Getting Great People

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The following editorial was provided by Results Accountants Systems.

It seems a long time ago now.

I was playing the classic ‘victim' — something had happened that I didn't think was my fault and I said so. And then this wise person said something I've remembered ever since:

“When you point the finger of blame at someone, there are one, two, three fingers pointing right back at you.” (To understand that graphically, just go ahead and point at someone close to you right now. Then count the bent fingers of your hand that point right back to you.)

What is the point (no pun intended)? Simply this, talk with many professionals right now and they'll say, “you simply can't get great people these days can you?” Notice the implied “it's not my fault” in there. Far better to say, “I can't get great people these days.”

When you say it that way, you see where the problem is. It's not the lack of great people — it's the lack of us being totally attractive to great people. Or to put it another (and rather obvious) way, someone is getting those great people, it's just not me.

The moment you do that, you see where the responsibility for the issue lies. Most people in the profession are simply not making themselves attractive to great people. Perhaps the classic question to ask is this, “Would I work for me?”

But not only don't we make ourselves attractive, we inadvertently tell people we think we are unattractive by the ads we run. Take a look at them. They're all the same, relatively dull and boring and offering promises that don't ring true or build confidence. The classic question here is this, “If I was a great person, would I respond to this?” (And of course, an even better option than ads is to ask the people on the team who are already great to go out and find some great people — after all, they probably had dinner with them last night. Were they saying, “you should work at our place, it is truly an amazing place to be.”)

But suppose you don't go down that route (although you should) then let's get back to the ads you might run. Great headlines make the difference. For example, a headline that says “Wanted, people with passion, people with heart” will get passionate people reading and then responding (if the rest of the ad is consistent with the message).

Here's a good example:

We want an accountant who can help us create beans rather than simply count them. Can you do that?

Our Accounting firm is NOT the boring place people think of when they think “accounting firm”. Because we're what's called a ‘Results Accountants' firm, we're doing far more for our clients– more than historical figures, more than ‘bean counting'. In fact, we focus on helping our clients with the growth and development of their business through applying new skill sets. We use exciting software tools and new resources to help our clients create history rather than just report on it. So if you're really not the ‘standard' accountant – if you want a fun, team environment, client interaction, rewards, challenges, success, constant learning and if you have strong technical competencies then send us your story.

The exciting thing about this ad is that it is NOT going to get hoards of people responding but it is going to get the good ones. And so your selection process gets easier.

So how should that selection process be run? The simple answer is, by the team — totally! There are several obvious reasons — not the least of which is that since the new hire(s) will be working with the team, they should be the ones doing the choosing (another reason is they'll be far tougher than you ever will be!)

Now of course, you need to give the team guidance. And a great way to do that is to systematize the questions. Here are some we know work really well:

· What goals have you set yourself (great people have no difficulty answering this question precisely; lesser people will waffle on it)
· What was your best and worst experience at your last job?
· How do you define a successful career?
· What type of person is the hardest for you to get along with?
· What major contribution do you think you'll you bring here?
· What would your teachers say about you?
· Tell me about the 3 latest books or articles you've read.

And then give the team a framework to evaluate the candidate. Break the areas up into things like:

· Energy
· Optimist
· Disciplined
· Street smarts
· Appearance
· Goal oriented

and so on.

So let's assume you've done all that and that you've selected someone. What then? Well, some great people we know send engagement letters to new hires that in essence say this:

Welcome. We're glad to invite you to join the team.

We have a “buddy” system in place as you know so on Monday when you start, you'll meet with Michelle Dalton in the lobby for a two hour tour of the office, taking care to getting to know a little better some of the people you'll be working with.

Between now and then, it's really important you go to the local bookstore and get two books (they are books by which we live by here). One is Stephen Covey's ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People' and the other is “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. If you have difficulty getting the books, please let John Jones here know about that and we'll find a way of getting copies from our library to you.

Then, on the Monday after you've taken time with the team, I'd like to see you in my office for 45 minutes or so so that we can get to know each other and so that you can give me your impressions of the books. I'd really like to know what you got most from them.

Again, congratulations for joining us. It's going to be great working with you.

Managing Partner

Pretty neat stuff isn't it? And you can see immediately how they get great people to start being even better on day one, so that those great people then go get more great people and so on.

And of course, a letter like that speaks volumes about where the practice is and what it values. You know instantly that when you go into a practice like that it IS a different place.

Steve Siegel and his partners at Lipschultz, Levin and Gray in Chicago epitomize what that means. THERE ARE NO OFFICES in their offices. At first sight and in reality it is a very different place. When you go in it looks fairly normal (picture one) but then when you turn your head to the left you see some chairs (picture two) the like of which you've never seen before anywhere, let alone an Accountant's office. It tells you a lot about the firm (visit for more information — you'll see precisely what we mean).

Surprise surprise, Siegel has no difficulty getting great people. In fact, people are writing to him frequently saying, “this looks like a great place to work, can I work with you?” And I've never seen Siegel pointing the finger of blame. There's a message there somewhere, methinks.

Paul Dunn
Results Accountants' Systems

Results Accountants' Systems provides systems, training and resources, along with the world's largest worldwide network of independent accounting firms, the Results Accountants Network. Visit RAS at

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