Three years ago, I decided to embark on one of my most challenging projects to date: my book. Trying to sort, revisit, and address the mistakes I’ve made during my twenty-plus year journey in business is hardly an enjoyable exercise. In fact, it was downright uncomfortable at times.
Hindsight is always 20/20, which is why I wrote Just Go With It: How To Navigate the Ups and Downs of Entrepreneurship. I wanted to help prevent budding leaders and start-ups from making the same mistakes I did, or at least offer takeaways that would help their enterprise grow, scale, and succeed.
One of these if-only-I’d-known moments was realizing how important it is to hire senior, experienced staff. When you’re first starting out, most entrepreneurs tend to go cheap and only hire junior professionals when they build their teams. I was like that, too. Though now, I wish I had hired more senior people out of the gate.
Yes, it’s costly to hire senior people, and many entrepreneurs don’t think they can afford it—or they think the more experienced prospects won’t be interested. So they turn their attention to more junior-level prospects. They know they’re taking a risk with these less-experienced recruits, but they figure they can mold those juniors into what they want.
The reality? It can take years before they can perform in the role the way you want them to. Experience is truly priceless. So not only will hiring someone with the right resume save you time, but it will also save you money in the long run.
But wait, what are senior professionals?
A hirable, top-talent senior professional has a few traits or skills that put them on a different level than junior professionals. Here are a few key ones:
l. Years of Experience: A senior professional is usually someone with at least five years of experience in their profession or industry.
2. Good Leaders: Senior professionals are valuable leaders. They have a solid command of their industry and profession and are able to teach others their skills. It’s also worth noting that senior leaders know when to take a step back to their superiors.
3. Industry-Savvy: A professional in this demographic is familiar with the landscape of their industry: trends, jargon, history, etc.
People with these characteristics are incredibly valuable when you first start out because they’re strategic. Plus you won’t have to micro-manage them — which saves you time to grow your business.
Senior professionals are strategic.
Unlike their senior counterparts, junior-level employees are rarely strategic. Due to being inexperienced, they often don’t think about why, how, and when. If all you have are entry-level staff, then you’re not growing your business; you’re treading water. Senior team members are leaders who can add structure, stability, and vision to your company.
While it’s true that some juniors can absolutely be developed into your exact vision for them, more often, it’s a constant cycle of weathering their mistakes, losing them, and then replacing them. This kills your traction and your ability to execute—which ultimately keeps you tied down by the daily needs of your business.
Is your business set-up to develop young talent?
Being a scrappy start-up, I didn’t think it was worth the money to pay the salary demands of someone more experienced. So I hired one junior employee early on who was bright, talented, and a wonderful self-starter. She had been an incredible student, and I was sure she’d make an excellent employee.
However, in the beginning stages of a company, we didn’t have a lot of structure. She wasn’t familiar with the industry or her role in it, so she wasn’t able to use her ambition in a useful way. She would be a great hire now that Creative Niche is a long-standing established organization, but back then, I definitely wish I would have hired someone with more experience to help navigate the road ahead.
Choose the right people and a great company will follow.
Build your A-team from the beginning. Focus on quality over quantity. Hire people you can’t afford. A cheap and cheerful staff might seem nice, but they will almost always cost you more in the long-term. You’re better off hiring senior people who are still willing to roll up their sleeves and get some work done.
These are the kinds of team members who already know how to steer the ship and are accountable for their actions. If you share your vision, conduct yourself in a professional manner, and provide your team with clarity on what is required to be successful for them personally—as well as for the company—you will create a solid foundation upon which to build a sustainable and profitable future.