10 Types of Employees (or Partners) to Avoid

10 Types of Employees (or Partners) to Avoid

The success of a business or a project is very often dependent on whether it can sustain itself financially or not.  Sometimes that is a matter of having sufficient revenue to cover the costs, but it is also often a matter of directly controlling the costs and keeping them low.  A great way to control costs is to hire slowly or forego hiring for a position completely. 

Another benefit of not adding personnel is that smaller teams tend to have a higher per-person productivity and efficiency. In this article I will outline ten ways to control costs and raise efficiency within a project by going over ten types of people or types of positions that should not be hired in order to preserve the efficiency of a small team. 

1) Someone Who Will Turn You into a Lawyer


Most people with good work ethics tend to be thrilled to get their hands dirty and start being productive when embarking on a new project.  When people aren’t as excited about the project, but more about what is in it for them, they tend to focus on peripheral issues like, for example, details of legal implications of their involvement.  There are some people who will wonder what happens to the intellectual property they will create in case the company ceases to exist, in case they want to leave, and ten other different potential events which will never happen.  Not only will you spend your time and possibly incurring legal fees while answering these questions, but quite importantly, you may want to ask yourself why this person isn’t asking as many questions about the actual work and how they can quickly start getting their hands dirty.

2) General Business People

There is a bevy of skills a “business” person may have.  They might excel at product vision, be good at business development and getting the right connections for your business, be talented at inside sales, and yet others may be good at marketing.  Even within marketing there are a tremendous number of sub-specializations.  A marketer can be great at creating promotional material, guerilla marketing, SEO or social media marketing.  Even within social media marketing there are still many different options like being a Twitter expert or a Digg expert, or a StumbleUpon expert.

While many people can cross-task and excel at a number of business specializations, they tend to be better at some specializations than others so you must be specific in knowing what you need them to do, and make sure they excel at that.  If you don’t first figure out what skills you may absolutely need, you may find yourself needing a few different business people to fill your business-side needs.  Instead, try to have a great sense of exactly the skills you will need, and look for those skills.  Or just look for brilliant team-oriented people who are thirsty to learn all the skills necessary for the team to get ahead.

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Plus, if someone actually says they are a business person without being able to specify their strengths specifically, that is likely a great red flag.  Another red flag is when someone describes themselves as “idea person.” Just ideas are worthless.  Only people who can do the leg work to help an idea turn into reality are priceless.

3) Social Media Experts

Just as you should not randomly hire generalist business people without specifically knowing what their specific strengths should be ahead of time, you should probably also not bring on board people with overly specific skills.  An example of that are people who claim to be social media experts.  Social media is great and good social media marketers are quite good at getting tens of thousands Twitter followers or large spikes of traffic from StumbleUpon, but those audiences are often just browsing and are not well targeted, so the large number of visitors are likely to turn into disappointingly  small numbers of actual customers. 

The same holds true for business development people.  When the time will come to promote your site, they will not have as much savvy doing that as you may wish or had thought they did, because the expertise they have is in deal-making.

4) UX Designers

There is usually never enough work for a full-time usability designer and they tend to command a pretty high hourly rate when hired on a contract basis.  They will also take up a lot of the manager’s time as they get up to speed in learning about the particular usability needs of a project.  If you have a product manager, usability design should just be a part of his or her skill set.

If you are struggling with usability, just try to be clearer about every page’s message. If you want a user to do something on a page, make it big and apparent.  Also, use a number of free a/b testing tools out there.  That will take care of 70% of the entire job of a UX designer.  Additionally, it is often helpful to look at your competitor’s sites because chances are they might have hired a UX designer, so that will get you a free glimpse of what your competitors paid a lot of money for.  In some cases, a business or project needs to have outstanding usability, but in very many cases the need for better usability is a defense mechanisms that tries to cover up for a product’s other shortcomings.  So make sure you aren’t over-exaggerating your UX needs to cover up for another shortcoming of the product.

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5) People Who Aren’t Genuinely Excited About the Project

People not genuinely excited about the goals, direction, technology or other aspects of the project tend to be mercenaries who are there to collect a paycheck.  They tend to add little excitement to the project and tend to jump ship to the next project that offers larger material compensation.  They tend to be the first to leave during tough times when they are needed the most.  That can really cripple a project and it is better to pass on that hire because the common result of the hire is usually below a 110% effort which the modern business environment requires.

6) Flakes and Talkers

The old expression that time is money never ceases to be literally true.  You must protect yourself from having your time wasted with great vigilance.   In order to protect yourself, a good practice is to give people little “test” tasks to test their dependability in order to make sure they aren’t going to be frivolous with your time.  If someone wants to chat over coffee and you are not certain whether this will be great use of your time, ask them to put together a little agenda.  Surprisingly many people will just back out of the meeting suggestion.  If you are thinking about bringing people on board, to make sure they will not end up being flakes.  Try to give them assignments and see how much effort they are willing to put into the task.  If they don’t complete the task, then you got your answer early and before this person were able to waste your time.  

7) People Unwilling to Learn or Step Out of Comfort Zone

In the modern Web business world, the speed of innovation is accelerating and people have to be more and more nimble and flexible.  As an example, today Java is hot and tomorrow it is Ruby on Rails.  And by the way, that was true a few years ago and today Java is becoming the C++ of 1995, Java is giving way to newer languages, and Ruby is competing with more and more languages that are springing up each year.  This is true in engineering, databases, marketing and businesses environments, and nearly every imaginable space across the board.   So if the person you are looking to work with isn’t innovative or open to new technologies, the current business environment will just swallow them whole and obsolete their skill sets quite rapidly, leaving you with a lagging person on your team.

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8) Big Shots

People who are accomplished in their field come with lofty resumes, impressive degrees and shiny armor.   It is a good idea to be respectful, but not be overly impressed by someone’s credentials.  You were not there to see the real history of these credentials, and your concern is with the future instead of the past. 

People with lofty credentials sometimes tend to be averse to dirty and scrappy work.  They are fabled to come with inflated egos that make it difficult for them to fit into a team and be team players.  Also, it goes without mentioning that they tend to be the most expensive members of your team.

9) People Who Will Not Benefit From Working For You

People who do not truly benefit from working for/with you are usually people who are taken advantage of by you or the organization.  They are either grossly underpaid or are made to do menial jobs where they learn nothing they want to learn.  Such employees will not only drag you down and have that be your fault, but over time they will inevitably feel cheated and begin to bare resentment towards the way you handled the situations.  It might at first make sense to get the better part of the deal in terms of bringing someone on board, but if the situation isn’t fundamentally fair or well-intentioned, it will backfire.

10) Actual Lawyers

This is a controversial point so take it with a grain of salt.  Hiring lawyers or legal firms to help your startups can not be avoided if you wish to raise investment, create a multi-million dollar company, or even go public one day.  Yet if you are a startup or a young project, the chances of your company ever fitting into any of the aforementioned categories are probably equivalent to the chances of winning the lottery, so there are a few types of legal procedures and documents that you are probably better off avoiding as they all cost money and time if you want to create them.

There is a strong anti-patent movement that is currently led by some of the premier VC’s like Brad Feld.  So think twice before trying to get a patent.  Non-Disclosure agreements are also becoming a thing of the past because they offer almost no real protection and are usually a way to waste time. If you want to drive a good person away from your project, ask them to sign an NDA and will do the trick.  Additionally, trademarks or copyright documents tend to be quite easy and can be often done DIY (Do-It-Yourself) so often, a lawyer is not needed for that.


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