A couple of months ago, Bob Pritchett sent me an email that he was coming to Louisville for a conference, so we decided to meet for breakfast. Bob is an entrepreneur and wrote the book Fire Someone Today. He runs a blog by the same name. Bob gave me a copy of his book, and of course my first question was why he chose such an unusual title. He explained that he regularly met with a group of entrepreneurs who all discussed their current business situations, and that by the end of the meeting, someone at one of the companies was always getting fired.
Bob points out the counterintuitive idea that the reason we hold on to people who should be fired isn't because we are nice, but because we are selfish and lazy. We don't want to admit that we made a hiring mistake. We don't want to look for a new employee. We don't want to have to deal with the unknown. We keep standing by, hoping it will someone work itself out. But as Bob points out in his book, if you really love your business, you have to do what is best for it, and often that means letting an employee go.
Fire Someone Today is not like most books. Usually when you read a book by a CEO, it is all about the things he or she did right and how you can learn to be just as brilliant. While Bob's book talks about his successes, it also focuses heavily on his mistakes. This book is valuable because it is a refreshing and honest look at the errors that many people make when running their own businesses. By learning from Bob's mistakes, you can minimize your own.
In the introduction, Bob lays out his credentials.
I have lived through years of 100% growth and years in which we shrank. I have had to lay off people. I have had a million dollars in the bank account, and I have been overdrawn and owing a million.
I am not a professional speaker. I do not write business books for a living. I am not an angel investor, venture capitalist, or business consultant. I am not an academic trying out new business theories. And I do not have an MBA.
I have made a lot of big mistakes. From the, at last, I have learned enough to see strength, stability, and success in my business. And I am not done yet: the business is still growing, and I am still making mistakes.
There are a few quick lessons from the book that I want to cover as examples and, if you like them, you can pick up a copy yourself. First of all, in the chapter Nobody Loves Your Baby Like You Do, Bob talks about how he initially tried to buy from the biggest vendors, until he realized they didn't care about his small orders. Smaller vendors for whom he was a significant client, treated him much better. For instance:
Big Law Firm: Billed the minimum quarter-hour for every five-minute phone call. Billed a quarter-hour for the five-minute phone call I made to point out they'd accidentally billed 2.5 hours, instead of 0.25, for the last five-minute call.
Small Law Firm: Doesn't bill for five minute calls.
Big Accounting Firm: Held audit hostage for 25% more than agreed-upon fee because "it took longer than we expected."
Small Accounting Firm: Delivered bill and suggested I pay the full amount only if I was satisfied with the work because they didn't want any unhappy customers.
When it comes to recruiting, Bob is a man after my own heart. He notes that it is very easy to do a sloppy job of hiring. His suggestion of what to look for is on the money with respect to my own personal experience. He says to hire people that say things like:
- I use your product, and I really like it. I t would be great to be part of the team that makes and sells it.
- I am really interested in the technology/tools you use, and I want to learn more about them
- This job will let me exercise my talent in…
- I researched your company, and it is a perfect fit for me because…
In other words, don't hire people just looking for a job. Hire people that are a good fit for your particular company because they want to be there.
Three final things I really liked from the book:
- Bob's take on strategy – decide whether you are competing on quality, price or service. Trying to be everything is almost impossible.
- Bob insists that you not hire an optimistic accountant. Hire an accountant who always thinks things are going to get worse, and he or she will protect your financials.
- And the single best idea that I picked up from the book – it's important to document processes, but that doesn't always mean writing manuals. Bob suggests some things are better documented with pictures and video.
I really enjoyed this book, and anyone interested in business would benefit from reading it. This book is ideal for people who run small to mid sized businesses, and people who haven't been at it long enough to rack up the list of mistakes that Bob has. You will save yourself some trouble if you figure these things out now, instead of learning them the hard way.
Summer is here and most of you will be looking for a good book to take on vacation. I recommend you pick up a copy of Fire Someone Today. And be sure to check out Bob's blog for more of his wisdom and ideas.