Good Practices for Recruiting a Senior Team Member

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Dear BAM Mentor,

I am a co-owner in a BAM company (in Thailand) with my business partner and we are looking to add one other to our senior management team. What sort of characteristics or background should I be particularly looking for as I recruit? How should we be preparing them (or encouraging them to prepare)? No one person is going to be the complete package, so what should I focus on and is there anything you would consider a ‘deal breaker’?

~ Rookie Recruiter

Dear Rookie,

Much of what you need to look for in a new senior management team member is what any business would look for: skill and experience that will add to the business. Every BAM business requires a complex set of skills and competencies and these are generally met by contributions from a number of different people working together. Be clear first on what skills the business needs, then on what skills you have in place. You can then see more clearly what skills you would want to bring in this new person you’re recruiting. The skills could be administrative, marketing and sales knowledge, financial expertise or skill regarding local language, culture and spiritual dynamics, just to name a few. But don’t expect anyone to bring everything. We all bring our weaknesses as well as our strengths to any position!

If you plan to make this new person a partner you need to deal appropriately with issues of equity in the business; how much each of you owns and – if some owners are active in the business and others aren’t – how is low cost labor valued? If the new person brings outside financial support as part of his or her compensation you need to understand how this is seen by all parties. It’s good to anticipate at the beginning of the relationship discussions you may have to have if someone needs to leave unexpectedly. Blunt and frank discussions early on can help ward off ugly confrontations that might come a few years out.

The real key to building any team is being able to work together so you can benefit from complementary strengths. You want to have people with very different outlooks and skills. A rich team brings together very different people and allows them to use their different strengths. But for this to work the team members need to be able to cooperate and benefit from their differences. Otherwise the differences become a source of confusion, conflict and division rather than strength and new insight. Some people are naturally loners who tend not to communicate and cooperate with others. That can be very dangerous in a senior team member. Others naturally work cooperatively but may come with many pre-conceptions about BAM or your company that may not fit your situation.

Another aspect to address is around understanding of team and social issues. Are you looking to build a tight team that focuses together on ministry as well as the business? Or are you looking for someone to work at your business who may or may not choose to join your other ministry or social activities. “Team” turns out to be a loaded word with very different understandings depending on the individual’s prior experiences and cultural/social background. If this is a foreigner new to the culture, are you clear how they will be helped to settle in, learn language and culture and thrive on a personal level? If it is someone already in the general community, are clear what changes outside of work hours you are expecting?

Communication of the company’s vision and alignment to it then becomes a key step in the recruiting and accepting process. This can sound trivial but it’s really foundational to your relationship. In the enthusiasm of a new relationship it is easy to assume you understand one another, but slight differences in what a word or concept means can have enormous consequences in the future. So agreeing on ownership and compensation is important, but so is agreeing on the spiritual vision and the operating philosophies of the business. How are key decisions made? How do you deal with conflict and disagreements? What is your approach to sales and service? What about business ethics? How do you see God working through the business; are you aggressively evangelistic, or do you have more of a lifestyle witness? Ideally you should be able to describe the culture you have and/or are trying to build in the company and the new person should be not just acquiescent, but enthusiastic about helping make it a reality.

The cost of a bad choice or unaddressed misunderstandings can be very high for both of you, especially if the new person will be relocating to a different city or country. These issues need to be teased out and addressed. It’s important you take the time to do it thoroughly and well. When you’re ready to agree I’d suggest a clear, written agreement. Writing an agreement (a partnership agreement or an employment agreement) forces you to be crystal clear on the terms. It can also save you from the pain of relying on faulty memories in the future. Like any contract, one hopes not to have to pull it out and enforce it, but just the fact that it exists and was signed will help keep misunderstandings to a minimum – and most of our conflict comes from misunderstandings.

~ Robert

More Responses on this topic:

From Garry:

You are wise to seek advice on this topic. Although business is very complex, most things such as pricing, margins, overheads, etc. can be addressed and adjusted as required. However, if you bring the wrong person into the core management team it can be disastrous. It is similar to adding way too much salt to a soup – once it’s done, it’s hard to undo and you may have to start over.

Since it is usually so hard to find someone with the right Kingdom goals it is tempting to put on your rose colored glasses, find any reasonably close fitting candidate and then hope for the best. This is always risky.

Your question is rather vague, so the first thing to do is systematically address some fundamentals. Many failures in hiring are caused by a lack of proper communication from the hiring organization towards the person being hired. The following overall factors must be addressed: detailed role definition, relationships to existing and future staff, management style, authority boundaries, incentives, performance evaluation and termination conditions and procedures. [Read More…]

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