Business for Geeks 301: Recruiting

Alright, so you've been at your business for a few months or even a couple years and now it's time to grow… how do you do it?

Well, you could just hire one of your buddies. Odds are that you know him, you trust him, and you have numerous common interests and a few common goals that will help bring you together. Great idea, right?

Bzzt, wrong.

Let me introduce... Number TwoA respected collegue, collabatour, and ongoing partner of CaseySoftware – David All with the David All Group – recently brought on his Number Two and it got me thinking… In his space, the priorities are quite a bit different than the standard mISV but the core of the questions are the same… Why are you trying to recruit and what are you recruiting for? They're two fundamentally different questions that drastically affect your search and change your priorities throughout.

The first question is the easy one. It's the job description that you have in mind. Is this guy going to be answering customer email, fleshing out new functionality, making you coffee, doing the books? All of those things are quite tangible, easy to enumerate, and have a bit of "squish" to them that cover related areas. For example, in a samll shop, the guy answering customer email is probably expected to do a bit of testing and QA. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that but it needs to be acknowledged up front.

The second question is quite a fit more difficult. No matter what role you are recruiting for, the sheer fact that you have a Number Two will affect things. In some ways – regardless of their responsbilities – this person has just become your partner. Live or die, right or wrong, your fates are tied up together. No, I'm not kidding or exaggerating. If this person is of the right calibre and quality, your job may not get easier but you can hand some things to him. If this person is of the wrong calibre, you'll either realize it quickly and let them go. Or even worse – and unfortunately I saw this one last year – it's worse if you don't realize it and they stick around. The problems and extra work they cause can bury you and sink the ship.

Therefore, recruiting Number Two is one of the hardest things you'll ever do. You need this person to be a partner and feel some ownership in the organization even if they don't own any of it. Like it or not, they're a partner and a key contributor to any success or failure that comes about. And the most dangerous part is that you when you choose this person, you have to choose on that basis. Choose a friend and you'll likely lose that friend. Choose a stranger and you don't know what you're getting.

If you ever have any doubt, don't do it. It's easier finding someone else than cleaning up a mess and then finding someone else. If you have the need for a second person, you don't have the time or energy to clean up after them…