Most startups aren’t so special, I recently wrote, because every startup needs customers to survive. But it doesn’t end there. Most companies aren’t special either. Not even your company, no matter how long you’ve been around. But for a different reason.
What? You say that you’re developing an incredible new technology for mobile payments that no other company has thought of? Or that you’ve come up with unique content that media companies will be clamoring for? Maybe your pharmaceutical company has discovered a bona fide cure for the common cold. Or your vending machines deliver both hot and cold food and cannot be matched by anyone. Perhaps you’re the most brilliant patent lawyer with the most successful patent law firm in town. Or you’ve designed a manufacturing process so unique that you’re able to keep your costs more than 20 percent lower than your competition. OK, that’s all pretty special. And that’s why you’re doing so well.
But everything else? Nah, you’re not that special. You’re just running a business. And that business has the same issues that every other business has: finding customers, buying materials, shipping things on time, solving problems, paying people, investing in new things, taking risks, office parties, employee of the month, jammed printers, conference rooms.
So the next time you look for an employee to work for you, or even a service to hire, consider this: What if she doesn’t have experience in your industry, or doesn’t have a clue how your topical cream is made? What if she can’t identify what’s so unique about your manufacturing process, or never had any experience in the patent law field or media industry? What if she has no "special" experience in your "special" industry?
It should make no difference at all.
When you’re looking for that new employee, instead of asking her what experience she has in your field, find out what her work ethic is. Let’s assume if she’s an accountant she knows accounting, or if she’s a sales manager she knows how to manage a sales force. Instead, evaluate her attitude, capability to solve problems, ability to get along with people, manage projects and get things done.
Is she smart? Did she get good grades in school? Did she get good references from the places she previously worked from other smart people? Can you trust her to do what she says she’s going to do? This is what you need to know.
Because once you peel away a very thin layer of "being special," your company is just like any other business. And if that prospective employee is smart enough, she can quickly learn what’s so "special" about your company and apply that to her own skill set in sales, finance, marketing, engineering or management.
Businesses struggle with the decision to buy that "vertical" software package designed for businesses such as theirs or hire that "expert" who has 20 years of experience in their industry. And what I and most of my clients have learned is that none of this is as important as just finding that capable person who can be taught, or that proven product or service that can be customized to meet their needs.
No business is special. Underneath, we’re all the same.