Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An almost mistake story about hiring

From The Mistake Bank.

[This story is from Mike Southon, Chairman of Beermat, an online resource for entrepreneurs, and founder of Instruction Set Ltd., a UK computer-services firm sold to Cap Gemini in 1989.]

I remember one story when Instruction Set got to about twenty-five people, and I was running sales. I hadn't really done sales before. I thought, "I'd better hire a grown-up." So I went to a recruitment agency and these CVs arrived--people with fantastic credentials. There was this one particular gentleman, and his motto was "Give me the bullets, and I'll fire them," because he said he'd doubled revenue everywhere he'd been. So I thought he was a good guy. He came in, extended a big handshake, made eye contact, and said, "Yes, give me the bullets; I'll fire them. Michael, I'll double your revenue. That's what I do."

So I asked him to meet everybody. His body language with different people was fun. With all the ladies, he was staring at the cleavage. With other directors, it was the big handshake and "Give me the bullets; I'll fire them." I thought that must be what salesmen are like. Then I took him to lunch, and the waitress made some error--I can't remember what it was--and he tore off a strip of her in front of me, to show how tough he was. I thought, "What an idiot."

I went back to the office and thought, that's what you have to do; you hire people like that. And I decided that no, I was not hiring him; the man's an idiot. People were knocking on my door, asking what I thought of the guy. And I said, "Sorry, I should hire him because he's brilliant and he'd double our revenue, but I didn't like him, so I'm not hiring him." They said, "Thank God for that. We all thought he was an idiot as well."

So instincts were right. I sent him an email saying that I was really sorry, that we were a bit strange at the Instruction Set, that we didn't behave like normal companies, and that he'd probably be brilliant elsewhere, but here he wouldn't be perfect, but best of luck. I got a week of abusive emails from him.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Press. Excerpted from Lessons Learned: Straight Talk from the World’s Top Business Leaders--Starting a Business. Copyright (c) 2008 Fifty Lessons Limited; All Rights Reserved.

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