Building a Winning Business – Patience with New Employees

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookWith introductions and administrative formalities out of the way, it’s time for your new team member to roll up his proverbial sleeves and get to work. Understandably, your expectations are high. You’re finally going to see this genius in action!

Take a deep breath,make a cup of tea, and repeat this ancient Chinese proverb three times: “He who makes no mistakes, usually makes nothing at all.”

With software and probably every other creative endeavor in the world, a poor first draft is almost a requirement. Just expect it. Actually, do more than that. Give your new employees support and encouragement—you know they’re capable of getting it right.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Nothing of value is created without time and effort.  Be patient with new employees and communicate your confidence in their abilities. People usually live up or down to our expectations of them.”

Thoughts Since the Book:

  • Error on the side of “stepping in early” for employees who seem to need more help, training, or resources.  If you have a rigorous hiring process, it makes sense to support new folks 110%.
  • Similarly, for new employees who are “hitting it out of the park,”step-in  early and provide additional training and team members to help them increase their impact on the firm.
  • The $’s associated with a wrong hire are huge (10’s of thousands of $’s).  Treat it as such.

Building a Winning Business – Checking in with New Employees

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookSuccessfully launching a new employee means checking in on regular intervals to see how things are going. I recommend checking in after the person has been on the job for 30, 60, and 90 days.

  • These are informal opportunities to ask how things are going and whether the employee has clear direction on what he should be doing. We also ask whether he needs any tools or training and, most important, whether there is anything else we should be aware of or anything he would like to discuss.
  • Check-ins provide a one-on-one opportunity for employees to share thoughts and concerns. They also continue to communicate to employees that they’re important and you want them to succeed.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Regular, informal check-ins with new employees let them know you are committed to their success. They also allow you to fix early problems before they fester into major issues.”

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Thoughts Since the Book

  •  Most check-ins result in a “all things are well” conversation.  While it may seem like overkill, the purpose of the check-ins is for those few occasions where all is not well and this dedicated, focused one-on-one provides an opportunity to fix an issue and keep an employee

Building a Winning Business – Onboarding New Employees

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookAs anyone who has ever had an awkward first date knows, first impressions matter. Likewise, the amount of effort you put into effectively bringing someone new into your organization plays a significant role in whether or not he becomes a long-term employee.

  • At Intertech, we send a floral arrangement to a new employee’s home upon acceptance of our offer, with a note of welcome. The week before he starts, we send an e-mail explaining what to expect the first week
  •  Beyond the obvious orientation activities—lunch, HR forms, and meeting other employees—set the tone quickly by telling the new person about your company’s history, particularly through anecdotes and personal observations. This can be more challenging at large and long-established corporations, but even in those organizations mentors can tell new employees about their own relevant work experiences to make the culture come alive.
  • At Intertech, instead of a PowerPoint deck that talks about our history, I take the new hire around town to see the company’s milestones (such as the 800-square-foot house where our firm was hatched in my early 20s). Before or after our driving history tour, I talk about the company’s strategic plan, where we’re headed, our communications guidelines, and, most important, how the employee fits into our future.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “You only get one chance to make a first impression. Take the time and care to communicate with new employees, letting them know you’re confident that they quickly will become valued members of your team.”

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Thoughts since the Book

  • For some strategic hires, I’ve created an onboarding document that outlines our org chart, a breakdown of their team, key meetings, core responsibilities, logins/access to sites and systems.  This document was sent prior to the first day and made for a rapid transition.

Building a Winning Business – The Job Offer

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookWhen negotiating an offer, clarity and a deadline are essential. In negotiating, the person with the least amount of interest has the most power. When you’ve presented your offer, don’t hound the candidate. It makes you seem desperate. If the candidate starts making hefty demands, think hard about whether this person will fit in your organization over the long term. If you agree to bonuses and other perks, make sure the person understands what you expect in return.




  • If you require employees to sign a non-compete agreement, remember that you must disclose that at the same time you make the offer. Conversely, if you decide to pass on a candidate, succinctly thank the person for his time and frame the rejection letter correctly by stating, “At this time, given our interview process, we are choosing to proceed with other candidates.” This makes the rejection clean and gives the candidate no opening to try to change your mind.
  • Finally, put an expiration date on the offer. Give the candidate a reasonable amount of time to make a decision, but for everyone’s sake, provide a definite end date on the offer consideration period.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Once you’ve presented a fair offer with a clear deadline attached, give the candidate a reasonable amount of time to make the decision.”

Thoughts Since the Book:

  • Like a business deal or personal purchase, with a high-end candidate, know your “walk away number”

Building a Winning Business – Negotiating a Job Offer

Building-a-Winning-Business-BookWhen you’ve found a top-performing candidate whose skills, personality, and values fit with your organization, it’s time to negotiate an offer. I believe in the guidance given in the book ‘First, Break All the Rules,’ which advises that people be treated candidly.

  • When talking with a serious candidate, find out what’s most important to him by asking up front—is it time off, telecommuting, money, or something else? Take that into consideration when you make your offer.
  • Of course, there are no guarantees that candor will result in a happily-ever-after scenario. We’ve had experienced executives demand significant pay, bonus, and benefit packages. In some cases, we’ve agreed. In a few of those cases, we later let them go. There is no entitlement. If someone demands a lot, a lot should be expected of him. If he doesn’t deliver what he promised, then he needs to be let go.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “Understand what a potential employee values before making an offer. If someone expects a lot, you should expect a lot in return.”

Thoughts Since the Book

  • While the example in the book is of a couple of candidates demanding a lot and not delivering, in the past couple of years, we’ve had employees with very solid compensation packages and deliver a ton of value for the firm.
  • Enough people value being able to do some work from home (WFH), that we’ve baked it into our SOP.  Whether it’s the flexibility to WFH or our sabbatical program, these types of benefits are hard for a much larger firm to match when a candidate is comparing offers (i.e. if these types work-life-balance benefits are not in place at a Fortune 1000 company, the odds of the large firm being able to quickly change their policies to match what we can offer is low).