I still remember, 30 years ago, visiting the Head Office of a tyre company in Slough, and being part amused at and part horrified by the teenage cockney receptionist answering a call to the Managing Director: "Nah, 'e ain' in." Even then, it struck me that, however down-to-earth the business of vehicle rubber is, this was probably not the image the company wanted to project to the outside world.
Bless her cotton socks, she couldn't help her accent (well, actually she undoubtedly could, but that's another story), and she may have been as conscientious as you like, but as with all relationships, you only have one chance to make a first impression. And first impressions have a nasty habit of being notoriously long-lasting in the opinions we form of people and organisations. Just look at the example of Nick Clegg, once he got a sizeable chunk of the population to actually notice him.
So unless the business were called Bow Bells Amusements, having a strong Cockney accent (or indeed any other), and a slightly off-hand manner, as your first introduction to the business, would be unlikely to enhance its reputation.
Now maybe the regular receptionist was off sick and Britney, or whatever her name was, was just filling in, but while she was in situ, the inevitable impression gained was that the company was run by a bunch of loveable East End rogues. Come to think of it...
The international parent company, however, would definitely not have approved, even on a short, part-time basis.
So what has that got to do with you and your business, I hear you asking (if you're still with me)?
GETTING THE RIGHT ONES ON THE BUS
Building a team you can trust is fundamental to the success of any growing business, but it isn't just a question of individual reliability - difficult though that is to gauge through traditional recruitment methods.
Having the right blend of skills and personalities is equally important. In the sales promotion agency I co-founded too many years ago, we discovered, when we looked at the personality profiles of all our customer-facing account handlers after five years of growth, that not only did the three partners have virtually identical profiles, but we had each recruited in our own image too. Result: nearly everyone had exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. What you need is a balance of skill-sets and personalities to give your business a rounded and effective management structure.
So what do you do if you find yourselves with one or two square pegs in round holes? In a big corporation, it isn't too difficult to re-deploy skills into different operational roles; in small businesses, there is rarely that luxury. So there is no easy way of putting this: if you're unlucky enough to have a couple of misfits in the team, it isn't just an option - it's a duty to get them off the bus. Believe me, the rest of the team will thank you for it.
By way of justification, I can think of no better words than these, by the USA's ex-Defence Secretary, Colin Powell: "Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind
up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization."
Properly training your team, making them feel worthwhile, trusting them to do a good job, measuring their contribution, sharing your vision - all these things are vital to a business's continuing growth, but if you haven't got the right people on the bus to start with, you'll have an uphill struggle.
If you're interested in knowing a bit more about personality profiling, and how it can help you sell
more effectively, as well as recruit a more diverse team of people, let me know.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.