Wednesday, January 19, 2011
What makes a great employee?
The funny thing about starting a new business (or really any new project, for that matter), is that the most valuable interns and employees are sometimes the ones that have the least experience in what you're trying to accomplish. If you're following a set path, it makes sense to hire people that have seen-and-done what you're trying to do; but with new and innovative ideas, there is no "right way" of doing things, and when the path to success is unclear, the worst thing that you can have are preconceived notions.
When I was first starting TOMS, I pitched the idea to a college professor who said that I would need a million dollars to get the company off the ground. I spoke with veterans in the shoe industry that saw every reason why the idea would fail. "The math just doesn't work" they would say, or "the retail business is dying," or "there's no market for canvas slip-ons," and on and on. At the time, TOMS was comprised of myself, a few duffel bags of samples, a polo instructor pretending to be a shoemaker, and a handful of interns that I hired off of Craigslist. The idea was crazy... but my interns didn't know that. All they knew was that we were having fun, and that with a little creativity and resourcefulness, we could accomplish just about anything.
As TOMS has grown, we've continued to look for these same traits in the interns and employees that we hire. Are you passionate? Can you creatively solve problems? Can you be resourceful without resources? Do you have the compassion to serve others? You can teach a new hire just about any skill... but you absolutely cannot inspire creativity and passion in someone that doesn't have it.
Would you agree?