Hiring People Like You

September 15, 2018 ENT600 - Entrepreneurial Planning, Entrepreneurship, Graduate Program Coursework, Insights and growth Comments (0) 17

You will have the desire to hire people like you when you're an entrepreneur.

Leveraging social capital to build your founding team makes it easy to hire people like you. People with your values, your background, and a substantially similar knowledge base can be advantageous for you, the founder. You’ll have a common language, communication may be more comfortable, it will take less time to get those new hires up to speed, and you will have greater confidence in their ability to achieve your goals and objectives (Wasserman, 2012). Hiring people like you might seem to be a smart business choice.

When you hire, people like you are probably hiring them because you have had a good working relationship in the past. You hire people you like and people with whom you enjoy working. You hire them because your experience tells you they are good at what they do. You hire them because although they have different areas of expertise—sales, marketing, or finance—they are likely to have similar backgrounds, networks, and possibly industry knowledge. Arguably, this may give you an advantage at first. Surrounding yourself with people like you when you’re risking everything else to get your business off the ground will provide some comfort. On the surface this seems rational; homogeneous teams may make things a little easier in the beginning but are likely to be the cause of stress as your business grows.

Hiring people like you means you may be hiring people who have not just similar strengths, but also similar weaknesses. Hiring people like you may also mean few will challenge your view of market opportunities, customer targets, or product features and benefits. People like you will tend to see the world in much the same way as you. And this might mean you miss business opportunities because hiring people like you limit your ability to see much of anything different than you may see it. Hiring people too much like you may well restrict your long-term success in business.

Hire people who have different backgrounds, education, and experiences. Hire those with a different world view, a different attitude, and from a different place in the community and the world. Cultivate this diversity within your company because it is this diversity that will help you identify and exploit opportunities for business growth. Hire people whose strengths bolster your weaknesses. Hire people who do things differently than you, who challenge your thinking, who push your buttons, who make you question your decisions. And listen to them. Surprising as it may seem at times, you do not have all the answers. The input of others—people who are not like you—can make you a better in business, a stronger leader, and often, a better person.

When you surround yourself with people like you, you will get a company built in your image. And as enticing as this might sound, it will likely limit your ability to achieve those business goals to which you aspire. Don't give in to the desire to hire people like you.



Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founder's Dilemma. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Photo by Andrew Wulf on Unsplash

David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience in branding, strategy, licensing and marketing.

In his spare time, he consults, coaches, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

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Fear and panic in entrepreneurship

October 14, 2017 Insights and growth, Motivation Comments (0) 681

I’ve been reading meditations from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening every morning for several years. A few weeks ago, the reading from September 27 in the book struck a chord with me relative to the challenges of fear and panic in entrepreneurship. Here is that meditation and my takeaways:


Leaning In

Few situations can be bettered by going berserk.” – Melody Beattie

It was the philosopher Michael Zimmerman who told the story of being a boy in school when someone passed him a pair of Chinese handcuffs, a seemingly innocent thimble-like casing with an opening at each end. It was passed to him without a word, and, of course, through curiosity, he slipped his left forefinger in one end and then his right in another.

Mysteriously, what made them handcuffs was that the more you tried to pull your fingers out, the tighter they held you.  Feeling caught, he panicked and pulled harder. The small cuffs tightened. But suddenly, it occurred to him to try the opposite, and as he leaned his fingers into the problem, the small casing slackened, and he could gently and slowly work his fingers free.

So many times in life our pulling in panic only handcuffs us more tightly. In this small moment, the philosopher as a boy reveals to us the paradox that underscores all courage: that leaning into what is gripping us will allow us to work our way free.


I can personally identify with this story.

I have learned the hard way that panic begets panic. I know this to be true through all my life and business trials. I also know that the majority of the times I have panicked, especially as an entrepreneur, it has involved matters of money. But, it’s often not really about the money itself. It’s more about what the money represents—a lifestyle, security, safety, and the like, and losing those things strikes a chord of fear in us. Panic always comes from fear, doesn’t it?

As the handcuff story above tells us, the more fearful we become, the more we entrench into the past problem-solving approaches, and the tighter the gripping fear has on us. The story also tells us we cannot solve our problems using our first instincts—those stemming from our past experiences. Moreover, the story illustrates the way out is not to rely on what has worked in the past, but to look for new ways. We must lean into the problem, rather than retreat from it.

