4 Hiring Lessons From CNBC's 'The Profit'
There seem to be more and more business-themed reality TV shows in the wake of the runaway success of Shark Tank -- and no shortage of businesses eager to appear on these shows. However, one that has continued to chart its unique path is CNBC’s The Profit, starring Marcus Lemonis. The show focuses on small family-owned or closely held businesses, steering clear of “the next great app” or pre-revenue dreamers who populate shows like Planet of the Apps and Shark Tank. Lemonis often chooses to invest in the featured business -- though a fair number of failed partnerships are aired as well -- and throughout the episode, his entrepreneurial savvy is on display. I’ve found consistent lessons throughout all the episodes that those of us involved in hiring would do well to emulate.
Lesson 1: Be quick to hire and slow to fire.
Once he’s decided to invest in your business, Lemonis gives you his trust from the very start. In part, he is probably hoping to gain trust by giving trust, but he also wants to pave the way for his partners and employees to get going on projects he assigns without his micromanagement. That quick hiring is not just a test of his judgment, but a sign of faith in the person he is hiring.
The practicals are obvious: a long candidate search -- slow to hire -- can be expensive both in time and money, and those in charge of hiring should aim to make the process as short as is necessary. It’s a lengthy process to onboard a person, no matter how good the cultural fit may be, and patience and mentorship is a key way to make sure that a new employee not only fits in, but thrives. Lack of follow-through in the hiring process can lead to “lost in translation” moments which can then lead to possibly hasty decisions -- fast to fire. The cost of firing someone is at least as significant as the cost of hiring him or her.
There’s also the ancillary lessons that are being taught to employees observing the process. They can see if you are leading with patience and empathy, trying to give new employees lots of opportunities to settle in and succeed. They may also pitch in to help rather than join in the movement to vote someone off the island.
Lesson 2: Have the right people in the right positions.
Very often, Lemonis is dealing with owners who have not taken the time to delegate, or worse, don’t have enough trust in their staff to delegate tasks to them. The result is almost always a dysfunctional business without a sustainable future. Again, in accord with his attitude of firing slowly, Lemonis will often try to move a good employee into a position where he or she may thrive, but employees that have proven themselves to be dishonest or uninterested are shown the door.
Lemonis has also reflected his surprise during some episodes at how much people are willing to change if you tell them why the change has to happen. Understanding the “why” can also allow them to give way to others who are more qualified for positions so they can take charge of what suits them in temperament and skill set. It takes strong leadership and vision to help affect this kind of change on the individual level.
Lesson 3: Plan for the future.
It’s important to never be complacent in hiring. Not only should you review and audit the quality of your hires over time, but you should have a clear hiring plan in place for the future. Lemonis often communicates to bewildered entrepreneurs that the problem isn’t just the lack of a general manager or a sales team, but that there’s a lack of strategy which would have exposed these holes as warranting urgent attention.
This can’t just be a top-down process. While there are basic positions that every company needs, Lemonis often solicits the thoughts and feedback of the staff. They are the ones in the trenches, feeling the daily and seasonal stresses of the job, and so they are best positioned to offer helpful insights from a ground level to correlate with strategic planning at the C-level.
Lesson 4: Communicate and mentor.
In the early seasons of the show, Lemonis was most often approached by cash-strapped businesses or businesses on the verge of closing their doors. However, in the most recent seasons, he’s been approached by companies that are financially healthy and are in search of a mentor to help them get to the next level.
It’s important to keep in mind that in hiring new staff, the first day of work is just another part of the process that started at the first interview and won’t officially end until their last day at the company. It’s not enough to hire quickly, to refuse to fire quickly, to make sure that the right people are in the right positions and that you’re continually planning for future new roles. You have to mentor the people you already have. This can be as simple as asking them how you can help them accomplish their work better or finding out what it is that truly drives them personally.
Reality TV is often scripted and most definitely plays up dramatic sequences. I've personally known someone on a reality TV show that actually gave her a typed script. Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t often real life and real business happening in front of our eyes. The lessons are there for the taking -- for those paying attention.