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Hiring Good People Isn’t Enough

by Dave Pratt

Good people? What’s that supposed to mean? Compared to what? Bad people? With the exception of the Hillside Strangler and Jack the Ripper, I’m hesitant to label very many people as “bad.” I’d like to think that nearly everyone is mostly good. Almost all of us want to be moral and responsible.  The real problem is not the lack of good people, it is the lack of good systems.

Even good people have bad days. Some days are humdingers, some days are ho-hum and some are humbug. Intentionally or not, attitude affects the results people produce. It isn’t realistic to expect good people to produce humdinger results on their humbug days.

In the E-Myth revisited, Michael Gerber says that, “People are unmanageable.” That’s why businesses need systems.  The system produces the results. It ensures that there are no dropped balls and that every customer has an outstanding experience. In a successful company the outside world is impressed by your people, but those people are consistently impressive because of the systems they use.  

McDonalds doesn’t succeed because they hire the best and the brightest. They couldn’t afford the best, and the brightest would probably be short-timers, moving on to bigger and better things. McDonalds isn’t successful because of their people, it is successful because of the systems their people use. They have systems for everything: for flipping burgers, for managing inventory, for hiring and terminating employees … for everything.

Kathy and I have been running Ranch Management Consultants for 17 years. When we bought the company, we bought a reputation, curriculum and systems for enrolling students and delivering our product. Since then we have improved these systems and added on. I joke that Kathy is the vice president of everything that no one else wants to do. One of those unglamorous jobs is documenting our systems.

We have a system for sending information to people who want to know about our programs, for negotiating a contract with a venue where we’d like to do a school and for making sure everything we need to run a school arrives at the venue BEFORE the school begins. We have a system for ProfitTips. In fact, after I write this I’m going to follow that system to make sure y’all get this.  

I don’t usually do that. ProfitTips is a team effort. I write it, Kathy edits it (which is why they usually make sense) and Sally sends it out. But this time, to “walk our talk,” I’m going use the system that Sally created for sending ProfitTips and do it myself. I don’t have to worry about being an old dog trying to learn a new trick … all I have to worry about is following the step-by-step instructions in the RMC procedures manual. If you’re reading this and it looks okay and arrived on time, our system worked.

Good people have good days and bad days. They get hurt, take vacations, and retire (Sally is on a well-deserved vacation right now). If we rely on people to produce consistent results, we make ourselves vulnerable and set ourselves up for problems. We need systems. The system may be a step by step process for sending out an e-newsletter like ProfitTips or sending out a Bull Sale catalog. It may be a checklist for packing school supplies or for deciding if it’s time to move animals from one paddock to another. The system could be the way people are invoiced for the things they buy from you or the way you pay your bills. Without systems, when good people have bad days or leave, you have big problems.   

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