New Hires Make the Best Consultants

I find it fascinating how eager companies are to on-board, indoctrinate, brainwash—or whatever you care to call it—their new employees. Yes, there’s an economic case to be made for helping them become competently productive in as short a time as prudently possible, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of learning about the experiences they might be able to share. I’d rather hear a manager ask an employee, “How did your old company do this?” than say “That’s fine, but this is how we do it here.” Think of it as free consulting with a short shelf life—in six months’ time, you’ll have institutionalized your new hire.

Employee Turnover

I once had a polite but intense argument with a senior executive at a large company who advocated for Jack Welch’s “fire the bottom 10%” view of managing for excellence.

As those of us who’ve actually signed payroll checks know, it costs real money to hire, train and properly support a new employee. That’s why I feel strongly about two things. First, failing employees that deserve the chance should be considered for alternative assignments. Second, we’re all accountable in these situations—the managers who did the hiring as well as those who manage the managers.

My son, who manages an international investment portfolio, once made an interesting observation in this regard. When he evaluates a company for investment purposes, one of the things he considers is the “velocity of turnover under the CEO.” In his view, if the number is high (lots of turnover), it’s because the CEO doesn’t know how to hire or is impossible to work with—and, either way, the board of directors is complicit because it hasn’t done anything about that. Consequently, he declines involvement. As a lender and as a private investor, I agree with him.

Succession Management = Upward Mobility

This one took a while for me to appreciate when I became a first-time manager. The more I tried to control my direct report’s performance and the less I decided to delegate to him, the more I ended up limiting my own advancement in the process. Successful hiring is, in effect, replacement hiring. Managers who feel threatened by the ambitions of the people they bring aboard shouldn’t have been considered for management in the first place.

Downturns Are Opportunities

My professional career spans the equivalent of more than six official business contractions; the final three occurred when I owned or ran two different companies. What I found most interesting about these downturns were the opportunities they yielded. Recessions are the equivalent of a three-fingered salute—Ctrl/Alt/Del—a chance to test fundamental business models, execution strategies, organizational designs and process flows. They’re also a terrific time to acquire new talent and expand market share because, to paraphrase Louis Pasteur, fortune favors the prepared (not to mention the less distracted) and also because the best people are usually the first to leave.

Epilogue excerpt from Practical Finance: A Straightforward Guide to Personal and Entrepreneurial Finance

Mitchell D. Weiss