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Jon Mason

Jon Mason is the CEO and Principle Consultant of Elaura, a business that specialises in helping leaders manage their talent. You can read more on this and related topics at and


September 27, 2017

Hiring the Right Person


Hiring the right person starts with your mind-set.

In a start-up, the danger is that you are simply trying to off-load some of your
unmanageable workload to someone else. “If only I had someone to do the [accounts /
sales calls / design / answering emails / other tedious chore],” you cry, “how much more I
could get done”.

Let me refer you to people like Steve Blank and Eric Ries who will tell you that the founders
cannot outsource or delegate making sales calls (and why).

For the rest of it, if you give in to the ‘offload’ instinct, all you are doing is driving yourself

deeper into the mud. You don’t want cheap drones to take on the chores for you; you want
to build a business. Because if you don’t build a business, and the smart, engaged and
successful people who make up a business, you just have an over-complicated job that you
have to fund yourself.

Which is no fun at all.

You have probably heard the old saying, that A players hire A players, and B players hire C
players, usually taken to mean that only the best are secure enough to hire people as good
as them. As a founder, you need to go a step further, and set out to hire people who are (all)
better than you are, at what they can do uniquely well.

Michael Gerber (in the E-Myth Revisited, chapter 14) sets out a very useful exercise. Draw
up a corporate chart with CEO and all the other C-level functions on it (Operations,
Finance, Marketing, Sales, Technology, whatever is relevant in your industry and business),
and then all the operational management roles you need as well - Accounts Payable
Manager, Accounts Receivable Manager, Sales Manager, Service Manager and so on. Sit
down with your co-founders (if any) and agree which names go in which slots. You will
probably each end up with a whole raft of jobs that you are now responsible for.

Even that may be a step forward if you have all been trying to juggle everything at once; but
don’t stop there. Your mission critical job now is to replace your names with the names that
really belong in those roles. And you need to remind yourselves ten times a day, that if you
mis-hire, or just hire ‘fillers’ for those positions, you will find that you are still doing all those
jobs (while possibly paying someone else to do them). That is why you are going to hire the
right people.

Before you leap in, what are you hiring for?

“Jon,” you say, “you just told us: we are hiring the very best people for those roles.”

No, you are not. If you are smart, you are hiring for the Mission.

(This is all about mindset, remember.)

The Mission is not the output from some Vision, Mission and Strategy exercise. I say that
because 99% of Vision and Strategy Statements are entirely, and necessarily, delusional. “To
be the best / fastest / cheapest at everything. And never get hurt…”

Ditch Vision Statements (if you have a vision, take Gandalf’s advice: ‘keep it secret, keep it
safe’); and never write Strategy down except with erasable whiteboard markers (“what does
it look like, now?”) Put all of your effort into understanding your Mission: “Why do we
exist?” If you come up with an answer, that is all about you, try again: you aren’t there yet.

Any business exists to meet a customer need.

  • “To disrupt the Real Estate industry, by providing buyers with a representative who is only
    working for them” would be a Mission, around which you could build a business.
  • “To give office workers easy access to safe, healthy lunch options” would be another.
  • “To be the best and smartest lawyer in town” is technically a Mission, but not one that you
    can build anything around. There is no customer need being met; all you could use it for is
    to hire admirers, who will bolster your sense of brilliance. Good luck with that.

Back to hiring the right people: you need to hire first for the Mission, and then for the ability
and fit for the current role. Let me tell you why, and then how.

‘Why’ is easy: if you hire for Mission first, and then role, you are acquiring talent that can
grow with your business. If you hire just for role, you may get someone who can do that job,
and yet never do it the way that job needs to be done in pursuit of the Mission.

Simple example: if you are Starbucks, and hire someone because they are a very excellent
barista, without checking whether they match your Mission of ‘creating the third space’ (not
home, not office, a place where you can connect, reflect, work or chill), you may have
someone who makes excellent coffee, who nonetheless severely annoys every single one of
your customers, thereby convincing them not to come back. The Starbucks Mission means
we need to check first: “Is this a person who loves interacting with people and making them
feel welcome?”

So how do we do that?

Also easy - if you know how. In fact you need to know just two things about a person: what
motivates them, and how they perceive themselves and others.

  • Motivation tells you two things: whether they can ever ‘get’ the Mission; and how
    engaged they are likely to be in the role. You do need both: if you find someone with the
    first but not the second, find a different opening for them.
  • Their Perceptions tell you what they will need to understand about themselves in order to
    thrive with you, rather than end up derailing themselves and others.

As it happens, if you know those two things, you can derive a lot of other information:
where they may have blind spots, who they most resemble, where their sweet spot is, how
they need to be managed and so on.

The key point is this: step back from your sense of overload, and promise yourself you won’t
just plug a gap, ‘any old how’. The pressure you feel now is a signal that it is time to, very
intentionally, take a step towards building the organisation that will deliver your Mission.

Have fun!

Already have a team and looking to engage them? Check out some amazing team building activities in Singapore.


Jon Mason is the CEO and Principle Consultant of Elaura, a business that specialises in helping
leaders manage their talent. You can read more on this and related topics at https:// and



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