Marvin Carolina Jr.: Small businesses must identify talent, build the best team possible


The Kansas City Star

As a small-business owner, you compete with rivals for the same customers and the same dollars. Some competitors are mom-and-pop shops and some are corporate behemoths. Are you doing all you can to win by fielding the best team possible? If you haven’t recruited and retained the best talent, you haven’t.

I travel the country speaking to small-business owners, and I’ve noticed a recurring theme: Small-business owners who produce high-quality products or provide high-quality service complain about tepid sales, but they make little effort to find and hire talented workers.

What is talent?

If you perform a task exceptionally well on occasion, you have potential. If you consistently perform a task exceptionally well, you have skill. Talent, then, is simply a group of skills. Here’s an example:

I want to be an Accountant. I easily calculate long-division problems in my head, and I scored a perfect 800 in math on the SAT. Do I have the talent to be an accountant?


Though my math skill is obvious, to be an accountant, I need skill in several other areas, too:

▪ Accounting procedures and regulations

▪ Analysis

▪ Attention to detail

▪ Communication

▪ Critical thinking

▪ Decision making

▪ Judgment

▪ Negotiation

▪ Organization

If I demonstrate skill in all 10 areas, I have the talent to be an exceptional accountant. If I have skill in three or four areas, however, I almost certainly will not excel as an accountant.

Can you measure talent?

Not only can you measure talent, you should. Here are a few commonly-used indicators:

▪ Capabilities and competencies: What can you do?

▪ Experience: What have you done?

▪ Intelligence: How smart are you?

▪ Personality: How do you behave?

Indicators alone can’t guarantee an employee will excel, but conducting the analysis is better — far better — than not. Big companies have long used a battery of tools to screen prospective employees: applications, aptitude tests, background checks, drug tests, interviews, references. Some even check your credit.

Few small-business owners are this aggressive. Most are content using two or three indicators. Some use no indicators at all! They hire their cousin or their best friend with no evidence this person can do the job.

Your business may be small, but that doesn’t preclude you from recruiting and retaining top-tier talent. Whether your goal is increasing market share or maintaining market share, to do either, you need to field the best team. So hire the best talent.

Marvin Carolina Jr. is a vice president for JE Dunn Construction. He can be reached at