failure.

I hear all the time of owners saying their staff don't care as much and that they only work 9-5 whilst they are still doing 60 plus hour weeks.

It doesn't need to be this way. I used to have a wonderful lady who worked for me when I was the marketing director of a large firm in the City. She didn't get paid a huge amount, but her work ethic was amazing. She was completely aligned to me in our drive for success, delivery and excellence. I would have to kick her out of the office at 6.30pm and she'd sneak back in on the weekend to get things done just to make sure she delivered. She was worth her weight in gold. Sadly she moved back to New Zealand, but I'd hire her again on the spot.

There are two issues at play for small business owners:


The first is about control. If you, as a business owner don't believe anyone else can do it as well as you do, then you aren't going to empower your staff. So they are going to care less. 

Letting go of control is a big issue - and it is very difficult to let go of the reins of your baby and let others help you. But if you want to grow, you're going to have to do it at some stage.

There are ways to do it so it's not too scary.

They must share your values

The other issue is that the employees have to share your values. If they share your value set and they can do the job you hired them to do, and you give them the responsibility - you're on to a winner.

What are my values though I hear you cry?

Well, they are the things that are part of your DNA and that you hold very dear to you. Large organisations call it 'Cultural fit' or company philosophy. It's how you do things.

And they are different from one person and business owner to another.

Warren Buffet looks for three things in his employees - “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two”

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston is after people who pursue continuous improvement and excellence “I’m drawn to people who really love their craft, and treat it like a craft, and are always trying to be better and are obsessed with what separates great from good.” 

So, what are your values? What are the things that make you tick and are immovable characteristics?

If you struggle with this:

  • Ask your friends and colleagues to describe you in 10 words.
  • Think about things that others do that really annoy you. Your values are likely to be the opposite of that. For example, if someone is habitually late and that drives you demented, then punctuality and respect are probably really important to you.
  • Be honest with yourself. I'm often told that customer service is really important, but the behaviour belies that stated value. If it is customer service, what does that look like? Do you answer the phone within three rings, respond to all emails, deal with any complaints immediately, work out how to delight your customers, inform them, educate them, make them feel like they are the most important customer to you? Test your value to make sure it fits perfectly before you claim it.


  • You could also try out this test - It's aimed at people in careers, and doesn't cover areas like integrity and honesty or quality but may help with some pointers if you're struggling.
  • Examples of value include, integrity (my top one), honesty, risk taking, altruism, security, recognition, competitiveness, expertise, control, quality and status. There are many more.
  • Try to identify your top three to five. 
  • And then you incorporate that into 'This is how we do things round here' philosophy and use them when you are recruiting. They should be a part of the job description.
  • At interview ask questions that help draw out the responses around your values.
  • And beware taking anyone on who can do the job, but doesn't share your values. There will be a dissonance from day one and both you and they will be unhappy and it will be an expensive mistake.
  • But get it right and you're set to grow your business successfully.

Got a business challenge you're struggling with? Want to increase your profits? Book a 30 minute complementary session with me

Karen - The Chameleon Guide

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