berkus_ventures_300ppi copy


Hire slowly. Fire fast.

New hires can shore up the weak areas of a business in ways existing employees cannot, if hiring is done to fill true needs.  Some employees lose their drive, or remain behind as the company grows, failing to gain the experience or knowledge needed to manage expanded processes or numbers of subordinates.  Sometimes, there is just too much work for one person, and a second is needed to continue growth.  And of course sometimes, a person leaves the company, creating a need to fill a hole.

There is a rule few follow.  Slow down and take more care in the hiring process.  Vet the candidates well, even though you think that you do not have time enough to do so.  HiringEA-9817 is one of your most important duties, a way to increase the quality and productivity of your company’s staff.  Every hiring opportunity is a window to improve the company.  Hire slowly, with the weight of that opportunity clearly in mind.

[Email readers, continue here…] On the other hand, we are all guilty of hanging on to marginal employees for too long.  It is humane; it is easier to do nothing.  It is less of a drag on your time to let marginal employees continue to plug along in their job.   We have all done this.  And yet, we have all looked back after a painful separation of a marginal employee, and thought that we should have made the move to replace the person much earlier.  We agree that the person would have benefited with a better fit, and the company would have surely performed better having hired the replacement earlier.

It is human nature to hire as quickly as possible, to reduce the time taken from a busy day for interviews and reference checking.  And it is human nature to hang on to marginal employees.  Both are opposite the best practices of good management.

Try to force yourself to slow down in the hiring process, and speed decisions you know will someday have to be made about marginal employees.

  • Jason Peterson

    I’ve experienced this first hand. Good advice!

  • Michael O'Daniel

    Using interim people is a good way to avoid hiring the wrong FTE. Having your best potential candidate come in on a consulting basis, as a tryout if that person is willing, is another. A lot of wrong-fit hires are kept on just because the person who did the hiring would be embarrassed by admitting the mistake and rectifying it quickly.

    The same thing applies to marginal employees already in place. First, ask yourself, why is this person underperforming? Could his/her performance be turned around with better guidance and training? If so, it’s more cost-effective to help that person improve than to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of replacing him/her.

    I’ve had two situations where I had to “fire quickly.” In one, I had promoted an employee into a new position but quickly found out that I had been snowed both as to her qualifications and her productivity. So I admitted my mistake and terminated her. In the other, I was prepared to fire an employee for underperforming, but after a further conversation, found that the problem was one of communications in both directions as far as his job specs were concerned, so we fixed that and kept him on. The CEO was astounded that I would reverse myself so quickly, but again, admitting my mistake and reversing my decision turned out to be one of the best moves I’ve ever made.

  • A classic Berkonomic to a persistently classic problem.

  • Lucien Ruby

    The two biggest monetary losses in my investing career and the three greatest instances of lost potential came from sticking with a CEO way, way, way too long. This is a rookie mistake that all my friends in the venture community admit to making over and over. Guess Don Valentine was accurate when he said: “You never fire a CEO too soon.”

    Once again you are dead on right.

  • Bryce Eberling

    Thank you David. I appreciate your frequent insights from the trenches. Keeps me on my toes and allows me to keep an eye out for indicators of things I may be doing wrong or even better; things I could be improving.

  • Richard Walsh

    Great article Dave! I love the title. That has always been one of the corporate conundrums!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up for
Dave's weekly emails

Most Recent Posts