Is your small business stagnating? It could be your people…


POHEC: A scientific approach to finding a solution

It may seem like ages ago when your small business plan was finalized and your new venture was up and running for the first time. Business has evolved but now it seems like it’s stagnant or worse, at risk for failing. This is not all too uncommon for startups for many reasons including, but not limited to: not generating enough business by lacking an organized and persistent selling plan, inability to hire talent to replicate or complement the initial venture talent, inability to secure funding to move the new venture off plateaus or loss of strategic vision or lack of ability to evolve the strategic vision. Other reasons can include lack of management and effective leadership or even downright complacency. As the founder, you have to evaluate what’s going on in the venture and then make decisions that will ultimately decide if the business is going to grow or continue fall stagnant and risk failing.

Thomas Harrison, author of Instinct: Tapping Your Entrepreneurial DNA to Achieve your Business Goals, applies the scientific method to clarify problems and challenges in order to speed up solving such problems in an analytic way. He uses the acronym POHEC or Problem, Observation, Hypothesis, Experimentation, and Conclusion/Recapitulation. Understanding a business problem is the first step of identifying a solution. We can use POHEC method to dissect one of the common small business problem listed above:

Inability to hire talent to replicate or complement the initial venture talent.

Observing the source of the problem
Hiring an initial team for your business venture takes heavy consideration. You’re looking for people to fill a void that you and your employees don’t fill, such as someone who is superior at selling, marketing or accounting. You’re also looking for people who see eye-to-eye on the business venture itself. They have to be passionate about the mission. However, sometimes business owners skip these criteria to what’s first available. notes that, “even though they dream about making all the big decisions as boss of their own enterprise, when the time comes to recruit first teammates, they compromise. It’s true. Instead of seeking out a fabulous fit for their organization, they settle for the first person who “is available” and expresses enthusiasm for the startup mission”. Hiring people for the job without proper consideration could lead to uncertainty that prevents the business from growing.

Creating an opportunity and hypothesizing a solution
Recruiting shouldn’t be a burden but rather an opportunity. You should always be on the lookout and keep an ongoing list of great or complementary minds that fit the businesses’ growing needs. The entrepreneur can create a hiring plan and set of standards they wish to fulfill when evaluating potential recruits. This should be properly outlined in the business plan already, but if not, this is an opportunity to clearly define what is best for the company now that it has been up and running for some time. It can be an opportunity for everyone in the company to be on the lookout for great talent. outlines the following points to consider when hiring talent to grow a business:
         Desired skills – Startup entrepreneurs are prone to hire an unqualified employee because the job candidate claims to be a “fast learner.” “This kind of enthusiasm may work for larger companies with extensive training resources, but not for budget-starved startups. Employees who are asked to do something they’ve never done before are likely to make beginner’s mistakes that will cost your company capital and time. The best way to avoid avoidable problems is to hire employees who have already ‘been there and done that’”. In order to save resources, consider someone who can hit the ground running once hired.

       Desired relevant experience – A business owner will want someone whose experience can be measured in not only years but as well as accomplishments. It is also safe to say a relevant work environment is an important thing to consider as well. “A marketing manager who managed promotion campaigns for a well-established, big-budget corporation may flounder when asked to conceive and implement promotional campaigns for a cash-poor startup”.

       Competitive drive— A go-getter mentality is obviously desired for a startup employee since they are at the starting line of growing a strong customer base. “Great startup employees embrace competitive challenges, hate losing clients to competitors and are highly motivated to exceed work goals. During interviews with prospective employees, ask about sports interests and other personal and professional activities that involve achievement under pressure”. The business owner should look for recruit has innate entrepreneurial DNA and desire for success, which leads to the last point.

       Obsessive Brute Persistence— “Great startup employees adapt well to shifting priorities and don’t get easily discouraged from unexpected setbacks. Ask prospective employees how they handled career disappointments. Also, invest extra time into talking with prior bosses about a job candidate’s ability to manage frustration in a work setting. Simply stated, all startups need determined problem-solvers, not toxic finger-pointers”. A startup can’t grow if employees are easily frustrated. Entrepreneurs need someone on the floor who can quickly bounce back and get into the mindset of success and growth.


One last point you should seriously consider as an entrepreneur when hiring new talent is whether or not the recruit fits the business culture. Seeing eye-to-eye critical for, not only the businesses’ health, but also for coworkers’ working relationships. If coworkers are not getting along you risk that being reflected in your work output or customers’ impression of your company. “In addition to finding doers, you have to find doers that fit the culture of your company. You want to find people that share the same goals that you do, and you want to set the bar high for what you expect. According to CircleCI, founder Paul Biggar, in setting the bar high, you need to recognize where the bar is for specific roles and seek out the perfect fit for that role. Once you find these people, you have to know how to get them to stay. “While the applicant may be the best designer, engineer, product manager, or recruiter, if they don’t get along with others in the team or are looking for something more conservative or liberal, it might be best to pass”. You don’t want someone to throw the balance off of the team. In sum, it is essential to seek out people who best fit the role and the company culture.

Implementing the solution
The hypothesis is put to test when the solution is implemented, or in terms of the scientific method, the experiment begins. You’ll have to start hiring talent to grow the business, taking a risk on recruits that have analyzed based on the desired attributes listed in the previous sections. The problem at hand is not hiring the right talent for growth. As the entrepreneur does hire new people, keep in mind that not only is the business a growing firm, so are the new-hires’ professional careers. Allow them develop and thrive to see how they “respond” to the experiment of working in a startup environment. Hopefully these new hires become the next new level of leaders with as much passion and persistence as the business owner does so that the company can continually grow and be successful.

Concluding recommendations
Once the experiment is over it is time to evaluate the results and the data from the results. In this discussion’s case, was the solution of carefully evaluating new hire talent for the company the right method? It may not be cut and dry but, as a business owner, it is important to remember you will only be as good as the people you surround yourself with. “If a new employee doesn’t fit in with the company rhythm or perform well during the first few months on the job, don’t delay in discussing your dissatisfaction”. Eric Feng, CTO of media company Flipboard, notes that “firing someone is never an easy thing to do, but that if there’s a need to do it, it should be taken care of in a ‘definitive and expedited manner’. In fact, the worst thing you could do is recognize that you have a problem in your company and culture, but don’t confront it” . If the hypothesis turns out to be wrong, take the necessary steps as soon as possible by risking the same solution with a second trial or revaluate hiring standard and desired candidate attributes. The most important thing to keep in mind is to do what’s best for your business’s mission and the entrepreneur’s strategic vision. Using the POHEC method to understand a problem and quickly hypothesize a solution and implement it can be an effective way for businesses owners to be prosperous. My Entrpreneurship in IMC professor recommended that not all small businesses actually need employees, particularly in integrated marketing start-ups. Consider looking into hourly services or freelances for certain tasks such as, but of course not limited to, PeoplePerHour, Thumbtack, or HourlyNerd.


Are you an entrepreneur? Share your woes and/or suggestions for finding the right people for your company!


Sources: (image)(1)(2)(3)(4)


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