Weekly Thoughts

trail in the desert

And For What? Nine Bucks?

Thoughts on character  

One of our favorite movies is The Family Man. For those unfamiliar, you now have weekend plans.  In the meantime, the IMDB summary is “a fast-lane investment banker (character played by Nicolas Cage), offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife (Tea Leoni).

In one part of the movie, Cage’s “angel” poses as a convenience store cashier.  A young girl buys a Coke and the angel purposefully gives her incorrect (extra) change.  The girl hesitates and then walks away with the extra change.  The angel says, “you see that?  Character.  And for what?  Nine bucks?  I mean, that’s just so disappointing”. 

We were once told that character is what you do when no one is watching.  While we agree with this sentiment, our experience has taught us that subtle, often mundane behaviors can be just as revealing. It’s tempting to think that success in small business can be traced to some combination of strategic insight, depth of analytical rigor, elite selling skills, and fantastic leadership ability.  Presumably, a deficiency in one of these areas would indicate that someone isn’t a great fit for our team.  However, we have found hiking pace, accounting treatment of fire extinguishers, investments in swag, hotel choices, and use of signature stamps are all better indicators.  In the moment, these little snippets can seem insignificant.  But we have learned the hard way that they can provide incredible insights into ones character. 

We have been hiring a lot recently.  In this process, one of the key variables we are trying to solve for is how we think a person will act when they have almost complete leadership autonomy and responsibility for the outcomes of a small business.  Asking questions to understand how a candidate performs under pressure is a start in solving that puzzle.  However, observing how a person acts in low-pressure situations may be the ultimate key to answering that question. 

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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