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“Right people, in the right seats, on the right bus.”

Every business owner has heard the saying, “Right people, in the right seats, on the right bus.” We know what that means, but have you ever wondered what your staff thinks that means for them?



Every business owner has heard the saying, “Right people, in the right seats, on the right bus.” We know what that means, but does your staff? In this episode, Julie shares several key points to the importance of this thought. She also shares the crucial distinction between what makes business owners happy versus what makes employees and staff happy. 


Hey there, this is Julie Bee, and you’re listening to They Don’t Teach THIS in Business School. Today I’m going to share something that they don’t teach in business school about business ownership, but every business owner eventually learns this truth.

The right people, in the right seats, on the right bus make all the difference. 

My first exposure to this idea came from the book, EMyth, by Michael Gerber, and I’ve read similar concepts in many other books about leadership, teams, management, and people. The premise is to make everything move along nicely in your business, you have to have the right people, doing the right jobs (their seats), for the right company or department (their bus). 

I know business school teaches management, but I don’t know if they get into the weeds like this topic. But let me backup a bit first, because what I think a lot of new business owners don’t appreciate is how freaking hard it is to have all 3 of those things line up – and then to maintain that over time.

At one point, I had maybe 3 of 5 people that checked all the boxes. Today, I have zero checking all the boxes – and I’m working on it. I either have the right person, wrong seat, or right person, wrong bus. I guess at least I have the right person – that’s a big part of the battle. But there are several lessons to learn here, so let’s jump in.

First and foremost – it is tough to find the right person. Forget right seat, right bus for a minute. I firmly believe that the first fit for any potential new hire is culture and core values. In most cases, an individual can be taught skills. But culture and values fit are characterstics a new person either has or doesn’t. So for me, right person has always been about culture and core values fit first. Over the years, I’ve developed ways to screen for this, but it took a while – I definitely made some mistakes. And I realize this is just my opinion – if you value skills first, then your “right person” would need to be screened for skills. The bottom line here is, you have to define what “right person” means to you and your company, based on your priorities. So first, you have to define your priorities, then define “right person”, then figure out a way to screen them.   

And even when you have all of that it is still very challenging to find that right person. 

When it comes to the right seat, what I’ve learned with experience is that while the right person is what makes me happy as a business owner, it’s the right seat on the right bus that make the employee happy. That is something to remember – you might really like the person you’ve interviewed, but if you don’t have the right seat FOR THEM, or if your company isn’t the right bus FOR THEM – they won’t be happy. Over time, they’ll become the wrong person. 

Those job seats and buses can also change for your employees over time, so you always have to be aware that something might shift for them during their employment. This is where coaching, regular check-ins, and getting their opinions on strategic-level ideas can help YOU know where they stand. It can help you sense discomfort or unease and have open communications about it. 

And if you have a key employee who you feel is starting to need a new seat or new bus – move heaven and earth to make it happen. There is no dollar value I can put on the peace of mind my key employee gives me – and almost every business owner will tell you the same thing about their key employee. So why not do everything you can to make it work for them? It has to work for you, of course – but if they’re still the right person, try to make it work if that key employee needs a new role or new department (or even a new business) to work on. 

And finally the thing I want to really ask of you, business owners – to really go deeper into this topic – is this. Are you the right person, in the right seat, on the right bus? That’s a question I think all business owners need to ask themselves once a year.  Most business owners, myself included, do some work they really should outsource or delegate, but beyond that – are you the right person with the skills and culture fit? Are you in the right seat? Are you in the right business? Because if any of these are out of alignment for you, your business and the people who work there will feel the negative impact that misalignment can have. 

So back to what I said earlier in this episode about how I currently have zero people in the right seats, on the right bus – that includes me. I do have the right people, but that’s it right now. I’m making some major transitions in my main business to make sure I get back in the right seat on that bus. But I’ve also started other buses, and I’ve moved my key employee to a different bus that was the right move for me, but more importantly, it was the right move for her.

At the end of the day, you and I are on this business ownership journey together. We’re not always going to be spot on with our decisions, but what I try to strive for is better, not perfect. Making improvements along the way. I think when it comes to the right person-right seat-right bus – this whole idea – that’s the best you can do. It’s a difficult concept to teach in business school (or elsewhere) and experience is how we learn it. 

Thanks for listening to They Don’t Teach This in Business School. I’m Julie Bee, and I really appreciate your support. If you have a lesson you’ve learned through experience in business ownership that you wish you’d been taught before starting your business, reach out – I’d love to hear about it! And stay tuned because I’ll be back soon with another episode of They Don’t Teach This in Business School!