Steve Jobs’s Tips for Hiring Your A-Team -Jay Elliott

Define the requirements but don’t be rigid.
At first glance, this point will sound painfully obvious. But too often, the person doing the hiring hasn’t given enough thought to defining the need precisely enough. You might be interviewing the perfect person and not realize it. Or the person in charge of filling the position might be looking for the wrong type of candidate. Worse, you run a high risk of hiring the wrong person.

Steve always had a very clear grasp of the need. Yet at the same time, he was not at all rigid about what qualifications he was looking for. Sometimes his choices surprised me, when he saw something in a candidate hardly anyone else would have seen — something that told him, “This is the right person for the job.”

That’s what happened with Susan Kare. At her high school in Pennsylvania, Susan had known Andy Hertzfeld, who would become one of the early Mac team members. Steve was captivated by the “graphical user interface” he had seen at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, which used icons on the screen to make routine operations obvious and easy; you use such an icon every time you drag something to the trashcan symbol.

Who was going to dream up those icons, and the other parts of a pleasing and easy-to-use onscreen design? Andy suggested Susan, whom he knew had become an accomplished artist. Almost any other executive in those circumstances would not have agreed to let Susan come in for an interview: She was a creative artist who knew nothing about technology. She had “not qualified” written all over her.

But Steve saw in her a spark, the ability to catch on quickly and the kind of creativity that suggested she would be able to offer the kind of inventive contributions Steve was committed to having. He decided that Susan’s talent, passion and flair were more important than the fact that her background in technology was a big blank. He accepted her as a key part of the Mac team.

Don’t limit your search to the usual methods.
Steve’s accepting invitations to lecture to classes at Stanford University became part of his routine. The students considered it a rare privilege to be able to discuss real-life business problems with an entrepreneur whose start-up company was already in the forefront of the new industry of personal computers. But it was a two-way street. Steve felt inspired and energized by the students. And everywhere he went, he had his antennae up to find likely candidates for the Macintosh group.

Mike Murray was a 20-something MBA student at one of those sessions. Steve spoke plainly about Apple and how we were trying to change the world with personal computers. That was all Mike needed to hear; he wanted to be part of it. Steve was impressed, and Mike was given the job of heading up the marketing group for the Mac.

Bob Bellville was 21 in the spring of 1981 and about to graduate from Stanford. For some eight years, he had been working at least part time at Xerox. Steve saw that Bob had a deep insight into how to build technology into a total product. Bob also had valuable insight into how a company should operate, which Steve liked. He saw a very smart engineer who had independent thought and technical leadership abilities.

Someone at Stanford gave Steve the name of Mike Boich, a former Stanford undergraduate who had gone on to earn an MBA at Harvard. Steve got in touch with Mike and hired him. It was Mike Boich who tackled one of the toughest challenges facing the Macintosh when it was launched, coining the word “evangelists” for people on the team he helped assemble: Their job was to persuade software developers to create software programs for the Mac, and it proved to be a very successful effort — so crucial that the Macintosh might not have survived without the evangelists.

Talented people know other talented people.
Steve often said, “Make sure you’re hiring only A-players.” Hire a few B-players, he said, and they hire B’s and C’s, and pretty soon the whole operation is going to pot. Obviously not everyone can afford to hire only A-players. So how do you find people who are exceptionally talented and a good fit? One of the greatest sources is your own employees. Really sharp people generally prefer the company of other really sharp people. When you need to hire someone, you ask the people on the team to recommend somebody they admire.

This Black Friday Shop Local!

In between the Black Friday sales and the Cyber Monday deals is Small Business Saturday (November 24th) — a day set aside to support the small businesses that play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities all across the country.

Small businesses are the back bone of our communities. And when we shop small, we not only get great products and services, but we support our neighbors and strengthen our local economies.

Over the last two decades, small and new businesses have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S., and today over half of all working Americans own or work for a small business.

Want to participate in Small business Saturday?  Here is what you can do:

  • If you are a business owner, register your business at http://www.shopsmall.com so your customers know where to find you and you can receive free Small Business Saturday promotional materials. You can also make sure you’re prepared for the holiday season by checking out SBA’s advice at http://www.sba.gov/Saturday.
  • If you are a customer, learn which businesses in your community are participating in Small Business Saturday at http://www.shopsmall.com. The website provides information on businesses currently registered and how you can rally your community to support the initiative.

 

By shopping small, we can help America’s small businesses do what they do best: grow their businesses, create good jobs and ensure that our communities are vibrant.  I encourage you to join small business owners and the more than one hundred million people who were part of Small Business Saturday last year.

 

Shop small this holiday season. I know I will.

Something Scary for Halloween

It was a dark and stormy night.

Working late, you had almost finished updating your customer database, when lightning struck, and the power went off. After what seemed an eternity of searching for flashlights and candles, the lights came back on. You turned on the computer, accessed the program to complete the job and hand…and found NO FILES in the database!  Was the information stored somewhere on a flash drive? Maybe, but when was the last time it was updated?

Data backup is a lot like flossing. We all know we really should do it, but we tend to forget about it more often than not. When you’re running a business, losing all your data – even on one computer – is a very high cost to pay for procrastination.

Backing up data is about repetition and reliability. Your data backup needs to run automatically and do the job well. Your data should be backed up in a single, reliable location. Instead of each computer having its own backup solution, it’s better to have a specific location backup. Often, a small office may designate one computer on the network to be a file server that the rest of the computers store files on. Ideally, the data on the file server computer should be backed up to an external drive to be stored off-site in case of a disaster at the office location. However, this computer is just as prone to failure as any of the other computers. Also, this computer will be on continuously as well as dealing with multiple file saving locations, and the drive will invariably fail faster.

The best way to convert to a more secure system is to set up a cloud-based syncing program. You may have an onsite backup hard drive; but when was the last time you checked to make sure it even worked? People often discover that the server or external hard drive that they’ve been backing up to has failed – and discover it while they’re trying to recover data.

Cloud backup doesn’t depend on the infallibility of a single computer. Once you have it set up on the computers you need to back up, you can just forget about it. Syncing is all automatic so you won’t have to deal with the possibility of forgetting a nightly backup or an employee forgetting to save to the backup server. One downside to relying entirely on cloud-based backup solutions is that you have to be connected to the internet for it to work. There are many options available for backing up data to “the cloud”, some are purchased by monthly or annual subscription based on the amount of data to be stored, while others are free for a limited amount of storage. This CNET article talks about some of the options available at http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33153_7-57387515-10391733/reader-poll-whats-the-best-free-online-backup-solution/.

Economic Outlook for Rural Small Business

There is good news for rural small businesses, because the rural economic outlook for this year is brighter than the national economic outlook. The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI), which ranges between 0 and 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral, rose to a solid 56.6 from September’s weak 48.3.  It was the first time since June that the index rose above growth neutral. Becky McCray of Small Biz Survival has an excellent article on reasons for the difference and rural small business trends at http://files.mccrayandassoc.com/downloads/RuralSmallBizTrends2012.pdf.