Small Biz Advice: When New Hires Don’t Work Out



Dear Holly,

My production company is growing rapidly, and I’ve recently had to expand my staff. I’ve hired three new associate producers in the past two months. That’s a lot for my business; it’s more than I brought on all last year.

Because I’m growing so quickly, I felt a lot of pressure to fill the positions rapidly. The problem is that I seemed to have missed the mark with two out of three of these new producers. I’m starting to see that two of them are not a good fit for my company. They have a decent skill set, but they don’t really mix with the rest of the team.

It’s stressing me out, and it’s also starting to impact our work. I have clients saying they are not completely satisfied with the team, and now I feel like I need to take action. I’m just not sure what to do. Do I let these producers go and hire new ones? How do I know that if I bring two new producers on, I won’t end up in the same place in a few months?

Can you give me any advice on how to proceed and ensure that I don’t make this type of mistake again?

Thank you,

Scared to Hire

Dear Scared to Hire,

Congratulations on the rapid growth of your production company. I’m sure it’s a very exciting time, but likely overshadowed by personnel problems. It sounds like you’re dealing with a pretty common problem that most business owners confront the first time they are faced with rapid expansion. Keep in mind that there is a learning curve when it comes to hiring the right team members, and often times business owners make the mistake of hiring for skill versus fit.

What I mean by that is that far too often we over value experience and skill versus personality and values. What makes for a great team is not necessarily how skilled the members are when they come on board, but whether or not they fit with your company’s values and culture. So, in order for you to find the right team members, you first have to define your culture and the values that drive your business. If you’re clear on these, you’ll seek out potential candidates who share these values and are comfortable in your business environment. If you’re not clear on your values or your culture, you’ll just continue to struggle to find team members who fit the bill.

Next, it’s important to see where you’re responsible for bringing on team members that aren’t the right fit. Take some time to reflect on how you would do things differently in the next round knowing what you know now. I’m sure if you think about it there were likely indicators early on that signaled that you had made the wrong choice in hiring.

Would you ask different questions during the interview to better understand their motivation rather than just their skill set? Potential new hires have a tendency to overexaggerate their skill set because they believe that’s what will secure their position. But if you’re looking for people to help build your vision, you must get away from talking about skill set and ask deeper, more revealing questions that give you insight into their personality, professionalism, and process. It’s always good to give scenarios that are relevant to your day-to-day operations and ask how they would handle them. I’m sure you can think of examples relevant to your industry that are common scenarios and good indicators of whether or not someone is a good fit for your team.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of training no matter how skilled a new employee claims to be. Every business is different and likely your process is different from the previous place they worked. If you don’t take the time to clarify your expectations and show them your systems, then you really can’t blame them for not performing the way you need them to perform.

Good luck with the next round. If you take a step back before you move forward and put these recommendations into practice, I’m sure you won’t find yourself in this position again.

Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insights into how to grow your business? Email Holly to set up a time to talk at or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How. You can also enroll in her Business Growth program starting Jan. 13.

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