By Rieva Lesonsky
One of the most important parts of a business plan is the section describing the key players on your team. Whether you’re looking for a seed capital or a small business loan, the potential investors want to know just who is running the company and what each person brings to the table. Your team may look great on paper, but in reality it’s what’s happening on a day-to-day basis that matters. Sometimes a person who appears to be a perfect fit on a job application can end up being a disconnect in your actual work environment. If a newcomer doesn’t fit in, your corporate culture could be at risk—so it’s important to hire for a good fit as a small business owner.
Is your corporate culture fun and creative, but at times a little bit noisy? You’d better make sure a job candidate can work in an environment with distractions. Or perhaps your culture is more serious and quiet, one where employees need total concentration to achieve their work goals. Whatever your environment, it’s important to take it into account when thinking about bringing someone new into the fold.
“A little over a year ago, ShipStation consisted of just two employees, my partner [Byron Wier] and I,” says Jason Hodges, cofounder of the ecommerce shipping company. “We’ve been fortunate to quickly grow to a headcount of 12 in the past year, and as we’ve grown, we’ve learned some things about what really makes a great hire.” Hodges learned the most qualified candidates on paper are of little value (or even detrimental) if they don’t mesh with the rest of the team on a personal level.
“Naturally, we set out to find candidates who possessed specific skills and we spent our energy pursuing the ones with the strongest aptitude and experience,” says Hodges. “If they happened to be personable, like-minded and light-hearted, that was always a nice bonus.” Hodges and Weir soon realized finding that type of personality was more than just a lucky break. “We realized our best people tended to share some specific and unique characteristics—quirky, nerdy, humorous, [and the like],” Hodges explains. “Those similarities have made teamwork, mentorship and cooperation quite effortless in our young organization, so much so, that where we once viewed ‘culture fit’ as a bonus, we now consider it a prerequisite.”
To help encourage that trend, the ShipStation founders no longer leave hiring decisions to few key decision makers, but rather allow the whole team to recruit, interview and weigh-in on candidates they actually want to work with. “As a result, our people feel a sense of ownership in each other and tend to have more in common than [just] working for the same employer,” says Hodges.
Make cultural fit part of what you look for in the interview, and your business could grow as quickly as ShipStation. After all, as Hodges puts it, “Competencies and skills can be developed relatively quickly, but a cohesive culture cannot.”
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports