We all know a friend who married the crazy guy or girl that was Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful. Attractive, smart, and a high achiever — who’s crazy and the story ends in disaster. In our early adult years, such trophies were certainly attractive, but as we age, having dependable, boring relationships has more appeal. Business is much the same way. The upwardly-mobile employee can make us a lot of money, but such maverick’s demands can be overwhelming. Yes, hire the best, but defining who the best is can be difficult.

For small business, loyalty is a precious trait. I’m not talking about “yes” people, but rather individuals who are company-minded as well as being high achievers. When hiring, here are some traits to look for:

Have they moved around a lot?

If the person has an unstable employment record, it can be an indication of a lot of things, one of which is loyalty, or lack thereof. Ask lots of questions as to why the person left the other jobs and if they don’t make total sense, don’t hire them. Trust your gut. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Consider some type of professional personality employment test run by a qualified psychologist or personnel organization. Such tests can be very useful and expect to pay several hundred dollars for the process.

What have they done that’s team oriented?

Wrestlers, soccer, football players are all part of a team activity where everyone depends on one another. Golfers, tennis players and track folks are on a team but more independent in nature. Have they had a job where they coached and developed employees or were they always the star? 

Ok, you want that star salesperson who’s a killer. That’s ok but again, if it’s all about he or she you may just be a passing stop until something better comes along. Hire them with a mindset that they may not be there forever. Also, have them enter a non-compete agreement prior to hiring. 

Compensation can impact  employee loyalty

If compensation is only measured on sales and profit, individuals will act accordingly. Design bonus and commission packages that are company, as well as individual-performance driven. Bonuses should also be about more than company profit. Especially for managers, bonuses should be tied to organizational goals and direction. Show me a business where managers get commissions only on profit and I’ll show you a short term-oriented organization that does not have time for training, planning, advertising, buying new equipment, etc. This logic can also apply to salespeople. Suppose your business wants to do more repair work. Paying the same commission on a $750 repair versus a $10,000 reroof does not excite the salesperson. I also like compensation systems that tie into total gross profit, not just sales or net profit. The company and individual should both win.

Tortoise and the Hare

The story of the tortoise and the hare can apply to business. Sometimes people with a stellar start end up falling behind “steady Eddie.” If people are willing to work hard, they can succeed even if they don’t appear as dynamic as the hot shot. To be a good salesperson, you merely need to know your trade, be a good listener and enjoy working with people. Training also helps. I’ve trained thousands of salespeople and I find the intelligent introvert who enjoys people will make the best salesperson. Selling is a skill of listening, not talking.

Managing people requires organizational and communication skills. A good manager is someone who likes to finish things and complete projects. Managers want to fix the details. They’re the kind of people when entering the building in the morning will take the time to pick up a piece of trash laying on the lawn. They want to do things completely. Missing details and incompletion bothers them. 

If you have a good system and structured culture, it’s easier for ordinary folks to succeed. If you don’t have good systems and structure, some of your less talented folks will struggle because they don’t have a plan to follow. Some of your maverick, dynamic employees will rebel against structure and not like to follow the rules. Your culture has a lot to do with your success. Recruiting the best 5-star high school basketball recruits can make for a dynamic college team. However, if they leave after the first year and turn pro, you’re always recruiting. Always recruiting in a small business can make life tough. You can also have a good basketball team by recruiting good players and putting them into the right coaching system.

Company culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors regarding how employees and management interact. If people frequently leave your organization, what in your culture is driving that? Do the people hired not fit into your organization? Are you making some bad hires? The buck stops with you; take some time to sort it out. You may be too close to the problem to be objective and need someone outside your organization to help sort things out.