When business owners think about growth, the first thing that often comes to mind is revenues, financing, and client retention. While growth often certainly feels like a numbers game, though, entrepreneurs quickly learn that it’s about people and relationships. That means finding and building strong relationships with the right investors and lenders, but it also means finding ways to recruit the right employees.


The employees a business hires play a major role in what kind of company culture it will develop. After all, businesses rely on employees for their productivity, their attitude toward each other and toward customers, and their ability and willingness to innovate. Understanding who those top performers are, and learning how to recruit them as a small business, is a critical part of making a business competitive, and keeping growth sustainable over time.

A few A-players disproportionately boost productivity

Price’s law, based on Derek J. de Solla’s research on the productivity of academics, states that 50 per cent of the productivity of any group is attributable to the square root of the number people in the group. Having been found to apply to groups in all kinds of situations, including typical work environments, this means that, statistically, a small business with 36 employees typically relies on just 6 workers for approximately 50 per cent of its total productivity.

Of course, many of the workers who aren’t among those top performers may still fill essential roles, underpinning the company’s culture, or perhaps enabling the high productivity of others. What’s important to learn from this, however, is that businesses who can attract just a few more of these top performers will enjoy a disproportionate competitive advantage over others in their industry. If our above-mentioned 36-person company had 8 of these top performers, for example, its total productivity could already be 15 per cent higher than that of a typical competitor.

Attracting top performers

Finding and hiring A-players isn’t easy for businesses in any circumstances, but it can seem particularly difficult for a small business. After all, small businesses usually can’t compete with large corporations when it comes to compensation, benefits, or room for advancement. That doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done.

Write effective job listings

To attract top performers, a job listing just needs to do a few specific things well. It needs to communicate the demands of the positions clearly and effectively, and it needs to engage and inspire potential candidates. Firstly, that means the job description needs to be written by someone who fully understands the position. Job descriptions need to give readers a very clear and succinct idea of what is required of them, while avoiding vague and largely meaningless qualifications such as “adaptability”, “team mentality” or “strategic thinking”. Since no candidate would ever admit to lacking these qualities, these just just draw the reader’s attention away from the position’s core qualifications.

Inspire potential candidates

A great job description also needs to inspire and excite readers. Ideally, this is done by showing candidates how the work they’ll be doing matters to the company, and how the work the company does matters to its customers. This provides context to the job, and allows potential candidates to picture themselves in their future role.

Avoid accidentally filtering out top performers

It’s important not to overemphasise non-essential skills or experience. More experience doesn’t always translate to greater competency. Discouraging candidates from applying based on an often arbitrary experience requirement might filter out otherwise desirable candidates. Similarly, a company can seriously harm its prospects by requiring applicants to have relatively minor skills, such as familiarity with obscure software that a new employee could simply acquire during training.

Make sure candidates are a cultural fit

Even an otherwise ideal employee can become ineffective when placed in the wrong environment. To avoid this scenario, businesses should avoid a candidate that just looks great on paper, or who interviewed well in an isolated setting. Rather, it’s important to narrow down your options to a handful of individuals. These can then be interviewed specifically for their cultural fit, or even invited in to interact with future coworkers before a decision is made. This gives both the candidates and the business a chance to actively consider how good a fit they are and make a deliberate choice.

Taking just these few relatively minor steps can make a big difference for businesses. By working to attract the right kinds of applicants, and being deliberate about how new hires will interact with the company culture, businesses can significantly improve their growth potential. Not only does this make it easier for businesses to find and hire top performers, it also helps to establish a more stable company culture that’s inherently more innovative, and that works better together to make growth possible.