HR · 23 July 2015

Should you hire someone like Richard Branson?


Branson feels more businesses should hire “disruptive talent” like him

Recruitment is a significant challenge for most companies – getting your first few employees on board can be both a time-consuming and difficult process. When considering what qualities would make someone good to work with, you may not be particularly keen on a stubborn rule-breaker.

However, Virgin founder Richard Branson has said that’s exactly what you should be looking for to help establish a business with entrepreneurial minds, that will help get your firm off the ground.

The entrepreneur said if he were a member of staff somewhere, his manager would probably have to “accept that I might not do things exactly as he’d like me to do them”.

If this would cause a problem, Branson claimed he’d say: “If you don’t deal with me well, I’m going to go off and set up my own business and I’ll end up competing with you.” This approach may not go down so well for unproven talent, but he did flag up some valid things to consider.

You may not initially see the full capability of prospective employees and it can be all too easy to dismiss potential candidates for fear they’d just prove tricky to deal with – or quickly progress into a combative presence in the workplace.

Branson added: “Look after me, respect me, and accept that I’m a square peg in a round hole.” You may be tempted to go for the theoretically “easy” option of the person who, on paper, lines up more seamlessly with your business. Broadening your mindset and considering those who are more independently-minded and perhaps a little obstinate, could though, be a better route to long-term success.

Branson feels that the new ideas and motivation such individuals will bring to a business, far outweigh the issue that they may be hard to work with.


Many people told Branson his business ideas wouldn’t take off

We rightly place value on having a happy work environment and colleagues that get along, but if this veers too much in the direction of employing like-minded person after like-minded person, you may not get the wealth of potential that contrasting ideas and perspectives can result in.

Management consultancy OE Cam held a discussion with the businessman on the concept – dubbing people who fitted this description “disruptive talent”.

Martyn Sakol, management partner at OE Cam, defined the term as “individuals who think and act differently, innovate, challenge conventional wisdom, spot trends, see commercial opportunities, and tenaciously find ways to achieve success”.

To make sure such talent is utilised effectively, Sakol added that this type of person needs to be robustly managed, to keep them and the business on track.

“Disruptive talent can derail, you need to make sure employees are properly supported, both when they’re working individually, and as part of a team,” he explained.

One business that is taking the plunge with an active focus on recruiting people with such characteristics is Associated British Agriculture. CEO David Yiend said the firm had made it an aim to search for disruptive talent over the past year, and that job ads “stress that we’re looking for candidates who will be provocative, unbending and relentless in their pursuit of the goal”.

This description may seem a slightly worrying one – arguably you don’t want such a disruptive talent they upset the business and the people working within it, nor do you want someone unable to accept other ideas, who will trample over anyone to achieve something.

At the same time, the qualities described – if carefully supervised – could yield great results for a business. Interestingly, Yeind suggested that “the point is you don’t integrate as such. You manage individuals differently, but with everyone working towards a set of common goals”.

He added that it’s imperative to make sure all those on board understand exactly what is required of them and the direction the business is aiming to progress in, “and then as a team you can succeed”.

Business psychologist Stuart Duff said the trouble this talent can bring, has meant many often go off and start their own firms. “Other people in the organisation cannot cope with the amount of antagonism and disruption they bring with them. That is why people you can clarify as disruptive talent tend to start their own businesses,” he added.


If you do hire disruptive talent, you need to make sure everyone understands the vision for the business

It’s worth considering whether you think you’d have the time and management capabilities to make sure such talent would be securely supported within your business framework, and whether they would be a help or a hindrance at an early stage. You may hit a brick wall with a certain idea, and disruptive talent could find a whole new way to look at the situation.

On the other hand, as a small business, the impact of any employee you bring on board is likely to have a more significant impact on others within the firm – so it could spell disaster if not directed appropriately.

Unsurprisingly, recruiting such talent is a risk – but then in order to succeed, you need to be the one to take that risk. As Branson said about starting up his business: “When I came up with the idea of starting my airline and space company, people gave me every reason why I shouldn’t do it. In the end you have to be a leader, you have to give it a go.”

Image: Shutterstock

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

Q&A

If you’ve found the article above useful, but have a more detailed and bespoke question, then please feel free to submit a query to our expert. We at Business Advice will get in contact with them on your behalf and arrange for a personalised response. These questions and answers will then be collated on the site for any other readers who have similar queries.

Ask a question

On the up