Get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people in the right seats

"We evaluate candidates on technical skills, cultural fit, scoring them against our cultural values and using the EOS method"

Paul Stephen | Founder | Sagittarius

How would you explain what “get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people into the right seats” means?


I believe what we do as ‘work’ should be both enjoyable and rewarding - in whatever role is right for you. The ideal scenario is where everyone in your company loves what they do and you all want to go on the same ‘journey’ that the company is going on. The passion for your role makes you want to do it well and that is extremely infectious for your colleagues too. If you have the right attitude (or cultural values) and want the role you are in, then you absolutely should be ‘on the bus’. If not then this just might not be on the right bus (or company) for you. Even if you love the company, you might not love the role and you need to change that. To paraphrase Jim Collins from Good to Great, you might just be the ‘right person’ but in the ‘wrong seat’.

If you have someone who is not culturally correct and/or doesn’t want to be there, it is massively demotivating for those who they work with. It’s like a toxin in your business that can bring everyone else down and needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. This can sometimes be quite a senior or ‘important’ person in the company and it can be difficult to remove them. However the cost of not dealing with it and procrastinating about it (hoping it will fix itself) can be more costly. It’s not very polite but when someone is that disruptive I say ‘Sometimes it’s better to have a hole than an asshole’.

What do you think about this ‘advice’?


We have used this philosophy to underpin our whole approach to talent at Remarkable Group. From recruitment through to regular appraisals. As well as the technical skills (which are quite frankly hygiene when recruiting) we evaluate candidates on cultural fit, scoring them against our cultural values and using the EOS method of evaluating if they ‘Get it, Want it and have the Capacity to do it’ - or GWC for short.

An important part of this approach is to ensure that everyone knows where the bus is going. A company strategy is not just for the board room. Across the Remarkable Group we could be accused of ‘over communicating’. Our agencies have ‘all in company’ stand ups every morning and quarterly town halls to keep everyone in the loop.

Would you give this advice to other people?


I would thoroughly recommend it. I think it works for companies in any industry and any size. We all have to go to work and spend a lot of time with each other. So why wouldn’t we want to do that with people we liked and had common values and ambition. If everyone wants to be on the same bus it will almost drive itself.

Over the last 2 years we have acquired 3 agencies into the group and we have seen significant gains in all of them by applying this philosophy too. Being part of a fast growing and ambitious group isn’t for everyone and they will self select out. But for those that it is, it is extremely motivating and creates a higher performing team.

If not, what alternative advice would you give to agency leaders?


An agency is all about people. A good agency is basically a collection of talented people who produce good work. You can recruit the brightest and most creative minds into your business but without a good culture you will not build a company that becomes more than the sum of its parts. It will have debilitating staff and client churn and will not build to be a value in your company. So, whatever way you do it, my advice is to focus on the people and commercial success will follow.

What steps does Paul Stephen go through before deciding someone is ‘wrong’ for his company?


Our ongoing 360 appraisal systems use the ‘people analyser’ from EOS which scores them against the cultural values and GWC. We also ensure everyone has a personal development plan (PDP) to ensure everyone is honest about what they want now and next. I even tell people during their initial induction that we may be right for them now but what they ‘want’ in a year or so’s time may well be different. First you need to be honest with yourself and then you can be honest with us. If we can’t give you what you need then it's probably best for everyone if you ‘moved on’. It’s perhaps a funny thing to discuss at such an early time with us but I think it sets the expectation on both sides. If we start and continue with that level of honesty then it’s always clear to both parties when it’s time for them to 'get off the bus'.

Paul Stephen's bio

Paul Stephen is the founder of Sagittarius and the Remarkable Group Read.


Humble promo of Paul Stephen and Sagittarius 

Paul has built a fantastic agency with real deep technical expertise. But beyond that I love Paul's tenacity to grow the agency not just organically, but through acquisition - through his set up The Remarkable Group. A great company to work for and if you're an agency founder who's looking to exit, I highly recommend a chat with Paul, as he might be interested in acquiring your agency.

Daniel (Polymensa founder)

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