Q I own a small business and I need a sales manager. I’ve met two good candidates - one who ticks all the boxes and one who is very inexperienced but who has boundless enthusiasm. What’s your advice?
A sales manager is such a key role in any business - especially a small business, so you can’t afford to get this wrong. If it really boils down to experience vs enthusiasm, then it’s a no-brainer - enthusiasm wins every day of the week. Energy, enthusiasm, optimism, resilience are the key traits that determine success, and in my experience people either have it or they don’t.
So more of the question is how to manage someone inexperienced with boundless enthusiasm. You’re going to need to spend a lot of time with them before you totally hand over the reins. Take this step-by-step. A successful business owner is usually a good multi-tasker and even if you don’t have lots of sales experience, buyers like to deal with the head honcho so get out there yourself.
Q I’m recruiting for a key role. How many times do I need to interview people to feel that I’ve gone through a thorough process?
It’s strange that we often hire people on the basis of two or three rather staged meetings. Most of us hide behind rather effective masks so here’s a different approach: look out for chemistry, intelligence, optimism and honesty.
Firstly, check the chemistry by meeting them for a relaxed coffee. I’ve never worked well with someone I didn’t gel with. Then devise an exam and get them to sit it - intelligent business people process numbers fast. Get them to do a project and present back to your team. That way you can see how they approach a problem and whether they are naturally optimistic. Optimism is an essential ingredient for success. Follow up on references and check employment dates and salary progression to check their honesty.
Finally, check the chemistry one more time. Take them out for dinner with a group of people and see whether you’re still gelling. If all’s well offer them the job when the coffee arrives. They’ll be so impressed by your thorough interview process that they’ll figure the company must be going places.