Marketing Consultant & Fractional CMO

The Zombie Guide to Human Resources

by | Nov 12, 2012 | Marketing

The most important staffing advice any business owner can receive—”Hire slow and fire fast”—is simple in theory but surprisingly difficult in practice. Inexperienced business owners struggle with both sides of this useful advice.

When you’re understaffed and business is growing, it’s tempting to hire the first seemingly competent person you find. You want so much for them to be perfect for the position that you start to believe it without first having proven it. It’s not until weeks or months later that you realize the full impact of the unfortunate hire.

And then when the time comes to let someone go, you probably tend to drag that decision out unnecessarily, giving that person ample extra time to damage morale, exploit resources, and upset customers. You’ve developed a relationship with this employee, maybe even consider them a friend, and now you’re putting the rest of the company at risk by not dealing with a situation that probably seems obvious to everyone else. It’s rare for a leader to say, “I wish I’d waited longer to fire that person.”

When I found myself confronted with those same issues as an inexperienced CEO, I knew I had to find a healthier way to think about these situations. I couldn’t keep falling into those same patterns. That’s when I came up with the Zombie HR.

Zombie HR is based on the principle that your team is the last surviving band of humans in a city overrun by zombies. You’ve barricaded yourselves in an abandoned apartment building, struggling against all odds to keep humanity alive during this undead apocalypse.

Then, one day, you hear a knock at the door.

You ask them to identify themselves.

“It’s okay,” a voice responds from the other side of the door. “I’m not a zombie. I’m one of you. Let me in! I can help!”

Do you trust them? Do you unbolt the six locks on the door and allow them to enter the one pocket of humanity left in this ruined city?

Not without some proof you don’t.

You ask questions. You test them. You throw everything you’ve got at them until you’re sure you can let them in without compromising the safety of the people for whom you’re already responsible. Only then do you open the door and welcome them in.

Later, when you notice someone on your crew has a sickly pallor, lurches around the barricaded apartment strangely, and seems preoccupied with brains, you can’t wait around for your next one-on-one with them and hope it works itself out. If they’re turning, there’s really only one course of action available to you: you take them out.

Not everyone has the intestinal fortitude to make these kinds of decisions, but you do. That’s why you’re in charge.

It’s uncomfortable, messy, and emotionally difficult — survival often is — but it beats having some zombie sucking on your head. If you’re a 10-person firm, and two of those people are brainivores, that means a full fifth of your company is working against you. Those are pretty big odds to overcome. Every moment counts, and failure to take action could set off a chain of events resulting in irreparable damage to your company.

So, if you find yourself struggling with the old “hire slow and fire fast” advice, just put yourself into that zombie apocalypse mindset, and ask, what would the last band of humans during the zombie apocalypse do?

Marketing Fundamentals 2: Target Audience

Marketing Fundamentals 2: Target Audience We're talking about the three layers of marketing, and how you want to start at the bottom by helping your target audience solve a real problem with your unique product. Then, you want to design your customer experience...

Marketing Fundamentals 1: Overview

Marketing Fundamentals 1: Overview Entrepreneurs start out with a lot of misconceptions about how business really works, and that's understandable because nobody really ever teaches them. Marketing, in particular, is one of the least understood concepts by business owners....

This is Marketing in the Real World

This is Marketing in the Real World

I’m trying to teach businesses how marketing works in the real world. I've been involved in some kind of marketing at pretty much every point for the last quarter of a century—which kind of makes me contemplate my own mortality, but whatever. For about half that time,...

Using Content Marketing in a B2B Setting

Using Content Marketing in a B2B Setting

Content marketing is a way of marketing that focuses on creating and sharing valuable content with your audience. The goal is to educate and engage your audience, so they'll want to buy your products or services. It can be used in a number of ways, but for B2B...