Sales and MarketingUncategorized

Should I hire the “generalists” or the “specialists”? – StartupSmart

This article first appeared on September 15th, 2010.


I’m looking to hire my first members of staff.


But I’m not sure whether I should employ a couple of ‘generalists’ who can help me with my huge burden of work or a couple of specialists that I will hopefully be able to add to in the future. What should I do?


Most new business operators have to wear a multitude of hats – from sales and marketing to secretarial, accountant and cleaner.


Our passion and drive to see our businesses succeed gets us through for a period of time.  But the day comes when we need help and this is where many small businesses can get into trouble in hiring the wrong people to drive the wrong bus.


A recent HR survey in Australia estimates that the cost of losing an employee in their first year is approximately three times their annual salary.


So if you are paying someone $50,000 and you get it wrong, the potential cost to your business will be $150,000.


Depending on your type of business, there will be areas that you naturally shine in and other areas that you deplore and keep putting off, but that are necessary to keep your business running.


For example, if you are a ‘people person’ your strengths may lie in building relationships and business development, but you may find you struggle with sitting behind a desk all day and plugging figures into a calculator.


On the other hand you may thrive on problem solving and working with figures but can’t handle client liaison and networking.


So, the rule of thumb with start-up businesses is do what you do best and hire people who are specialists in their field to compensate for your weaknesses.


It is too costly to your business if you get it wrong. Work out well before you start the recruitment process where the gaps/weaknesses are and what is best for the business long-term, not just a short-term fix.


Social psychologists say that we tend to hire people who are similar to ourselves but this can be a trap for the uninitiated and not in the best interest of the business.


Make sure you:

  • Don’t make your employee wish list too broad.
  • Take your emotions out of the equation – don’t hire by someone simply because you get on well with them in the interview.
  • Clearly identify your strengths and weaknesses and hire to accommodate the latter.
  • This matrix will change as your business grows and you find you need people to replicate what you do best.

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