David Ogilvy, a successful business man, marketer, and advertising agent, is purported to have said “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” There are many quotes that are attributed to Ogilvy, but they all surmise to the same thing: Hire people smarter than you are, with the drive to go far.
I believe this is true for any business, large or small, growing or maintaining. However, it is even more poignant for businesses struggling to rise above their competition. It is hard to win in the commodities market because when you’re selling the same thing everyone else is the basic business strategy boils down to “who can get the widget cheapest?” Whether that’s people or materials, being cheap only gets you so far and cheap widgets don’t tend to last very long.
I also thrive on competition, I can’t do something and not want to be the best at it. That doesn’t mean that I give up when I’m not the best, nor does it mean that I’m always the best at everything. But it does mean that I continually grow and strengthen my abilities. That includes in the business arena. I believe in continual innovation. And I never hire anyone that’s not smarter than I am.
I’ve been asked how that’s possible in an organization where you’re hiring talent at all levels, from the receptionist to the engineering department. But it’s all about the niche that they’re in. Sure, I designed a process for call flow for the receptionist and I feel like that makes me pretty smart. I can successfully run a business. But I want the receptionist that can tell me why our call flow would be more efficient by changing the way we handle transfers. I want the receptionist that tackles the position like they want something out out of it and leaves that position better than when they walked in. I want the person with the drive to go far.
It’s very much about the niche that they’re filling. As a business owner, the tendency is to try to do everything yourself, to make everything perfect. One of my favorite things to tell new managers is: “If you want something done right, do it youself. If you want it done, delegate.” That’s why hiring people that are smarter than you is important. They won’t know as much as you do when they start, and conveying expectations is key, but they’ll be smart enough to do the job well and want to continually improve. Hopefully, they’ll surpass you and then you can move up in your own organization.
I don’t always get that person, but I always expect it. And sometimes that can make all the difference.
How many people in your organization do you truly feel are smarter than you? And, stealing another summary from Ogilvy: Do you want to be a company of dwarfs, or a company of giants?