Jen Paquette | Crain's San Antonio

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jen Paquette

Background:  

Jen Paquette is executive director of The Green Beret Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides the Army’s Special Forces and their families with financial and moral support in times of need. Her husband, Roland, is a veteran Green Beret who lost both legs to amputation while serving in Afghanistan.  

The Mistake:

My mistake was assuming other people see the world through the same lens I’m using.

A lot of people have a work ethic and others do not. Many people want to do things for altruistic reasons; they want to work hard and do the right thing. They want to do a good, quality job.

Many people don’t care about those things, though, and are motivated by other factors. It’s not necessarily that they are good, bad or indifferent; you just need to know what motivates your team and those you associate with.

I have worked with people all over the world who actually have selfish motivations a lot of the time, but those people are needed in order for the business to keep going. I just have to identify them and deal with them in a different way than I would with someone else.

As the executive leader of the [Green Beret] foundation, I am accountable for everything that’s going on and everyone who’s doing it.

I’ve made some serious mistakes even when I felt I had done my due diligence. Intuition is a part of this; I’ve had a bad feeling about a hire and have gone against that bad feeling and ended up paying a very high price for that

Now my motto is: “I hire slowly and fire quickly.”

The Lesson:

I finally have learned that it’s all about identifying the right people who are going to work on your team.

Now my motto is: “I hire slowly and fire quickly.” I spend a lot of time with every person I consider hiring.

That was a hard lesson for me to learn, and we aren’t even talking about the money involved when you make a mistake in a hire and how severe that mistake could be.

It’s all about relationships and taking care of your people. You can’t just hire them and then back off. You’re accountable for them and to them as the big boss. You’re accountable to those people and you need to make sure they have a quality of life and a work-life balance because that is what will keep the business moving forward.

In this and most other small businesses, you’re very limited in resources in terms of both time and money. You’re doing the best you can with what you have.

I was trying to keep our company going, and sometimes maybe someone would come in and you know that person isn’t the best fit or you could spend some more time doing a search or digging a little deeper, but you’re so limited that you find yourself just jumping in.

I have come to realize that because of the mistakes I have made with hires, it would behoove me to spend extra time making hiring decisions and to listen to my intuition.

Follow The Green Beret Foundation on Twitter at @GreenBeretFound.

Photo courtesy of The Green Beret Foundation