Hire people who pass the "airplane" test, as it's called by experienced business owners.

By Jillian Kramer
January 24, 2020
Maskot / Getty Images

Going it alone may not work forever: When you are building a business, there may come a time when you need to build a team, too—people who can trust to help you take your idea to the next level. "I've learned that to succeed in business, you need to always be innovating," explains Lisa Tanzer, president of Life is Good. "And when you're innovating, you're going to fail from time to time—it's inevitable. But when you work with a team you trust, you can fail gracefully, get back on your feet fast, and learn a whole lot along the way. Trusting your team lets everybody be courageous and have big ideas—which in turn results in a lot of success for the entire company."

Nancy Bruns, CEO of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, launched the company with her brother—but their team of two quickly couldn't handle production. "We had to build a team to help carry the weight and grow the business with us," she explains. "Starting and building a team wasn't easy. I am an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist—I should probably be locked up—and turning over the reins felt impossible. But it was necessary to grow. And I believe building a team I could trust was critical to giving me peace of mind and confidence my business was in good hands."

If you're ready to build a team around your business and take it to the next level, here's exactly how you can do it, from women business owners who have built (and now love) their own teams.

Related: Martha Shares Her Best Advice for Future Entrepreneurs

Hire for the right reasons.

When you interview potential teammates, Tanzer says you should try to "really understand why someone wants the job. Do they just need the paycheck, or are they truly passionate about the role and aligned with the company values? At Life Is Good, we believe that when you love what you do, work doesn't feel like work. Joint passion is the foundation for a strong team culture."

Hire to your weaknesses.

When Crystal Hinds, owner of Effervescence in New Orleans, started to build her team, she felt it was important to hire to her own weaknesses, then strive to learn from her teammates. "I really am not a numbers person, but knew I would be dealing with lots of numbers as owner and CEO of Effervescence," she explains. And so, one of her first hires was a small-business accountant.

Help people get settled, then get out of the way.

Once you hire a team you can trust, "get out of the way," Bruns encourages. "Equipping people with the tools, confidence, care, and support they need is necessary for a happy, healthy team. When you foster people, they successfully foster the business. And once they feel confident and empowered, it changes the game. And then, just get out of the way and let them do their thing."

Make sure your teammates pass the "airplane" test.

You don't want to build a talented team that you don't want to be around. "It's deceptively simple: Hire people you like and want to be around," says Tanzer. "If they have all the necessary skills and you could sit next to them on an airplane for four hours, they're probably a fantastic fit. We spend a lot of time at work, so why not spend it with people who have the skills and background to succeed and are also fun?" That's a win-win for your business, she explains.

Know you'll make mistakes—and it's perfect fine.

Like it or not, when you're new to hiring, you may not always pick the perfect teammates. "You will make mistakes with hiring and you might not always chose the right person for the right job on the first pass," says Nicole Parker, vice president of business development for FoodStory Brands. "That's OK. Learn from it and adjust your interview framework. Ask yourself if there were things that you noticed but may have dismissed, thinking they would not become an issue."

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