Small Business Super Star Hiring Hassle

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Microsoft can hire anyone (or anything) it wants. The business giant has one real point measurement for hiring.

IQ

There may be a lesson here for the small business owner.

Your Business Blogger has interviewed, hired and managed (computer) coders, sales reps…and government bureaucrats.

When given the option of head count and budget flexibility, I have always suggested to my managers to hire the most expensive talent possible — the Super Stars.

Even when hiring government workers.

Into Good and Evil reminds us that when talent really counts, when talent determines life and death, who would get hired? He points us to Professor Kingsley Browne in The Ace and the Turkeys,

“Given the cognitive and temperamental patterns required, it is not surprising to find that the ability to fly aircraft successfully in combat is an ability that not many have. Indeed, it is not an ability that even all combat pilots have. Aviation analysts recognize that the majority of combat kills are scored by a small minority of pilots. Mike Spick has observed: “The gulf between the average fighter pilot and the successful one is very wide. In fact it is arguable that there are almost no average fighter pilots; just aces and turkeys; killers and victims.”

Fighter pilots, like sales guys in a role playing exercise, can practice and give a passable presentation, but,

As one Air Force pilot stated, “Most guys can master the mechanics of the systems, but it’s instinctive to be able to assimilate all the data, get a big picture, and react offensively. Not a lot of guys can do that.”

But the Air Force has a challenge most sales managers and small business owners don’t: Separating the Aces from the Turkeys,

Ideally, one would have only “aces” or “killers,” leaving the “turkeys” and “victims” to another career path. The difficulty lies, however, in the fact that there is no known way to separate the aces and the turkeys prior to combat. Unfortunately, many of those who will end up being turkeys often do not know what they are getting into. These pilots may have the ability, intelligence, and know-how to fly the plane well, but they ultimately lack the “fighting spirit” that they will need in combat. ”
(Buffalo Law Review, Winter, 2001, 49 Buffalo L. Rev. 51, Women at War: An Evolutionary Perspective By Kingsley R. Browne)

But the hiring manager does have an advantage over an Air Force Wing Commander; the civilian Ace has a track record of Kills.

The best indication of future performance is past performance. Our armed forces are hampered by looking only to recent combat or aerial engagements — and there aren’t that many of those dogfights. The small business manager has different metrics of combat measures for top business talent:

Eat what you kill. Who had produced the best numbers?

In this human resource practice and strategy, there are down-sides as Anita Campbell, my editrix here at Small Business Trends citing the Trizoko Biz Journal mentions. She and others make the valid point that Super Star and Aces are nearly impossible to manage. And, indeed, can only be managed by Super Star managers.

But if these crazy iconoclasts can be harnessed, a big ‘if’ to be sure, big numbers are sure to follow. For example, when I had a modest software company, I learned the hard way that a one genius coder was worth a half dozen very good coders. And not because he (and he was usually a ‘he’) was faster, but that his work was nearly bug-free. Which saved me from hiring three coders just to patch.

When I was running sales teams, Pareto’s 80/20 Principle always played out. But the top guy, usually a deviant, was always a standard deviation above the norm. My #1 sales guy was sometimes double the sales of #2, the rest of the sales team on the long tail. That #1 guy drove me nuts. Those Super Stars drive all small business owners nuts. But I loved his numbers.

And government bureaucrats? Goodness. I once had an agency head ‘lose’ a $100 million department. It was necessary to find it for obvious political reasons, but we only became aware of the lost unit because I was working the Y2K rollover. I really needed to find all the laptops. We finally found the department. Hidden away, quietly working away. And there were lots of good excuses why it was floating alone off on its own org chart, in its own universe. How they got paid is outside the scope of this post. I was assured that it was not illegal.

So Anita and Trizoko Biz are right, Super Stars are a pain.

But I wonder how many $100 million business units are lost. And could be found with a few dozen more IQ points.

And how much more value the Super Stars could add to America’s small businesses. If they only could be managed.

8 Comments ▼

Jack Yoest




8 Reactions

  1. So, is Anita a turkey, when she publishes a URL to the ‘Ace and the Turkey’ and it is incorrect?
    Here’s the link posted.
    http://mynym.blogspot.com/2004_11_01_mynym_archive.htm

  2. He he he. :)

    Bill, I won’t dispute the fact that I may be a turkey once in a while (and have the ability to have a good laugh at my own expense), but not for this.

    If you look closely, you will see that I did not write the post in the first place.

    Anyway, I fixed the broken link.

    Best,
    Anita

  3. Anita, You are the perfect Editor:

    1) Fix broken wordings, and,

    2) Get blamed for any errors, then,

    3) Graciously allow the boneheaded author to get off.

    Anita is certainly not a turkey. But Your Business Blogger is the one who eats crow.

    I will certainly exercise greater attention to detail in the future. And exercise greater care on who gets linked; who is helpful.

    Bill, thanks for commenting. I suppose.

    Jack

  4. I agree: Hire the most expensive talent. Speaking of the last few persons our company has interviewed and FAILED to hire, it is soley based on not offering enough money. Let’s be honest, if the money is big enough, people will change jobs in a heart beat. But if it is not that large of a difference, it is not worth the hassle of starting all over again.

    Mike
    Online Solutions

  5. Mike, I think you got it right: Everything has a negotiated price. I read somewhere that people believe happiness is possible with a 20 per cent increase in income. That fits with the career advice of changing jobs only for 30 per cent or more. You are right, the frictional costs are not worth the move, all else being equal. Money for fire-in-the-belly — the perfect exchange employer to employee. See:http://www.yoest.org/archives/2006/04/whats_the_best_question_to_ask.php

    Thanks for your insight,

    Jack

  6. Mike, I think you got it right: Everything has a negotiated price. I read somewhere that people believe happiness is possible with a 20 per cent increase in income. That fits with the career advice of changing jobs only for 30 per cent or more. You are right, the frictional costs are not worth the move, all else being equal. Money for fire-in-the-belly — the perfect exchange employer to employee. See:

    http://www.yoest.org/archives/2006/04/whats_the_best_question_to_ask.php

    Thanks for your insight,

    Jack

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