Getting hiring right is always important, but rarely is it as crucial as when the person in question will represent your brand in a new country. In many cases this means they will speak a language that you either don’t, or don’t as proficiently as they do. You will probably opt for someone who lives in the country in question and who has a certain amount of relevant industry or technical experience. The experience you need will vary from case to case and deciding this is ultimately the process of gathering requirements for a job description – something that we can talk about another time.
What is not as obvious is the particularities of the character that will make this hire a success. When making an ordinary hire – or more accurately, a hire that will be based in an office with other people and receive a certain level of direction and management, the rules are different. Most of the hires made into new territories will be centred on business development and relationship management – so let’s take this as a test case between a managed hire (in your current office) and an unmanaged hire (in a new country or region and working in their own). Defining and comparing these two should help us on the journey to understanding what an A-Player in this field looks like.
Part 1: The Managed A-Player in Business Development
Okay, so make no mistake - this person needs to be awesome. To be great at business development, they need four ingredients – two from them, two from you.
Them>Drive: Business development is hard work, they are going to need energy and resilience. This is difficult to learn, so it’s best to pick someone to whom it comes naturally. Talk to them about their passions and hobbies – it doesn’t matter what they are, just look out for the people who are animated and excitable, whose eyes light up and whose whole body tells the story as they talk. Most importantly, look for the people who held your attention and actually got you excited about whatever it is they love.
Them>Social Skills: Winning business is about relationships. Your product is not enough on its own – it can be the greatest platform the world has ever seen, set to single handily revolutionise the world as we know it. But, if the person representing your product is not someone that your customers want to spend time with – worse still, if they are fundamentally unlikeable – then you’re fighting a losing battle. This is particularly worth mentioning as a lot of people with ingredient 1 are really bad at ingredient 2. When you think you’ve found the right hire, socialise with them. Ask your team to spend time with them, if you’re feeling brave ask a client. We’ve done that in the past and it works really well.
You>Knowledge: They need to know your product. Whatever it is. It isn’t enough that they know what it does, or even how it works. They need to know where it came from and why you made it. What problem does it solve? Why do people like it? What makes it the best – and if it isn’t the best, what are we doing to get it there? They are going to spend more time talking about your business than they are their favourite football team, celebrity or other pastime. Make sure they know what they are talking about. Make sure they know your story and everything that goes with it.
You>Belief: They need to believe. This one’s really tricky is it comes down to your character as a person. I assume you believe in what you are doing – if you don’t, I’m not sure this article is any use, you’ve got bigger problems. But I’m sure you do. Think about the journey you’ve been on. The original idea, all the challenges you’ve overcome to get here. Think about how your product has affected and influenced the world around you – how literally every day other people’s lives are changed by the value of your company. Imagine you were explaining your company to your family; you might mention the technical aspects, but you’d focus far more on the value – the reason people love working with you and the benefit that you offer to the world. That’s what this person needs to hear, to live and breathe. It needs to be closer to a religious experience than a technical understanding.
Drive + Social Skills + Knowledge + Belief
Get these ingredients right and as long as you’ve found someone that matches your ethical profile then you have a very strong chance of hiring an A-Player candidate. Someone who fits the above formula has a strong probability of being a successful hire, when managed properly.
But therein lies the problem. For many companies, particularly when hiring into a new territory, it is simply not possible to provide management and guidance in the same way that you might if you were in the same office together. This can lead to real problems – problems that hurt your business, your brand and your bottom line; and problems that cause otherwise successful people to fail.
I have a habit of ranting on – so I’ve broken this into two parts. In Part 2 we will build on the above and look at the key ingredients needed when hiring someone who will largely or entirely be self-managing, someone who you need to trust will work hard with or without you.