I’m certainly not the first person to claim that great employees are the key to success, but this point is so important that it deserves an article. If you pay the very high price (not just in money) to find and keep a great team then your business really will run itself.

Put a lot of effort into hiring. Make the other employees help. Everyone needs to put serious time into hiring or you will pay for it later. First throw out the bad résumés and ones that didn’t supply cover letters. Then have at least two people do separate phone screens of each remaining candidate. Give homework assignments. At this point you will only have a few great people who you need to interview in person.

Bend over backward to find A+ people. Settle for A- at the very least. You are much better off with a very small team of ass kickers than an army of slackers. An army of mediocre people requires a lot of management, which will grind your business to a halt.

Pay a lot. Think you can’t afford to? You can. Great people can literally produce as much as 2 to 5 mediocre people. I have witnessed that many times, especially in computer programming. It costs less to pay one ass kicker $90,000 than two mediocre people $60,000 each.

Especially in the first six months you should spend a lot of time with new hires. Mostly you are helping them adjust to the company, but you are also watching for problems. If the new person is performing far below expectations then you have to fire them. I don’t take that lightly. Firing people is excruciating for you and them, but you owe it to the rest of your team. If you are a wimp and allow mediocre people to fill your team then the great people will leave or be less productive.

The benefits of hiring and keeping talented, enthusiastic, productive people are nonlinear. As your team gets to about 75% or more of ass kickers you will see big jumps in morale and productivity throughout the company. Great people inspire greatness in others.

In between all the hiring and firing is the care and feeding of a great team, but I’ll save that for other articles since it is such a broad topic.