Is a Rock Star From the Industry Leader Just What Your Small Business Needs?

keith-richards-public-domainIt’s a common problem in a small business: You’re doing fairly well, but you believe that things in sales, marketing, operations (choose one) could be going better.

You’re pondering the situation one day when you hear about a rock star from one of your industry’s leading companies who might be willing to join your team. You immediately form a mental picture of some guru coming into your small business and anointing you with all the inside information and tricks of the trade that you need to conquer the world.

Before you start casting bronze idols and burning incense to this demigod from Mt. Olympus, consider the candidate, your needs, your culture and your current team carefully. While bringing a rock star on board can be a good step, perhaps just as often it doesn’t work out as intended.

Be sensitive to the candidate’s background

Frankly, it takes a different set of skills and a different attitude to perform well in a scrappy small business than it does in an “established industry leader” setting. If you expect a three-piece flannel suit to be comfortable in a polo shirt environment, you’ll usually be wrong.

You need to find out a lot about the rock star’s background before you make the offer. Don’t get all ga-ga over achievements or positions at the previous employer. They may not transfer. Further, a great deal of flexibility is required to work in a small business environment. Often we have others – and ourselves – perform tasks that are outside our strict job descriptions. Some individuals from the corporate world may view these tasks as beneath them.

However, if your rock star has a small business background or entrepreneurial/startup roots, the fit could be fantastic. This is why you have to be a little more clever in your discussions with the candidate. These aren’t big issues when you’re bringing in someone from a similarly sized company. But if your candidate is “downsizing,” they can torpedo your chance at success.

Consider your current employees

You also need to consider personalities. Some members of your current team may be slightly put off by the idea of bringing in someone they perceive as being a “know it all.” Their perception may be completely wrong, but your candidate needs to have the people skills and personality to allay those kinds of fears.

Also consider the specific skills required for success in your organization. For example, selling a well-known brand is different than selling a new entry into the marketplace. Doing a great job at the care-and-feeding of an existing customer base is different than enthusiastically evangelizing prospective customers. Running operations in a company with deep pockets is far different than running a lean startup.

Finally, don’t let your enthusiasm lead you down the wrong path. Remember, some rock stars end up trashing their hotel rooms.

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