Weekly Thoughts

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How to Cook

Here is something that caught our eye this week:

The difference between following a recipe and knowing how to cook

As Chenmark grows, we have started to put processes in place where none existed previously.  One example is the creation of our hiring “squad” (because committees are lame).  As one might guess, this group interviews all candidates and convenes to share thoughts on the candidates’ capabilities, desire to work for Chenmark, and fit with our values and culture.

One area the group concentrates on specifically is how a candidate plans to handle the diversity of challenges that are bound to come up in the world of small business.  Unlike jobs at larger firms, which tend to be more siloed, it’s fairly common for someone in a leadership position at a Chenmark company to deal with issues related to finance, legal, marketing, HR, and others – all in the same day.

When it comes to our hiring pool, we usually encounter applicants who are disproportionately talented in a specific area and less experienced in others.  The key for the interviewer then, is to work to understand how the interviewee plans to fill whatever gaps they have.  Candidates generally fall into one of two groups.  The first understand their weaknesses, are eager to perform well, and as a result want to be told what to do.  The quote is something to the effect of “tell me what I need to know and I will do it exactly that way forever.” The second group is less concerned with methods and more interested in understanding patterns of thought.  “Could you explain how you are thinking about xxx?,” is something we’ll often hear.  We were reminded of this difference when reading a recent Farnam Street article about Julia Child and first principles thinking.  Here is the key quote:

“There’s a big difference between knowing how to follow a recipe and knowing how to cook.  If you can master the first principles within a domain, you can see much further than those who are just following recipes.”

As we continue to grow, the diversity of our companies, industry exposures, and even daily experiences will continue to expand.  We simply won’t have highly proscriptive playbooks for every scenario we are bound to encounter.  For that reason, when hiring, we’ll always opt for the candidate in group two.  While it might be messier, and a few of the early “dishes” won’t turn out so well, we’ll be better served if our leaders aren’t looking for recipes and are instead focused on cooking.  If that sounds like you, click the link below.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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