Hire for Hustle

by Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

How can you make sure you’re hiring people who will help your company grow and thrive? Here’s our advice: Hire people you like who have foundational qualities you can build on, such as integrity, enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, initiative, a sense of humor, and a sincere interest in your company, to name a few.

And keep in mind that you absolutely can tell from the hiring process whether someone is an entrepreneurial thinker who will add to the culture you’re building. A great way to separate the entrepreneurial thinkers from those who aren’t is to place a special emphasis on hiring people with a sense of urgency; people who can and will move quickly; people who don’t always have to be told what their next step should be.

In other words, don’t hire solely based on someone’s technical skill set. You can always teach that. You can’t teach the other stuff— and that other stuff is what will make the difference between an average company and a great company.

At Barefoot, we called that “other stuff” hustle. We had to hustle, and everybody we hired had to as well. Our team was aware that the major advantage we had over the big-name competitors was that we were lighter, faster, and able to adjust quickly to take advantage of sudden changes in the marketplace, not to mention pop-up opportunities. We needed people who could make the most of that.

For instance, when we heard of a distributor who lost a big brand in our price point, we went to them the same day with a proposal to put our product in all the stores that had carried that other brand. Hustle meant money to us, and we built a national award-winning brand in spite of the size of our staff, the size of our competitors, and the size of our budget.

So—how, exactly, can you hire for hustle? Well, part of it is instinct. First impressions mean a lot, so trust your gut when interviewing someone new. Beyond gut calls, though, here are a few good ways to test hustle:

  • Give them homework. During the interview, give job candidates a verbal run-down of the position, your company’s challenges, and your expectations for the position. Then have the candidate send you a one-page summary on a deadline. This will tell you volumes.
  • Take a water break. During interviews, we would sometimes ask candidates to go out and get us some waters. We would watch how they got up, opened the door, left the room, how long they were gone, and how they moved on their return. Were they deliberate, determined, and focused, or were they unstable, slow, and just shuffling along? (Also, did they think they were “too good” to get water?)
  • Grab a file. Ask interviewees to get a report on the other side of the room. This is also a great opportunity to see how they execute a simple physical task, and how long it takes them.
  • Take a walk. After the interview, we would often invite interviewees to take a walk with us around a nearby lake. We would take mental notes on their cadence, posture, and balance. We walked rather quickly, and observed if they could keep up. Their body language shouted volumes. Our experience told us that their approach to the job, with all its challenges and deadlines, would not be much different than how they used their body to perform simple physical tasks.
  • Be creative, and come up with your own hustle tests. Think about what attributes you most want your people to have, and devise a way to gauge whether or not interviewees possess them. Remember, your company will be most successful when each person thinks like an entrepreneur, but works well on a team. You can teach technical skills, but you can’t teach hustle.

For complimentary business resources and info-graphics related to this article, visit: www.barefootbonus.com.

Excerpt from The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Copyright © 2015 by Footnotes Press, LLC


Michael-Bonnie-ProfessionalMichael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the founders of Barefoot Wine, the largest bottled wine brand in the world, and authors of the New York  Times Bestselling Business book The Barefoot Spirit. From the start, with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative strategies to overcome obstacles, create new markets and foster key alliances. Michael and Bonnie now share their experience and entrepreneurial approach to business as consultants, authors, speakers, and workshop leaders. Michael and Bonnie launched at the C-Suite Network Conference their new companion book to The Barefoot Spirit entitled, The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. Learn more at barefootspirit.com, and find them on Facebook and Twitter @barefoot_spirit.