Planned Obsolescence

Hiring mission-critical skills so you can lead your team.

This topic has been pretty well covered by folks far more qualified than I am (Warren Buffet, for one), but I have a personal take on the topic that I would like to share.

The basic idea is this: Define where you or your organization is weak. Then, hire people who fill those roles and they will round out your business, its offerings, and yourself.

This much seems very obvious — and it is. It’s the most obvious thing in the world to say, “We need a designer. So let’s hire a designer.” But there are other ways that this applies, and other less obvious side-benefits.

"We hired people that render my continuous involvement unnecessary. That trips me out."

I'll give an example: Jon Jones is my partner at Anthroware. He is, by all accounts, the yin to my yang. Where I fixate on details and the behind-the-scenes rhythm, he thinks broadly and isn't afraid to dream. Where I am the proverbial bass player in the band, he's the front man. You need both. You can't have a front man in a successful band without the bass player. And a bass player alone doesn't get too far (Victor Wooten excepted, obviously). Without Jon, I wouldn't have had the guts to jump ship and try to create something new. Without me, he wouldn't have had the reality checks along the way that have kept us in business. His strengths are my weaknesses.

There are some less tangible benefits that I've only recently begun to notice. Namely: In a lot of ways, the hires we've made at Anthroware have made my job in a lot of our projects far less important.

When we fired this business up, I had to be intimately involved in every project. I had to handle every bit of all of everything related to data. But recently, I've begun to notice that while that work still falls on me in large part, I am not always relied upon to make the stuff work. We've hired developers that have a good understanding of what data is, how information relates to other information, and the practices and designs that make the data-side of a project a success.

We hired people that render my continuous involvement unnecessary. That trips me out.

The same thing happened with Jon. For the first 1.5 years, he did "project management.” As Anthroware grew, Jon had to work on the business itself more and more; doing any billable work became increasingly difficult for him, and the project management work he was doing began to slip. We identified that as a weakness, found someone far more qualified to do that work, and now our projects run more smoothly than ever before, our customers always know what's going on, the team knows what they're supposed to be doing, and someone is always following up to make sure it happens.

You need to work in your business while you are getting it off the ground… it’s imperative that you work on your business in order to grow it with clear vision. Jon and I both have more time to be primary business designers now and it’s awesome.

As a business owner, you wear nine-thousand-million hats. It's exhausting. All those hats get heavy. But when you hire your weaknesses, you get to take a hat off and give it to someone else whose head is a better fit for the hat. What a relief it is to render yourself obsolete. And the really sweet side-effect is that you learn to really, deeply trust and appreciate the people you’ve brought into your team.

Cheers to planned obsolescence.