When small businesses hire people who have worked in larger businesses to come in at a senior level there are often mis-matched expectations that can result in an expensive failure.

As the business owner your client will be expecting that the new person will “show us how it should be done” and “make us more productive”.  They will be looking for that secret formula that bigger businesses apparently have.

Certainly, the new person will have experience of larger, more complex operations.  They may have a high level of professional expertise.  But they will probably have been operating at a relatively junior level (branch or functional manager, say) and been sheltered from the commercial realities of the business.  They will be accustomed to a support network, demarcation, rules and procedures that do not exist in a small business.  They may struggle to adapt to the “good enough, get it done today, learn by doing, we need the sales” approach that characterises most small businesses.

Your client also needs to consider their motivations for moving to a small business.  Do they want to take on more responsibility, pitch in and start to develop their commercial understanding and career whilst helping your client grow their business?  Or do they want to move from a relatively junior position to something that sounds rather grander – become a big fish in a small pond?  Or maybe they see your client’s business as providing an easy life after the grind of a corporate career?

Don’t let your client underestimate the value in the way they do things currently.  The only safe place to start with your new hire is to assume they know nothing.  If they are competent, hard-working and adaptable they won’t need the trainer wheels for long.  If on the other hand they are a fish out of water then your client must spend longer teaching them how things are done in their business. 

Here is the key point:  If your client is running a systemised business already (with checklists, clear processes, key performance indicators and targets) then this is simple.  If they aren’t, the new hire will probably only add to the chaos (and costs) for the short and depressing time they are with your client.

This begs the question from your client “Why hire someone senior in the first place if I have to teach them what to do?”  Well, firstly, if they run a systemised business, and if they hire someone with the right motivation and adaptability, then once they have taught them the way their business makes money they can start to give some value back by deploying the things they learned in bigger business.  Your client will then start to reap the rewards of having hired a big-hitter.

Secondly and more generally, if your client runs a growing business then they will need to hire people and this systemised, teaching approach is the way they should deal with all hires, not just the big-hitters.

BusinessCoachKit provides all the tools and templates to make sure that your clients’ new hires succeed.