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A team of business executives sitting at a table. (George Doyle/Getty Images)
A team of business executives sitting at a table. (George Doyle/Getty Images)

Guest Column

Are you hiring for passion or convenience? Add to ...

For the past five years I've been immersed in the world of entrepreneurs, at all stages of growth and financial success. I've had the distinct pleasure of working with a number of “made it” business owners who started with an idea and now, five years or more later, they have established companies, staff and a stable base of customers.

While the industries are diverse and the age, gender and economic upbringing of the people leading these companies are as varied as the Canadian population, two facts are universal: Those who build viable, cash-flowing businesses do so with a distinct passion for the change they're creating, and by surrounding themselves with individuals who are equally passionate about that change.

The image of the passionate entrepreneur toiling away at a labour of love is almost passé. It's important to do what you love if you're starting a business – we know this. And logically we would likely agree it's important to surround yourself with people who share that passion. But as the demands of running a company mount and the constant scramble for cash flow takes its toll, it would seem that too many small-business owners hire whoever they can afford or whoever they can find right now.

These, I can tell you from experience, are not the businesses that survive, thrive and rise to new heights. Entrepreneurs who build stable, revenue-generating companies hire their staff on something I've come to call “aligned purpose.”

There are three layers to “fit” when hiring someone for a new role:

  • Role fit covers the basics. The obvious. Can the person do what they're hired to do? Do they have the skills, training and know-how to deliver what's expected of them?
  • Team dynamic is about how the person integrates with the existing team. Are they comfortable with the schedule (or lack thereof), the ambience of the office, and the prioritization of work and home life?
  • Aligned purpose is the connection people feel to the mission of an organization. Do the new hires believe in the importance of the work? Is it something they can passionately support and that they are excited to tell their friends about?

Most small businesses hire for role fit first, try to consider team dynamic, and hope that the hire supports the mission (or at least isn't opposed to it). The very best small businesses do exactly the opposite. For these top performers, aligned purpose is a non-negotiable, with team dynamic as a close second. Role fit, they reason, can be developed, or trained, within reason.

This isn't a new concept. Those familiar with Jim Collins' Good to Great will appreciate that all we're really talking about here is “getting the right people on the bus.” So why are so many entrepreneurs guilty of taking whoever they can find? My suspicion is that they believe – consciously or unconsciously – that their personal passion for a project will be enough. The successful entrepreneurs know better.

The oft-quoted Margaret Mead cautioned us to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.” To which she immediately added: “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Entrepreneurs don't change the world alone. Instead, they're surrounded by – supported by – teams of committed, impassioned individuals. The truly thoughtful, the truly committed citizens in our communities are looking to contribute to causes they believe in, ideally on a salaried basis. Are you hiring them, or are you hiring whoever's convenient?

Chris Taylor is the founder and president ofActionableBooks.com. With his team of committed individuals, he draws inspiration from leading business books to provide entrepreneurial leaders with tools to develop themselves, their employees and their company culture.

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