The hardest thing Adam Singer had to do in the early days of his company was to fire employees who were giving 150 percent.
It’s not that the founder, chairman and CEO of IPC The Hospitalist Co. Inc. didn’t appreciate their passion. On the contrary, he admired those employees who wore the brand proudly on their shirts and practically lived at the office. But when it came down to it, no amount of passion could compensate for inadequate skill sets.
Today, when Singer adds to the 800 employees who work at the nation’s leading private practice hospitalist company, he looks for candidates who are overqualified for the position he’s hiring for. By doing so, he never has to let a passionate worker go due to a lack of skills, and he has developed a steady reserve of talent that has helped push the company’s 2007 revenue to $190 million.
Smart Business spoke with Singer about why you should overhire and how to slow down when making decisions in times of chaos.
Overhire. Always look to over-hire. Always look to find someone who you think is overqualified for the job that you’re hiring for. Don’t settle for, ‘Well, I think he can do it if he had this or that. I know he’s missing X, Y and Z, but I think he can get the job done.’ When you get to that kind of decision point, you’re probably making a mistake.
When you’re young and you have a young, entrepreneurial business, you get people who are really passionate, but you end up burning right through them. You want to get someone who can do this in his sleep and then do more. In a growing business, there’ll always be more for them to do, and you want them to expand whatever your idea is into something more.
You end up with a vastly better product or service and a much more exciting place to work. That filters down all the way through the organization.
Make dissenters wear different hats. [When creating a vision], bring an open mind and bring dissent into the room. What sometimes happens is you get frustrated when you get someone who just doesn’t believe your story. It’s frustrating, and it can kind of drag the group down. If you properly manage that naysayer, it can actually stimulate you to have a much better idea at the end.
You can’t allow them to suck all the air out of the room. Many times, what I’ll do in those kinds of scenarios is I’ll change everyone’s hats. I’ll make the dissenter argue for an idea that they might have been against, and I’ll have someone who is for the idea be against it. That becomes a really interesting process in the vision creation. It really changes your mind when you’re forced to argue for something when you’re against it and vice versa.
It really does stop someone from sucking the air out of the room because they’re no longer arguing against it.
Get negative with yes-men. You have to be educated about what the space is that you’re in. If it’s not you as the CEO, then it’s your team. Get unvarnished, nonyes-men feedback about what’s really going on.
[To weed out yes-men,] you could interview for that and reference that before you hire someone, but ultimately, you won’t know for sure until they’re here.
It’s very easy to get satisfied when everyone’s saying you’re right. A CEO should not get comfortable with that.
Just like I did in the meetings to make people switch roles, if I have a yes-man in my midst, I’ll ask them, ‘What part of what I said is wrong?’ That can stop a yes-man in his tracks. If they come back with nothing, then you know you’ve got a problem. You need to stop them from doing that or let them go.
Set aside time to seek feedback. Make sure you have complete domain knowledge. You’re constantly looking to get feedback in whatever form you can, whether it’s direct survey through your customers or whether it’s your people who are out in the field.
We have business development and practice managers throughout the country. Every one of them reports back one observation a week to me every Friday on what they saw in the field. It allows me to get a quick glimpse of everything going on. You can start to see trends that way.
In a very short time, I can get a good feel or anticipation for what is going on. Again, that could be what the customer wants or what my company needs. That’s a technique I use to stay on top of what’s going on.
Slow down. Make decisions a little slower. When you’re younger and you have less experience, you make decisions sometimes when the heat is on and there are emotions attached to it and you may not have all the facts yet. Sometimes when things don’t make sense, you’re better off doing nothing at all.
If I could advise (a younger version of myself), I’d say, ‘That doesn’t make sense. Why don’t you wait another day and think about it again and see if it looks different tomorrow?’
A lot of problems sometimes just go away if you don’t do anything. If you just slow yourself down sometimes, you’re better off.
HOW TO REACH: IPC The Hospitalist Co. Inc., (888) 447-2362 or www.ipcm.com