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Virgin founder Richard Branson hires people based on personality. AP Photo/Alan Diaz

The secret to building a great business? Hire people you actually want to work with

Do as Richard Branson would when it comes to recruitment.

The biggest mistake that most businesses make is not considering the people they work with every day, especially when they are trying to grow and capture a share of their market.

In order to capture a larger share of the market you must first secure the hearts and minds of your employees because ultimately your customers are only going to be as happy as your frontline staff.

Everyone wants to make money, but what is not taught in any business course is how to effectively engage your workforce so that they are giving you that extra bit of effort you need to succeed.

When a business first gets started the main concern is usually finding customers so the business is viable. When this is achieved then the business owner usually goes looking for finance. After that new business owner looks for people with the right expertise to push the business forward. This is usually where the first mistakes happen.

Following a launch and getting financial backing, most SME business owners feel the need to hire fast. They usually approach a HR firm with the request: “I need someone (fast) to fill this particular job”.

Currently, the HR firm or consultant will select candidates for consideration that have the right knowledge, experience and strengths relating to the job in question. If you’re one of these people, think about it from the employers’ point of view. They’re after starting their own business, this is their baby.

The Google and Virgin lesson

Some of the world’s most successful companies started off their journey as partnerships and worked out of small apartments or garages. Take for example, Google or even the Virgin Group. If you ask yourself the question, what did they do differently and what are they currently doing to ensure that they stay ahead?

Google Browser Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page AP Photo / Paul Sakuma AP Photo / Paul Sakuma / Paul Sakuma

The answer might seem overly simple but it has been proven to work. Both Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who founded Google, were compatible in personality. Similarly, so were Richard Branson and Nik Powell from Virgin.

What that means is they get on well together. When they started to expand they personally selected the people who were going to work with them. If they liked you, they hired you. The interesting thing is that they are still doing that to this day and they have the final say.

Richard Branson has stated: “The first thing I look for when hiring new staff is personality. In my eyes, personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can’t train a personality”.

The way Larry Page and Richard Branson look at the situation is that it is better to have harmony in work than conflict. If you think about it, people are hired for their qualifications but leave because of personalities. This is where the overused adage comes from, ‘people leave people, not companies’.

Space Tourism Accident Investigation AP Photo / Reed Saxon, File AP Photo / Reed Saxon, File / Reed Saxon, File

The conflict zone

It doesn’t matter what size of company you are, if you are managing conflict or are working 60-plus hours a week then you are doing something wrong. Conflict is like an anchor weighing the company down and draining resources, while working over 60 hours a week could mean that you don’t trust anyone to do the job or you don’t feel supported by your co-workers.

Getting the balance right with the people you work with is the most important first step to success. One partner/director I spoke to recently had just joined a small company on the verge of territorial growth. His job was to oversee the expansion process with key appointments and structures.

The pressure was on to employ people fast but what he told me was that some of the appointments that had been made were disastrous and cost the new company time, effort and money. With money being tight, this slowed their growth and brought pressure on the partners.

The knock-on effect is that stress built up among the partners and they started fighting among themselves, effectively tearing the company apart. The new director was at a loss of what to do next. The enterprise agencies that help young SMEs were only able to give factual information regarding sourcing products or services. So they were of little help in the case of finding the right people that would fit in with the small group. This is a critical time for any business.

One thing this director could have done was to go to a bookshop and buy books about entrepreneurs and how they succeeded in business. That is OK if you have plenty of time to find the right book and management style that suits you.

If you select the wrong people then you will spend most of your time managing conflict and problems. The cost always runs into thousands and can sometimes totally destroy a business. If you get it right and select the people who will support you then their efforts will be added to yours and the company will succeed.

John Rankin is the CEO of Corporate121 and he helps find people within companies who are compatible to work together.

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