The Cream of the Cream


I’ll never forget the first time. It was a Riesling.

Until then I’d bought my wine from the supermarket, the choice largely dictated by my budget. But that first mouthful… it wasn’t liquid. It was like rolling something solid round your mouth. It was totally different to any wine I’d drunk before. It wasn’t simply ‘better;’ it was a different dimension.

WineBeautyShot-Riesling

I’ll never forget my first mouthful of real Italian pizza, eaten on my honeymoon in Rome. Nothing had ever tasted that good.

And I’ll never forget the moment I first held my son. Love? Nothing could have prepared me for it…

Wine, food, your family: all capable of being better than you could possibly have imagined.

And the people you hire can be exactly the same.

Let me return to last week’s post for a minute:

If I look around the TAB boardroom tables, the members who’ve been really successful over the past 12 months are the ones who’ve hired 9/10 talent, not 7/10 talent. That’s the one key reason I’d identify for their success.

I cannot over-emphasise that point. The difference between a 7/10 member of your team and a 9/10 member is the difference between the supermarket and that bottle of Riesling. It’s the difference between the ante-natal class and holding your new-born baby.

When you’re running a business it’s your job to lead. It’s your job to have the vision. And it’s your job to make sure you hire the very best people and manage them effectively.

Why? Why should you hire the best people? Is it really worth paying the extra? After all, it’s not just salary: there’s a pension, employer’s NIC – and quite possibly the sensitivities of the rest of your team.

Yes, it is worth paying the extra.

Everything I have ever seen – both in the corporate world and as the owner of TAB York – and every discussion I’ve ever had on the subject convinces me that the answer is ‘yes.’ But don’t just take my word for it. In his book, Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, Jay Elliot detailed Jobs’ strategy for hiring ‘A list players:’

I noticed the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run rings round a giant team of B and C players.

OK, I may take issue with the ratio: 50 or 100 times seems excessive. But can an ‘A+ player’ accomplish twice what the average performer can accomplish? Easily. Five times? Yes. The curve is exponential: as talent increases, accomplishments and results rise rapidly.

…And when you put A+ players together, the results are explosive. This is Walter Isaacson, quoting Jobs in the The Exclusive Biography:

I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things you can get them to do great things. The original Mac team taught me that A+ players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B grade work.

That’s a really important point. In fact, it’s two really important points. If you invest the money and hire real talent, they’ll raise the game of everyone they work with. And they’ll raise your game as well. That quote is exactly right: top performers don’t tolerate ‘B grade work’ – and having your name above the door doesn’t exempt you from that.

So I emphatically believe it’s worth paying the extra. Trying to economise on your team is madness. We tell our children to buy Le Creuset as soon as they can afford it – “you’ll be appreciating the quality long after you’ve forgotten the price” – and then try and skimp on our staff.

Your team are going to determine the success or failure of your business every bit as much as anything you do. Some of the members of TAB York have achieved stellar success over the last 12 months. As I’ve said above, the one factor they’ve had in common is that the owners of those business have had the insight – and the courage – to hire the ‘cream of the cream.’ In my mind there’s no question: hiring ‘A+ players’ is the best investment any business can make.

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