Management June 25, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,847 Reads share

Getting The Right People On The Bus

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What does it mean to “get the right people on the bus”? According to business consultant, author, and lecturer Jim Collins, it is all part of the “First Who, Then What” concept based on company growth and sustainability. Essentially, the concept is about first getting the right people in your business, and then figuring out what exactly their jobs will entail.

One of the more difficult tasks in building a business is hiring the right people. It’s not that the process in itself is difficult, but it’s the logistics of figuring out how many people need to be hired, in what positions, and most importantly, who to hire. There’s a reason major corporations work with head-hunting agencies to find and keep good talent; it’s inherently hard to find talented and dedicated people.

Getting The Right People On The Bus

What’s even more difficult, however, is finding people who fit your business and your culture, because the hiring process is not simply a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Some people struggle in certain businesses and in certain positions, while blossoming in others.

The cultural fit

An important and undervalued screening question is whether or not the candidate fits in with your current company culture and vision. This question is even more important if you are hiring for a small to medium size business. In smaller sized businesses, a single hire can effectively change the way your company operates.

For example, in a customer service-centric business, the personalities of the people in your company will likely dictate the overall tone of your business to your customers. After all, there will be a lot of personal interaction with your customers, and the impression these customers will have of your business will be based singularly on their impression of the person they are dealing with.

The problem is, human personalities are not static; they are dynamic and they change with their surroundings. Hiring someone who is a bad cultural fit in your business can negatively impact the atmosphere of your business.

On the other hand, hiring someone who instinctively understands your company culture and workplace environment can be a big boon. The entire business can feed off of the energy of the new hire(s), and as a result, you can expect more work to be accomplished and more great ideas to be thought of and followed through.

Getting people in the right seats

In addition to finding talented people who are cultural assets to your company, another difficult task is placing these talented people in positions where they will flourish. Remember, the “First Who, Then What” concept is about getting the right people in your business first, and then worrying about what type of job they will do.

For example, in many cases, you will be hiring entry-level candidates who just want to get “their foot in the door”, so to speak. Other times, you will hire bright people who you come to realize just don’t seem to have what it takes for a particular job or task. It is essentially your responsibility as the manager to scout and find their strengths and weaknesses. After all, everybody has weaknesses.

Nevertheless, it is critical that you quickly find out which “seat” each employee will sit in. Each role in your business is important, and you must fill each role with people who are passionate about the position, and who are talented enough to fill it. If you find out that the role is not being filled adequately, you must act immediately by putting the right person in that seat, and switching the wrong person out of it. Rearranging your seating layout is an inevitable part of any growing business.


FIRST WHO…. THEN WHAT – an extract from Good-to-Great.

Getting the wrong people off the bus

No matter how good your hiring process is, you will make some hiring mistakes. Some mistakes will come in the form of hiring talented people for the wrong positions. If they maintain a good attitude and work ethic, there’s a good chance you will be able to simply change their positions. The more difficult mistake to fix is when you realize the person you hired simply does not fit your culture or does not adequately fill any role in your business.

The hard part is being completely honest with your business once you have discovered this to be true. However, once you have concluded this, you must act on it without prolonging it. This is vital; the rest of your workforce will appreciate your need to keep only the right people on the bus, and the employee who doesn’t fit can move on and find a position they are truly passionate about and invested in.

Once you find the right combination of employees and their placement on “the bus”, you will find yourself on a much more enjoyable, smoother ride.

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