What Trial And Error Taught Me About Hiring New Employees

I didn’t get my hiring model right on the first try, and it almost broke my business.

Photo: Mark Daoust, founder and CEO of Quiet Light Brokerage; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Mark Daoust, founder and CEO of Quiet Light Brokerage; Source: Courtesy Photo

Bootstrapping a startup is challenging, so when (with very little capital) you start to gain traction and market recognition, it’s a relief to finally consider expanding operations.

When that moment came for me, I was excited to expand my company. The way I saw it, there were only two viable approaches:


  1. Hire “highly skilled salespeople” who could work independently and be trusted with important decisions.

  2. Design systems that would address individual tasks that needed to be managed. I would then make sure I had a well-designed process in place to ensure workflow would run smoothly.


Instead of choosing one option, I decided to combine the two. But without a clearly defined hiring model, my new hires floundered, causing a decline in my business. Luckily, my botched hiring experience helped me to reframe my thinking and course correct.


1. Broadly defined roles don’t work.

The skills I initially targeted were those of “good salespeople”. But this was too broad. What was I really looking for: Someone who excelled at short-term transactional sales or someone who would be more comfortable looking at the big picture by closing long-term relationship-based sales? The term “salesperson” became too broad and confusing.

Meanwhile, my new hires struggled. Since they were paid on commission, they made very little to no money, and many left their jobs shortly thereafter. But it was my fault, and mine alone. They were talented salespeople who were simply placed in the wrong job.


2. Identify your ideal new hire.

At that point, I was seriously considering turning my firm into a boutique, single owner-operator consultancy. Then a former client asked me if he could come on board. At first, I was extremely skeptical and said no, repeatedly. But to his credit, Jason Yelowitz is a persistent man, and I finally agreed. That was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.

I hadn’t exactly resisted hiring Jason. His resume was impressive. But after working very hard to bring on new staff (only to see them struggle), I was not inclined to repeat the process. To my complete surprise, Jason hit the ground running from day one. This enabled me to analyze what made him so successful where his predecessors had failed. I soon developed a checklist of qualities I was looking for in the ideal employee, which in turn, would strengthen my business.


3. Define a hiring model.

At the end of the day, when it comes to our business (selling profitable websites) it is not really something that can be done purely through systemization. The process simply contains too many variables that require human judgment and flexibility. I learned I needed experts in business, not just “good salespeople” who could follow a system.

Since the hiring model had been more clearly defined, my company prospered as a result. No longer was I straddling the fence. I am a firm believer of hiring highly skilled and independent workers. What’s more, we have become one tightly knit family. This has led to higher productivity because everyone feels vested in the company’s success.


Best advice on developing a hiring model that works

Take the time to analyze your product or service and focus your hiring model. Can it be systematized or does it require a human touch? If you choose a systemized model, define your systems clearly. If you choose highly skilled employees, determine precisely which skills are vital to their success.

I didn’t get my hiring model right on the first try, and it almost broke my business. I would encourage you to weigh both options carefully to determine which hiring model is the best fit for your company.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Mark Daoust is the founder and CEO of Quiet Light Brokerage, a website brokerage firm that sells profitable websites valued between $100K-$5MM. Quiet Light’s team is comprised of successful Internet entrepreneurs who have all started, bought, and sold significant Internet enterprises. Connect with @markdaoust on Twitter.


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