The Secret to Hiring the Best Employees at a Small Business

August 24, 2015

Wall Street Journal

By Dr John Sullivan

Smaller firms have one advantage over their larger rivals, and that’s the knowledgeable and personalized service provided by their passionate employees. In fact, employee friendliness, knowledge and empathy may be the primary reason why your customers return. Yes, employees are “the face of your business”; because they are often the only point of contact with your customers. Unfortunately, you won’t be able continually to provide that exceptional service or expand your business unless you can constantly recruit new team members that understand the needs of your customers. And the best way to ensure that is to actually recruit your existing best customers, who obviously already know about customer’s needs and they like your unique approach to business.

Data from the corporate world reveals that recruiting has the largest measurable impact on revenue of all human resources actions. In fact, formerly small firms like Uber and Google quickly became dominant firms by realizing that “hiring is the most important thing you do.” Fortunately there’s one recruiting area where small firms can easily “mirror” the approaches of powerhouse firms like Nike, Pier 1, Harley-Davidson, Microsoft and Wells Fargo. And that approach can be described as, “recruit your customers because they share your passion.”

For example, if you wanted your firm to grow dramatically like Duck Dynasty, would you recruit grads with advanced degrees or would you exclusively hire individuals that buy your product because they shared your passion for everything related to duck hunting?

The key is to recruit customers that like your product or firm, that share your values and that can closely connect and relate to other customers. Also recruit your customers because they reflect the diversity of your customer base, they already have a rapport with your staff, and they can sell your product or service better because they have personal stories resulting from using them. And finally, they will need less orientation and training and they’re less likely to quit because they already know what to expect. Incidentally, hiring customers is superior to hiring “friends”, because customers don’t have the emotional or friendship ties that make managing friends difficult.

Sourcing and communicating with your target customers is easy because they may visit your facility or contact you online as often as every week. Candidate assessment is likely to be more accurate because, unlike most recruits who are “strangers,” you and your employees may have known these customer targets for years. Customers are often easier to sell on your job because they probably live close by and they will likely have little fear of “fitting in.” And if a target customer is not currently interested, ask them to be a referral source for others they know who would be a perfect fit. And finally, don’t mistakenly think that customers with corporate jobs wouldn’t consider working for a small business.

You may be surprised to learn that many would gladly leave “the corporate rat race” and jump at the opportunity to work in a “family-like environment” where they can make a difference.


About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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