I can attest to this, too. The past gives us tools and experience for moving forward. But every situation is different because the internal and external forces that influence the situation are different, or of a different mix of forces. So, the context of each situation creates something new, even if on the surface it looks as though it may be the same. A mentor once helped me understand this by telling me, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I know it’s easiest to grab the hammer. It’s on top of our toolbox because we use it often. We have more tools in our toolbox, though. Our past experiences help us to choose the right tool for the job at hand. Yes, it’s easy to grab the hammer. But, it’s not always the right tool.

All of this is not to suggest that we act frivolously in our business decisions. Instead, when faced with challenging times as an entrepreneur, we must find the courage to lean into to the future, rather than retreat into the past. We must find comfort in the gifts of wisdom, talent, and the experiences to make the best decisions for moving forward on your journey. My hope for you is that you might make strategic decisions about your business that are born from dreams, rooted in practicality, and polished by optimism.

And, try not to get caught in those handcuffs.


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David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience in branding, strategy, licensing and marketing.

In his spare time, he consults, coaches, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

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Don’t be afraid of the storms

October 5, 2010 Insights and growth Comments (0) 428

Highly effective teams have one thing in common: A very similar and structured process for achieving success.  The four steps in this process, Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, are critical steps in moving the ideas of the team forward to a common and focused goal.

In the Forming step, teams learn about their project expectations and explore how to reach the goal a group of individuals.  The Storming step is where conflicts arise as the members of the team hash out their differences about the steps to achieve project success.  In the Norming stage, the team becomes more comfortable with the strengths and contributions of each and agrees to move forward with a shared goal.  The team hits its stride in the Performing step when the individual members know how to function together as a single unit and their reliance and dependence on each other fuels higher enthusiasm and motivation for the project’s success.

These steps are not always apparent to the team members, but a good team leader understands the importance of the process and takes the responsibility to guide the team through each phase.  Sounds simple, right?  Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it looks. Here’s why:

No one likes Storming.

You see, most people don’t like conflict.  You may be one of them.  Whether it’s a genetic predisposition, shyness, or their parents raised them to be polite, the very idea of an argumentative debate with another person over a business issue becomes horrifying.  I’m not talking about arguing for the sake of arguing; I’m talking about providing constructive criticism and personal insights to help shape and move the project forward in a positive manner.

So many will see this confrontation as a personal attack.  Therefore, most individuals on a team never rise to the level of Storming with their peers and a few strong-willed team members will take over the project.  Then the result reflects the ideas and solutions of the few, and not of the many.  Because the result is not representative of the team’s combined experience and intelligence, it falls far short of the ideal solution.

Now, I know you’re saying, “Where’s the team leader who’s supposed to guide the team through the process?”  The leader is there, of course, but most team “leaders” do not like conflict either.  Instead of encouraging and facilitating each step, the leader allows the vocal minority to take control.

Few projects, initiatives, or programs ever reach their full potential because most individuals and many “leaders” are too afraid to talk about the issues that are important to them as they strive to achieve their goals.  Lack of effective leadership is a serious problem in many corporations and nonprofits today—but that’s a topic for another post.

In our personal lives, many of us have similar challenges.  We go through the same steps—Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing—as our life circumstances change and we are forced to adapt.  But, we rarely allow ourselves to Strom—to confront and address those issues that keep us from moving forward.  Instead, we often find ourselves standing still, perhaps talking in circles, and repeating the same conversations time-after-time because the real issues are not being addressed.  Alternatively, we may just resign ourselves to carry around the burdens and frustrations of not being heard.  Either way, it may sometimes seem much more comfortable to keep quiet than to step up and be the force that drives our own lives forward.

Storming is a necessary part of life.  It helps us to confront the issues and overcome the conflicts that prevent us from achieving greater successes.  We must not be afraid to Storm, however uncomfortable it may be for us.  Storming is especially critical when it serves to move projects or ideas forward, or supports growth in our personal lives.  Refusing to Storm never allows us to be the best we can be, as an individual or as a member of a team.

Think of it this way: Storms always pass.  When we step outside after the dark clouds move on, look up to the clear sky and breathe in the clean air, we find ourselves giving thanks for the heavy rain the storm showered upon us.  When we move from Storming to Norming, to Performing—as a team or as an individual—I guarantee the feeling of gratitude is the same.


Featured Image Source: After the Storm by Phil’s Hat

David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience in branding, strategy, licensing and marketing.

In his spare time, he consults, coaches, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

Connect with him on social media below:

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