Your Best Employees Will Have These 5 Traits

How’s business these days?

If you’re still in startup mode, chances are you’re struggling to find the right talent for your expanding operation.

The United States faces a talent shortage of epic proportions. Employers everywhere are struggling to fill skilled jobs, whether they’re on the front lines of healthcare or responsible for bringing goods from point A to point B. According to a recent Manpower survey, one in three of all U.S. employers struggled to fill jobs last year, and nearly 50 percent say these troubles had an adverse effect on their businesses.

Virtually no industry is unscathed. No matter what your company does (or hopes to do, let’s be real), it’s probably suffering from a lack of top-tier candidates with the smarts and skills necessary to keep your company one step ahead of the competition.Before you jump into the hiring game, set some basic expectations for job candidates — and don’t compromise.

Entrepreneur George Otte suggests that you look for soon-to-be-employees with these five basic skills and competencies. As your business grows, they’re likely to be the ones pushing it forward.

  1. Willingness to Learn New Skills

These days, even the biggest businesses require employees who are willing and able to learn new skills as the times demand. As technological advances shake established industries to their foundations, it’s critical to seek out talent that understands the value of staying one step ahead of the latest trends. In an upstart business, this is doubly important — and could make the difference between life or death.

  1. Honesty and Accountability

Inc Magazine notes, correctly, that companies need to be able to hold their employees accountable for their actions — good or bad. It’s often said that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but it’s even more important to remember that — at least in the modern workplace — the cover-up is worse than the crime. Don’t hire employees who do their best work when they’re looking for ways to pawn off their failings on others.

  1. Creativity and Perspective

If you’re choosing between two equally qualified candidates, the tie should always go to the one who exhibits the greatest range of perspectives and breadth of creativity. You never know when such “soft” skills will come in handy. They could form the basis of your company’s next big thing.

  1. Levelheadedness

There’s much to be said for employees who are calm under pressure, even when a million different signals are screaming at them to be otherwise. Ask yourself this: When all the chips are down and it’s make or break time, would you rather have a cool cucumber or a hot potato by your side?

  1. Diligence and Perseverance

When you’re fighting tooth and nail to get your business off the ground, you need employees who are willing and able to go to the mat for you — employees who you can trust to do what you say, when you say it, and maybe throw in a few extra bells and whistles for good measure.

Ready to Sell Your Business? Follow George Otte’s 5 Exit Strategy Tips

All good things must come to an end. No matter how much you love your business or how hard you’ve worked to build it into something that’ll endure long after you’re gone, there comes a point when you’re no longer willing or able to carry it on.

Don’t reach that point without a plan — or “exit strategy,” as it’s called in the business world. Every exit strategy looks different: some involve transfers to heirs, others require outright sales, and still others are simply glorified liquidations.

As you start thinking about your exit strategy, keep these five tips from entrepreneur George Otte in mind. They’ll guide you to the right conclusion for your needs — and your employees’, customers and heirs.

  1. Make Sure You Have a Fallback Plan in Place

You’ll hopefully have many healthy, prosperous years left after your exit. Make sure you have the resources to stay in it for the long haul by setting up and contributing to a tax-free retirement plan well in advance (at least 15 years) of your exit. Ideally, you’d do this as early as possible — starting in your 20s, for instance, can make a huge difference over a lifetime.

  1. Consider a Succession Arrangement

If you have kids or a trusted group of employees, consider handing over the keys after an appropriately long transition period. Before you do, though, be sure to talk to a succession planner who can help you deal with potentially thorny legal issues, such as how to transfer ownership shares.

  1. Analyze Your Competitive Landscape

Normally, your goal as a business owner is to stay ahead of the competition. But, in this case, it might be better to work with the competition. If your company has something to offer competing businesses, consider putting it up for sale.

  1. Take Care of Your Employees

No matter how you choose to exit your company, remember to take care of the folks who made it what it is (or was). Give your employees plenty of warning about any impending ownership change or closing, and be sure to provide fair compensation to anyone who’s been let go.

  1. Maximize the Value of Your Inventory and Assets

If you’re shuttering your business for good, take pains to maximize the value of its inventory and assets: unsold merchandise, equipment, real estate, vehicles, you name it. Consult with a finance professional to determine the best way to dispose of your assets quickly and fairly.

Heading for the Exit?

When starting a business, it’s absolutely critical to follow tried-and-true tips for building a business, even if you think you have everything figured out.

But it’s arguably even more important to honor conventional wisdom when you’re on the way out. So, when in doubt, consult the experts. Start by giving the Small Business Administration a ring. They have a host of resources for business owners thinking about closing up shop (or actively in the process of doing so), and they’re happy to provide advice and guidance. You’ll be glad you took the time to speak with the experts about your options.

Looking for Opportunity? Here’s How to Spot It in Any Industry

If you’ve got street smarts, ambition, and the willingness to work harder than your most diligent competitor, you don’t need to be a degreed expert in a particular industry to get a business off the ground there.

At the same time, you can’t simply pick a field out of thin air. You need to do your due diligence to ensure that an opportunity exists.

This presents a chicken-and-egg problem: if you don’t have expertise in a given field, how can you identify genuine opportunities in it? Many businesses fail, after all, because entrepreneurs fell for an apparent temporary opportunity riddled with underlying weaknesses.

This is how. These five tips and best practices should help you identify an opportunity wherever it’s to be found. Although, it’s important to remember that every company, industry, and entrepreneur is different, and absolute generalizations aren’t advisable.

  1. Identify Secular Shifts

Look for a major, lasting shift in consumer tastes or business decision-making processes, then start a business that exploits it. For instance, restaurant chain Chipotle is widely credited with bringing wholesome, high-quality, sustainable ingredients to the fast food business, essentially inventing a new segment — fast casual — in the process.

  1. Bundle Existing Products or Services

Many of the world’s most successful startups are in the business of bringing basic services to a wider audience, as opposed to trying to reinvent the wheel with a flashy new idea. Some popular new inventions “bundle” two or more existing functions in the same product or service package, adding value for customers and boosting margins for manufacturers. For instance, the camera smartphone merges the desktop computer, telephone, and camera. Scan/copy/print machines blend the scanner, copier, and printer.

  1. Help Others Help Themselves

Many companies are in the business of helping others also end up helping themselves. Like “bundlers”, these firms don’t seek to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they provide straightforward, understandable services more cheaply and effectively than their clients can provide for themselves.

For instance, telephone answering services take service concepts (receptionist, call screening, appointment taking, call forwarding, and more) that have been around for years, apply new technologies and economies of scale, and create an opportunity for clients who can’t afford to provide those services for themselves in-house.

  1. Go Local

Consumers have always craved local products, services, and experiences, but this trend has lately accelerated. Nothing is off-limits here; whether you’re a great homebrewer looking to sell liquid gold to a local audience or a knowledgeable tour guide who wants to educate others about their own backyard, put your idea to the test with your friends and neighbors.

  1. Use Adversity to Your Advantage

All the market research in the world can’t change the fact that there’s no substitute for personal experience. Learn from negative experiences, and use what you discover to improve outcomes for those who come after you. For instance, the founder of doctor rating service MD Insider got the idea for his revolutionary service after contracting a post-surgical infection that nearly killed him. Years later, he’s at the helm of a successful startup that aims to make the healthcare system safer for all. In other words, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Which industry are you most excited about in the near term?