How to find the best employees without a recruitment budget


Jim Collins, best-selling author and leadership coach, alludes to an old Greek fable; the charming, handsome, fast fox who knew a little about everything and became easily distracted. He came to challenge a humble, slow hedgehog who only knew how to do one or two things…consistently, repeatedly and really well.

The fox had made a fast start and raced to 50 metres off the finish line, when saw something shiny out of the corner of his eye. He walked over to investigate. A friend saw him, started talking and they both wandered off for a drink. The race no longer important to him.

Conversely, the hedgehog was simply focused on getting from A to B. Step by step, she stayed focused, on track and eventually crossed the line, the fox having long ago forgotten about being in the race.

This story is an enduring analogy of the distracting world we live in and how unfocused we become when it comes to the “important things” in our business and personal lives.

Stress and overwhelm happens when we neglect these important matters, until it’s too late. This has spawned a whole industry of support for business owners, one of them being Human Resources.

The fox read somewhere that a bad hire costs business owners fifteen times the employee’s annual salary, so they wanted to get it right. He decided to buy into an expensive, time-consuming process that actually has no guarantees, in the hope that he could abdicate this tedious and important task to someone else.

The fox strategy: he requires a new employee, needs him right now, goes into panic by googling his local Human Resources consultant to do the work and recruit a new employee.

The hedgehog, however, employs another strategy. She has foresight, anticipating when the growth will come in her business and exactly where added support will be required. She also understands exactly the sort of person who will fit into their business culture, as well as who will passionately make sure the job is done.

This business strategy utilises a habit of networking, asking every week, “Who should I employ? Who do you know who would be great in my business?”

There are two areas they draw from:

  1. Their own staff, who are great at what they do, who know who they’d love to work with and who usually hang out with similar sorts of people.
  2. The second group are from their business network – their customers, their colleagues, even the people who give them unforgettable service, they ask these people, because these people know the people who would make the best employees for the business.

Recruitment is just one area where you can take the pressure off your business, by being less of a “fox”. If you apply more of the “hedgehog” strategy to this and other parts of the business you will find you suffer less from overwhelm, less from last-minute stress and the business will tend to flow more smoothly.

In this case, implementing a weekly habit of focused small actions can help build a valuable data base of high quality potential employees, ready for when you need the extra help.

Some sports-minded business owners call this aspect of Human Resources a “Virtual Bench” – a batch of “Impact Players” who are on the sidelines in your game of business.

Mike Kennedy, Business Coach, Paradigm Switch