You Win Some, You Lose Some

Every company has to make an important decision when it comes to hiring: are you going to prioritize skill or culture fit?

Sometimes the best lessons are hidden, at least that’s what I found after finishing the second chapter in “Delivering Happiness.” Hsieh surveys his time starting LinkExchange, a web advertising network which eventually sold to Microsoft for $265 million. He goes on to relive some of the regret he felt after staying on board once Microsoft took over. The big lesson was, “Don’t chase money, chase your passion.” It was a good reminder, but it wasn’t what stuck out most.

LinkExchange was a company that experienced what Hsieh calls, “hyper growth.” He details how their culture changed rapidly as they soared past 25 employees. By all outward appearances they were making great choices, hiring people who were both smart and talented. Yet one morning Hsieh woke up and realized that he was dreading his drive to the office. Just a year ago he was giving impassioned speeches about the company’s future and now he didn’t even want to walk in the door. What changed? Culture.

A team that started out passionate and close-knit had morphed into a group more focused on “politics and positioning.” People saw LinkExchange as a great stepping stone for their career, but they weren’t excited about what the company was doing. In the midst of finding really skilled employees, Hsieh lost the kind of people that made LinkExchange a company worth working for.

Every company has to make an important decision when it comes to hiring: are you going to prioritize skill or culture fit? Both are important, but cutting corners on the culture aspect may end up hurting you more in the long run. A team can often help develop each others’ weaknesses, but it’s a lot harder to “develop” someone’s cultural fit. A successful team isn’t made up of independently operating skills and talents, it’s made up of people who jive well together and know how to utilize their gifts and abilities to further a cause they’re passionate about.

I feel like every time I prepare for an interview at Prima I’m tweaking my approach. This chapter in “Delivering Happiness” has inspired me to think even more creatively about how we determine cultural fit. I don’t want to make the same mistake LinkExchange did. I want to build a thriving team that’s excited about the work they are accomplishing together.

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