By Rieva Lesonsky
Small business owners wear many hats—CEO, CFO, CMO and CIO, not to mention janitor and receptionist. So the first day you’re able to hire an employee may feel like a great day. But it can also be the day you make your biggest mistake: hiring your clone.
Hiring your clone can mean hiring someone who has the same (or similar) skills as you. It’s easy to see how this happens. For most of us, our circle of contacts is heavily weighted toward people in our industry. If you own a marketing and advertising agency, chances are most of your contacts are in that field. You’re less likely to know lots of accountants or computer programmers. So when you put the word out that you’re hiring, you’re likely to get lots of feelers and leads from people in your industry—maybe even people you’ve worked with before.
Or maybe you decide to take on a partner. That needs to be someone you’re comfortable with, so it’s often natural to look to a close friend or co-worker for that role.
That’s not a bad thing, but it is important to make sure you’re casting a wide net and not just hiring someone who’s in your “comfort zone.”
Look further afield by using niche job boards to post your positions. Or simply go beyond the people who reach out to you and ask them if they know candidates who have expertise in industries you don’t.
If you’ve managed to escape the trap of hiring someone with the same skills, background or experience as you, congratulations. But you still run the risk of hiring your clone in other ways. I’m talking about personality—and hiring a personality clone can be just as dangerous for your business.
If you’re an energetic idea generator but not good with details, hiring others who share that personality will doom your business to failure. You need to bring on a few sticklers who thrive on project management to make sure your big dreams actually come true. Conversely, if you tend to get bogged down in details, you might need a partner with “big-picture” thinking who can keep your eyes on the prize. An optimist needs a pessimist to temper the rose-colored glasses with reality. And a shy person needs someone more outgoing to handle the “people” part of running a business.
If you’re tempted to hire your clone, don’t get down on yourself. It’s only natural to be attracted to people who are like us. But just as you probably pushed yourself out of your comfort zone to start your business, you need to push beyond your comfort zone to help it grow. That means hiring partners or key employees who don’t always mesh with your way of thinking. And that’s a good thing, because great ideas can come from conflict.