There is a temptation to take the easy way out by hiring someone easy to hire rather than the right person for the job. You desperately need a new marketing manager. Funnily enough someone has just sent you their CV and it mentions some involvement in marketing. You immediately ring them up and invite them in. You lean back and contemplate another problem easily solved.
In fact, it is unlikely that the details on your desk are of the ideal person for your company. You have to be a little more systematic. You might go to a recruitment company, which will be able to give you a clutch of CVs very quickly, or you might activate some of your contacts in the business to see who is actively looking for another job or is unhappy where they are. The ideal person may walk through the door or, indeed, be a close friend or relation; but in all likelihood you will have to go and find them.
Don't make snap superficial judgments
As the candidate enters the room you may notice their unkempt appearance, stains on the tie, battered old suit and soleless shoes. But they may be the most brilliant computer programmer this side of Silicon Valley. While you must expect some people to look professional - or to dress in a certain way - you cannot make generalizations on how you expect people to look. You can, of course, insist that everyone wears blue suits and white shirts, but that doesn't make them any better at their jobs. You need to appreciate and value the importance of difference.
Interview, don't make a presentation
Potential recruits do need to know something about your company and the way it works. However, interviews need to be a two-way process. It is one thing giving essential information about your company, quite another to give a lengthy presentation on its values and culture.
Find out more
CVs are notoriously superficial documents. It is important that you use interviews to find out more about people. Try and find more about the real person behind the scant details of qualifications and work experience. Go beyond the facts.
Think to the future
The temptation is to hire someone who is a specialist who can begin work in a particular area immediately. In fact, it is often preferable to recruit someone who is flexible, adaptive and responsive, someone who can be developed into roles which are important to the company, rather than someone who has a narrowly defined set of skills which he or she refuses to deviate from. This is particularly important in a small business where all roles will undoubtedly overlap (and if they don't they should) to a greater or lesser degree.
Consultant and author Tim Foster is highly adept at utilizing publicity to get his name better known. 'I developed an idea of building a database of advertising slogans - slogos. So I started collecting them and when I had several hundred, proposed to marketing magazine a weekly competition called 'Name that Brand'. In this, we'd list 10 slogos and 12 possible brands and invite people to match them up,' he says. This has led to the formation of a business that checks slogos for advertisers - Foster's Database of Slogos. Having my name in each issue helped me to build my own credibility and led to more business.'
As Tim Foster shrewdly realizes there are a host of opportunities to gain coverage. Think first of what journalists could write about:
- Your product or service Is your product or service innovative in any way? Is it new or new to your particular area or the country?
- Your company Is there anything unusual about the way you work or organize things?
- People Human interest stories are perennial favorites. Do you have an interesting story to tell about setting up the business?
- Opinions Setting up a business may have convinced you of the inadequacy of financing arrangements for small businesses, perhaps your local paper would be interested in covering your views.
- Events With what local or national events does your product or service have a link? If you make cricket bats, publications might be interested in writing about your company when the cricket season begins.
- Local newspapers. If your market is primarily local, this is a key medium for your business. It should be comparatively straightforward to be featured in articles.
- National newspapers. You need a stronger story to reach the national press. It has to be highly topical or have some sort of general, national interest element. You may also like to develop a peculiar personal habit - such as eating hamsters for breakfast - which guarantees press attention, but is unlikely to boost your business.
- Trade magazines. If you are selling to a particular business market, you need to look at the trade or professional publications to see what kind of material they are looking for.
- Magazines. There are a growing number of business and management magazines which are particularly interested in case study-like stories usually along the lines of how you successfully took on foreign competitors, introduced total quality or achieved phenomenal success.
Starting and running your own business is never going to be easy. It takes a huge variety of skills and, like a juggler, you have to deal with a huge range of different issues and problems all at the same time. If you take your eye of one of the balls, the whole lot are likely to cascade to the floor, taking you with them. But as more and more people become self-employed and seek out more flexible ways of working, awareness is increasing of how small businesses work and the assistance they often need. Support mechanisms are growing in number and in their usefulness - whether they are DTI grants, counseling for those made redundant or information from banks. The world is wakening up to the desire of huge numbers of people to set their own agenda and create their own brilliant careers.
If you have worked through the steps in this book and are acquiring the skills you will need to run your own business you are taking a step in the right direction - and into the unknown. If you are already running your own business, you now know the full range of issues and challenges which you face - now and in the future.
In the end success is down to you, the individual. You have to set demanding standards and be ambitious while still being realistic. You have to aim high, but at the same time keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and learn the lessons if you don't meet exacting targets. Forging a brilliant career will never be a proper job. Go for it!