Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Blue Chip Blues

The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs is hiring and retaining great people, and it’s only going to get worse as the boomers retire and there aren’t enough qualified people around to fill their shoes.

Okay, you knew that already. But my experience suggests something you might not know: it takes a special breed of employee to thrive in an entrepreneurial environment. It’s a fact of business life that most employees fare better in—if not prefer—the confines of the corporation. In a large environment, reporting hierarchies and duplication of roles mean that staff can make meaningful contributions to the company’s success when working within the limits of detailed job descriptions, constant managerial oversight and endless bureaucracy.

That’s not the case at entrepreneurial firms, typically startup or fast-growing enterprises whose hallmarks are a lack of structure, a shortage of human and financial resources, and frequent changes in direction. What these firms need are staff who can succeed despite the turbulence of the entrepreneurial environment. Many business owners figure this out the hard way, only after hiring and firing corporate types who can’t get with the program.

The qualities you want:

1. Resourcefulness. Entrepreneurs rarely have the infrastructure, resources or information needed to achieve their goals. They need employees who can make do with what they have.

2. Take-charge attitude. Entrepreneurs running fast-growth companies must delegate to their employees—often junior people—but can’t do much hand-holding after that. Thus, the ideal employees are self-starters.

3. Unending energy. Entrepreneurial firms cannot afford to have a 9-to-5 culture. Their ideal employee has loads of enthusiasm and energy and consistently generates better than expected output.

4. Growth potential. Entrepreneurial companies are like a human-resources vacuum—there are always leadership roles to fill. The best staff are willing to accept higher levels of responsibility than one might expect from someone with their position, title, experience level or salary.

5. Multi-tasking ability. Fast growth means few entrepreneurial enterprises can afford to pigeonhole employees in narrow job descriptions. They have the ability to perform multiple roles.

Unlike big companies, entrepreneurial businesses can provide opportunities for employees to improve their leadership abilities, exercise their creativity and manage themselves. Sell those opportunities to prospective employees, and they’ll take a shine to your company.

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