Running a business can be lonely; all of us have weaknesses and blinds spots. A good first officer fills the gaps, gives you someone to brainstorm with and someone to hold you accountable. After a while, a good first officer can “take the bridge” so you can enjoy some much needed shore leave.
Over the years, I have had a number of people fill that role. They have had different personalities, different styles, and different skill sets. I have learned there isn’t one perfect first officer, but there are some good techniques to finding and cultivating that officer so that they are successful and so are you.
I am a bit of a geek, so you will have to forgive my Star Trek references. Captain Kirk was brash, emotional, and decisive. His “ready, fire, aim” approach often landed him in hot water. The thoughtful, logical Mr. Spock was a perfect balance, forcing Kirk to stop and think things through.
In contrast, Picard was often cold and detached. He relied on his first officer, Riker, for the “human touch.”
Unfortunately, you can’t just whip up someone with exactly the opposite DNA to create a mirror reflection. And in truth if you did they would make you completely crazy. Instead make a list of all your weaknesses. Then pick the one or two you know you aren’t likely to change and make those required skills for your next first officer.
So what about you? What are your weaknesses?
As for me, I am an outgoing extrovert who is comfortable with filling in the blanks and making cognitive leaps. While I like to have fun, in a business setting I focus on the task and facts before the people and their feelings, and I tend to jump to conclusions. My best first officers have often been cautious introverts who help keep my enthusiasm in check.
It isn’t easy working with someone who views the world differently. You find yourself answering tough questions and defending your ideas. The ones who hold up under scrutiny are the ones worth pursuing. This will only work if you can keep your ego in check, accepting the fact that you don’t always know the best answer
While large companies have the budget to gamble on senior managers recruited from the outside, small businesses do much better with homegrown talent. Ideally, you should identify someone in your organization who has potential and bring them along slowly.
One final note. Finding a first officer is vital to the long term success of your business, so it is important to be sure you have the right candidate, someone who really wants the job. While there is no guarantee someone will stay with you forever, it is good to have preliminary conversations about long-term plans before you head down this path. If you are serious about them being a part of your business for the long haul, talk to your accountant about developing a path to ownership.
The difference between being self employed and owning a business is whether or not revenue continues to be generated when you aren’t there. If your goal is to own a business, a strong first officer is critical to your success.
Start your search today so your business will live long and prosper.
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