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Get yourself on the right ‘bus’

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I don't really know why, but I loathe riding the bus. Perhaps in high school, a football player yelled at me, or maybe a cheerleader rebuffed my flirting. I don't know.

However, according to a recent conversation I had with Robert Grow, the founder of Envision Utah, I'd better get used to either riding the bus or TRAX. Otherwise, in the very near future I am going to get caught in gridlock between Provo and Salt Lake City that will cost me a couple of hours each way.

All of which reminds me of something I read recently. In a popular book titled "Good to Great," Jim Collins compared hiring employees to "getting the right people on the bus."

As an entrepreneur, Collins said, your first priority is to get yourself on the "right bus." It's your job to see that the bus is going where you want it to go.

And, yes, you need to have other people on the bus with you — especially if you are building a business instead of just a practice, or perhaps a mom-and-pop operation. However, you also need to remember that no one else is the bus driver, especially when you get other folks with different opinions on the bus with you.

Collins makes a good case for first getting people on the bus, then getting them in the right seats. I have always, until my last hire, done exactly the opposite. I designed the seat then went looking for the right person to get in it.

That is the conventional way, with written job descriptions, describing exactly the skills the future employee needs to have, salary ranges and what the duties are.

Recently, however, I tried it the "Good to Great" way. I met an outstanding young man in the Philippines who had great credentials, good people skills, a convincing way and a record of accomplishments.

I hired him almost on the spot, which is another no-no in the rule book of conventional wisdom. After all, one of my basic rules of business success is "hire slow/fire fast," so I was really operating outside my comfort zone.

While I did check references and interviewed him a second time, I really knew after the first meeting that I wanted him on my bus. I just didn't know which seat.

Now after some time on the job, I still don't know which seat I want him to take. But I'm glad I hired him. When he gave notice to his previous employer, not only did his employer make a counteroffer in an attempt to keep him, but another division of the same company begged him to interview with them and not get on my bus.

Without having read Collins, I am sure I would have missed getting him on my bus. He would be on a bus — just not mine.

After reading "Good to Great," I have changed my hiring practices.

And after getting my sugar-coated lecture about mass transit from Robert Grow, I am soon going to take my first ride on TRAX.

This time, however, I won't wise off to any football players, or try hitting on any cheerleaders.

Stephen W. Gibson is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached via e-mail at cfe@byu.edu.