I Wish PSD Was Contagious

PSD:  “poor, smart and had a deep desire to become rich”

— Ace Greenberg, former CEO of Bear Stearns

Ace Greenberg

Ace Greenberg

Greenberg was describing the qualities he looked for in new hires.  Living in Ghana where most people are poor by Western standards, I have learned the hard way that you need all three qualities to make a good candidate.  Everyone here wants to improve their socio-economic station, several people are smart; however, few have the diligence and desire to be productive workers.

What’s more challenging is identifying a PSD before you hire them.

In March 2013, I placed a job description with a recruiting agency for a sales lady.  I received over 60 applications with a 2:1 male to female split.  All of the men thought they’d ignore the part about a “sales lady”.  I asked our previous office manager to shortlist her favorite candidates; I spent a Saturday afternoon ranking mine.  Then we interviewed about 15 people over three weeks.

Ghana allows you to sack someone within the first three months without cause.  Despite the seemingly limited downside, I still feel I make quite an investment in terms of time to train new hires and money to provide materials and salary.

I offered the job to Miriam, Adwoa, Emmanuel, and Teresa.

  • Adwoa quit after a month.  Though she posted the best sales in the first month, she decided in week 5 that the job was not for her.  Thanks for playing.   Adwoa was smart but definitely was not poor nor had a deep desire to be rich.
  • With Emmanuel, I sensed in the first day that he didn’t have the drive to work.  Though he had previous sales experience, he seemed to prefer to spend time on the phone with friends and giving excuses.  On the first day, he asked, “Can I leave early?” I gave him another week to prove me wrong.  Unfortunately, it was more of the same.  He was poor but lacked in “S” and “D”.
  • Teresa was the youngest.  She’s 19 years old.  Though I initially hired her to be sales lady, it became obvious in the first week that she was too shy for the task.  Instead of sacking her, I noticed that she had an attention for detail and seemed smart.  She reminded me of our first office manager so I had Teresa help her.  (Teresa is still here.)  Teresa seems to have all three PSD qualities.
  • Miriam has been doing a pretty good job.  She’s also still here!  Miriam had the second best sales that first month.  And yet, she has bouts of immaturity.  When things go her way she expects praise and affirmation; when things go against her, she does not take responsibility.  Instead, I get an earful of excuses.  If I did not think she had the ability to return to her previous performance, then I would have sacked her over the summer.  Miriam has P and D in fits and starts.

In addition to the four people mentioned above, I also hired five others based on recommendations.  Miriam recommended a lady who was okay.  She had a good attitude but her numbers never amazed.  Adwoa’s cousin had a good attitude and he produced improving numbers.  Fortunately for him — and unfortunately for me –he will soon be playing professional football in Turkey.

Hiring smart is very difficult.  Going through a recruitment agency is definitely a crap shoot.  You cannot assess a person’s character, integrity, diligence, and intelligence by perusing her experiences.  Going through friends seems to lead to better results.  The theory that birds of a feather flock together seems to eliminate some of the uncertainty.  Nonetheless, interviews and references which are supposed to add clarity still do not separate those who can interview well from those who make good workers.

I blame myself for many of the unfortunate hires because I simply did not have any experience interviewing and hiring — nor enough experience training — new people.  I expect people to be like me — self-motivated, goal-oriented, and take pride in their work.  Unfortunately, many people are just happy to see if they can “get by” and hope that the boss doesn’t notice.

Currently, I am looking to hire someone who can help manage day-to-day operations; eventually, I’d like this person to also sell our service.  I still posted the job with a recruiting agency but I will be relying on my network to identify prospective candidates.

As an addendum, Teresa has been improving.  Though she started doing operations work, she has begun making sales calls.  I attribute part of it to providing clear incentives and part to her being too young to adopt bad, Ghanaian work habits.

Right now, I’d be happy to find a PSD, who doesn’t complain, and who can count.

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