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10/14/2010
01:36 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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Manage Your Most Important Asset -- Your People

Some would say that personnel management -- aka hiring and firing -- is part science, part art. While you don't need to have the intellectual wherewithal of a Mensa member or the social savoir faire of a Dale Carnegie type, knowing a thing or two about your company, your market, and what makes people tick can come in handy.

Some would say that personnel management -- aka hiring and firing -- is part science, part art. While you don't need to have the intellectual wherewithal of a Mensa member or the social savoir faire of a Dale Carnegie type, knowing a thing or two about your company, your market, and what makes people tick can come in handy.Staffing is an issue for every company, no matter its size or scope, but this can be especially thorny for businesses with small staffs and tight budgets. Clate Mask, co-founder of e-mail marketing company Infusionsoft, offers some tips on the topic in his weekly e-letter for entrepreneurs.

First and foremost, he says to give equal weight to each of five factors: education, experience, passion, drive, and fit. "Sometimes, the best applicant is not the one with 20 years of experience. Sometimes, it's not the one with the Master's degree," he says. "Focus your interview questions on all five traits and the 'right' employee will emerge. If it's a photo finish between two candidates, focus on experience, says Mask, adding that it's the "best indicator of future success."

On the flip side, you may be faced with the prospect of trimming your staff. Our weakened economy is putting many business owners in the hot seat, forcing them to evaluate each and every employee unflinchingly. Mask says it's time to let someone go if you can answer "yes" to one or more of the following four questions:

1. Are you doing (or re-doing) the employee's work? 2. Is the employee failing to reach his or her goals on a regular basis? 3. If you've spoken to the employee about their performance, have they taken your words to heart? 4. Are they having a negative effect on fellow employees?

"Small-business owners don't have the luxury of keeping poor or mediocre employees. Keep only the best [people] for your business," Mask says. "And don't feel guilty for letting go of inefficient or unproductive [workers]. You're growing a business, not running a charity. … Plus, I've learned from experience that I'm not doing anyone any favors by keeping a bad employee around -- not the employee, not my customers, not the rest of my staff, and not me."

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