Right People, Right Seats, Right Bus

My first exposure to this idea came from the book, The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber. 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.

The Right Person

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 characteristics 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 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.

Right Seat

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.

A Note on Key Employees

If you have a key employee who you feel is starting to need a new seat or new bus, do whatever you can do 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.

The Question for Business Owners

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.

If you’d like to discuss this further, please check out my VIP consulting plan – short-term help that creates a long-term solution. My key employee coaching may also be of interest. I’m also an engaging public speaker on this topic and may be a good fit for your next event. As always, please feel free to contact me at any time!

Written by : Julie

Julie Bee is the founder of this business consulting practice, a professional speaker, a leader of leaders, a podcast host, and an entrepreneur. Julie helps business owners work through their VIPs - their Very Important Problems and Very Important Possibilities.

She’s the host of They Don’t Teach This In Business School, a podcast that shares lessons learned on the business ownership journey.

She’s a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program (10ksb) and a proud alumnus of West Virginia University. Julie has been quoted and featured in FastCompany, Forbes, Thrive Global, and many more publications.

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