Team Building: How Do You Find “A” Players?

By Ezra Firestone | February 19, 2020

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Q: “What’s your process when it comes to hiring and firing? How do you find ‘A’ Players?

I’m really glad someone asked this question. I think it’s a common misconception in our industry, and no offense to the person who asked this but it annoys me to no end.

Everybody is an “A” Player (Potentially)

Another way to think of it is that nobody is or isn’t an “A” player.

You as the company owner dictate the “grade” of the player based on how much support and resource you give them to facilitate their success.

When you hire someone new, do you give them a clear job description? Do you give them access to education? Do you send them to events? Do you hold them accountable and make them feel powerful?

It also helps to give your new hire a long-term goal. For example:

“I’m going to hire you and within 2 years I want you to be the best social media manager in the world…”

Then, give them a clear path for accomplishing that goal:

“…and here’s how we’re going to do it: You’ll read these 6 blogs 4 hours a week and take notes; you’ll take these 3 courses, 1 every 3 months; you’ll go to these industry events; you’ll meet with me 3 hours a week to tell talk about what you learned and how you can apply it…”

Again, there is no such thing as an “A” player. There is just a person who is as good as the resource and support they receive from you, the person hiring them.

Who to Hire & Where to Find Them

Of course, not everyone will be a good fit.

You need someone who’s enthusiastic about what you do (though, keep in mind that their level of enthusiasm is often related to the amount of support you give them); you also want someone who’s excited to learn — even if they’re already experienced.

These 2 qualities are incredibly important. If your new hire doesn’t engage with the position, no amount of support or resource will make them a good fit.

So where do you find these people?

The best way to find new hires is through your industry network. Reach out to people you know and trust and see if they can recommend anyone. Use your relationships, not hiring websites.

I’m a big believer in working with people I’m close with, which is why most of my team members are either friends or family. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these folks so it helps to hire people you know and like and who will call you on your bullshit.

And while not everybody wants to train someone from the ground up, most young businesses don’t have a lot of money so they usually hire people at some level of inexperience. Then, as the business grows and starts to scale, it can afford to hire more experienced people.

A Smart Marketer Success Story

“From Cracker Barrel to Gucci apparel” — we like to joke that that’s the story of a lot of the Smart Marketer team.

Many of my employees used to work in restaurants or department stores. They were friends or family of someone on the team (often mine), and we said hey, you understand the Internet. Let us teach you about marketing.

Now these people are at the top of their field because they were invested in, trained, supported and given a path.

Here’s an example:

Anthony “Ant” Charles is the technical director at Smart Marketer. He’s the one in charge of this big, complicated shoot (see video above) that’s using $50k–$100k worth of tech… and he started in customer support.

Then one day Ant said to me, “Hey, I have experience in audio and I’m interested in learning video.”

And I said, “Great! Let’s send you to courses in the city. Let’s start streaming Smart Marketer content together. Let’s have you come on the road with me and shoot behind the scenes footage.”

Now, Ant is skilled enough to produce this whole event, and to boot, he just won Smart Marketer Employee of the Year! He didn’t have the skill set when he came in, but he had the potential, he had the enthusiasm, and he had the interest and the willingness to learn.

Point being: You can create “A” players if you’re willing to invest in them.

And again, I don’t mean to offend anybody with this viewpoint, but I do feel strongly about this misconception in our community.

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