6 November 2022
"Hire slow, fire fast!"
So I hear this all the time:
“Hire fast, fire slow!”
Erm, hold on, I think it’s actually the other way around: “Hire slow, fire fast!” - or is it?
But urgh, what does that even mean?
56KB modem slow?
Slow like, if you say “gullible” really slow, it sounds like “oranges”?
Really? That slow??
Tell me how long is “slow”?
And for that matter how ‘fast’?
(want to know what's really slow? The time it takes for a finger nail to grow 1 meter)
OK, so we need a little more context.
But first off, where does the phrase come from?
There is no definite answer.
But it’s likely that it was inspired by William Congreve’s manner of comedy - The Old Batchelour in 1693.
Part of the script says:
“Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure; Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.”
That’s right folks!!
If this is true, the phrase originally related to making sure you take your time to find your partner for life.
Seems reasonable in that context…
And now all I can think about is a hiring manager reading out “employment vows”:
“I, Sarah, take you, Jackie, to be my employee.
To have and to hold from this day forward.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.
In sickness and in health.
To love and to cherish.
Till death do us part, according to God's holy law, in the presence of God I make this vow."
I mean the last bit is a bit excessive.
OK back to business.
The first work related reference that Google spits out is in 2002.
Jeffrey J. Fox uses the aphorism "hire slow, fire fast" in one of his books: How To Become A Great Boss.
I reached out to the fella to ask if he’s the big papa of that phrase?
His prompt reply:
Not sure I can answer definitively.
I don’t do research for any of my books.
I don’t copy stuff from other people.
I have a good memory.
Everything is based on observations, experience, paying attention to smart people, thinking.
So, I may have heard someone say part or all of that line, or came to that advice on my own.
Probably 90% I came up with “hire slow, fire fast.”
Now if Jeffrey is really the OG of this aphorism, let's give him the opportunity to share his perspective on what it means to him.
Because, it’s time to tap your two index fingers furiously onto your desk or phone (please hold on to it at the same time) and find out...
What this week's contributors think of this aphorism?
Founder @ GingerMay
"Firing fast excludes a significant proportion of the talent pool"
Co-Founder @ FX Digital
"If you don't move quickly hiring engineers you'll never recruit anyone"
Founder @ Immediate Future
"This is one of those sayings that sounds cute and clever, till you think about it"
My reflections on "hire slow, fire fast"
We agencies are constantly battling for good people - and there are too few of them. I don’t think hiring slow is an option for us or any high growth business.
However, I do think it’s so important to have a rigorous interviewing process and learn to get really good at interviewing.
Even more important is to start saving cash for hires that you make before you think you might need them. Always on the lookout for people that can level up your agency. Whether those are junior people you train up to excellence or senior people who bring new perspectives and leadership into your agency.
Those are in fact the rare moments you can take a bit more time hiring, because you’re not desperate for ‘people’ to deliver or manage all those new (and existing) clients.
And most importantly, if you don’t have enough talented people in the business, sometimes you have to make the tough decision to stop taking on more work until you do!
On the firing fast front - again I don’t agree with this approach.
As Victoria said: "Firing fast excludes a significant proportion of the talent pool."
Some people need more time to find their rhythm or position they do well in.
Also as Katy said the whole ‘firing fast’ method can create a fearful working environment. Lacking trust. It’s just not a good way to get people to be the ‘best’ version of themselves.
My main reflection, however, is to let people go when they need to go.
I think every agency founder has a story of a time they took too long to release someone from their duty. And when they did, everyone in the company was relieved and wondered why it wasn't actioned earlier.
Most likely because the founder was personally too afraid of confronting the situation. Letting it linger, till it rips the whole company culture apart.
I think if we’re going to be caring on all fronts, we need to also let people go when they ‘need to go’. It’s not fair on them, as we’re wasting their opportunity to find a more suitable role somewhere else. It’s not fair on our team who are performing and living up to our values - while someone is not and getting paid for it.
Appreciate you taking the time today to read our Polynut newsletter. Any comments, ideas or questions - feel free to reach out.
And a HUGE THANK YOU to our contributors for giving up their time to share their wisdom with us! 🙏
See ya next week!
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