Partnering With Designers: Recruit Owners - Not Employees

The three top issues that I seem to work with my executive clients on are Effective Recruiting, Maximizing Production and Time Management. Today I’d like to share some thoughts on how to better identify candidates that are more likely to succeed in your business.

Have you ever brought someone on as an independent sales agent, only to have them act like an employee? You told him he was an independent businessman. You explained to her that there were no benefits. You made it clear that their success depended on their own efforts. Yet, …

They begin to act as if someone else will be there to pick up the slack or cover them when they act irresponsibly. They will be casual with funds. They don’t file license renewal paperwork in a timely fashion. They don’t do what they say they will do and then complain about their finances. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Let’s discuss some ideas on how to better weed out candidates with an "employee" mindset and more effectively identify candidates with an "owner" mindset. What we’re talking about here is an art rather than a science. Clues can be picked up from their past as well as through effective questioning. Obviously, a red flag ought to go up when you hear certain "employee" types of questions:

• What kind of benefits are provided? (after knowing that they would be a "1099er")

• What kind of hours would I be working?

• Are there any paid vacations?

Usually we’re sensitive to the kinds of questions that are plainly employee-oriented. But I find that in the absence of these blatantly employee-oriented questions, many managers have difficulty in getting a clear sense of whether their candidate has an entrepreneurial perspective. Keep in mind that most candidates, naturally, will provide answers that they believe you want to hear or that they think they should give. If you ask whether they’re prepared to work whatever hours it takes to succeed, the answer will almost always be "Yes". If you ask whether they have the self-discipline to be their own boss, the answer will almost always be "Yes". If you ask whether they’d be willing to work some evenings and weekends to succeed, the answer will almost always be "Yes". Understand that while some people will feel differently but give you the answer they think you want, many people truly don’t know themselves well enough to give an honest answer about themselves. It’s up to you to read between the lines and ask effective questions.

Using Their Background for Clues

Clearly, many people who consider a sales career come from a background of employment. Never having owned a business before isn’t really an indication of their ability to succeed as an independent business person. However, in looking over their history, there are several things you can look for that can lead to clarifying questions:

• Have they stayed in jobs for extended periods? If they have, it may demonstrate loyalty and perseverance. While these are good traits, the job stability may also indicate a preference for employment rather than independence. Asking good clarification questions (below) can uncover their true feelings.

• Have they changed jobs frequently? If they have, it can show instability, poor self-discipline, and a tendency to have problems. On the other hand, it may reflect frustration with the employment environment and a desire to be self-directed and independent. Again, asking good clarification questions (below) can help you decide which it is.

• Have they ever owned a business before? If they have, it demonstrates an entrepreneurial spark. Of course the question remains as to what happened to that business? Again, clarifying will help in evaluating its significance.

Clarifying Questions

The facts surrounding someone’s past give us an idea of where they’re coming from. However, their feelings and thoughts about their past experiences can offer a better insight into their make up. Some questions will be oriented towards clarifying past experiences and decisions; others are directed towards revealing their entrepreneurial thinking capacity. As you become proficient at questioning, you’ll be able to reveal a candidate’s motivation for considering that specific career. You’ll make better recruiting decisions and as a consequence have more time to devote to the candidates that will succeed. Having more agents who are likely to succeed will lead to better time management and faster growth.

By Michael Beck

Written by Michael Beck, "Head Zookeeper" at, a marketing strategies website dedicated to getting more clients, making more money, and having more fun! Receive a FREE program on recruiting & prospecting success at:

Mr. Beck's credentials include an MBA from the Wharton School of Business along with degrees in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Michael has held a variety of executive positions including CEO, COO, CFO, EVP, VP of Finance, and VP of Business Development. In addition, he worked several years overseas as a Business Advisor to a member of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. He is a Founding Member of the International Association of Coaches and a Past-President of the Denver Coach Federation.


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