Quit Trying to Hire People as Smart and Fast As You Think You Were

Building your firm around extraordinary people looks like a good idea, on the surface, but it doesn't work out well in the long term. Here's why:

  • They are very difficult to find.
  • They are even more difficult to keep.
  • You'll have a business with multiple SPF (single points of failure), leading to a firm that's not on solid footing.
  • You might excuse the lack of cultural fit for some of these folks because they are so important to your firm. They are aasholes who get a lot done.

Your very best employees are the ones who are a cultural fit, who help clients build a relationship with your firm and not with a single employee, who collaborate well and raise the level of their fellow employees around them, and who speak truth to you in a respectful way.

You can either have a firm with a fantastic team...or a firm that's really the XXX and YYY and ZZZ show with a bunch of helpers. You end up with that latter choice when the show is being run by genuinely gifted control freaks, or the helpers are unqualified to step up, or both.

Either way, you want a firm that has codified a certain way of working with clients. That firm has a rigorous onboarding process that teaches even the most experienced employees how your firm does it. It's prescriptive and not reactive.

Eventually your firm will get a reputation as the place to go if you want to:

  • Learn unique practices that will further your career...
  • As applied to hungry, respectful clients who are grateful for your leadership...
  • Working as a cohesive team where collaboration is valued.

Having a few high performers...and then the rest of the people...is just not a great way to run a firm that isn't going to need you on a daily basis. As your firm grows, you progress through various steps.

In the beginning you're doing the work. Actually, you're doing everything!

Then you hire some inexpensive people to help you. They are green and they take orders.

Then you make that first big hire to get you "into the big time" and discover that you weren't ready for it yet, and the experiment fails.

But you learn from that lesson and hire more experienced people who are generally capable of managing clients and doing the work without you, except when you sweep in at the last moment and drive them bat-sh1t crazy.

But you give yourself a dope slap, start seeing your therapist again, and realize that you're a control freak. Then the light comes on and you begin solving the bigger problems that keep coming up, rather than the same ones that come up every day. It's a different way of thinking: "Ah! This keeps coming up. Let's solve it once and for all."

Finally you get a team that doesn't need you at every turn and you enjoy your new found freedom. What should you do with that? What's a good investment of your time?

It's to codify your IP, build systems and processes that are unique to your firm, and then manage the layer just below you to solve tomorrow's problems and not just today's problems.

They pick this theme up, and eventually your firm is transformed into a place where people with ordinary skills but an extraordinary cultural fit begins to put distance between you and the competition. In that world, you never struggle with enough applicants, and employees feel respected and valuable.

So quit trying to find people as good as you are. Your job isn't to play in the orchestra but to conduct it. It's an amazing feeling to be that liberated.

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