Hiring Good People Isn’t Enough

Good people? What’s that supposed to mean? Compared to what? Bad people? With the exception of the Hillside Strangler and Jack the Ripper, I’m hesitant to label very many people as “bad.” I’d like to think that nearly everyone is mostly good. Almost all of us want to be moral and responsible.  The real problem is not the lack of good people, it is the lack of good systems.

Even good people have bad days. Some days are humdingers, some days are ho-hum and some are humbug. Intentionally or not, attitude affects the results people produce. It isn’t realistic to expect good people to produce humdinger results on their humbug days. 

In the E-Myth revisited, Michael Gerber says that, “People are unmanageable.” That’s why businesses need systems.  The system produces the results. It ensures that there are no dropped balls and that every customer has an outstanding experience. In a successful company the outside world is impressed by your people, but those people are consistently impressive because of the systems they use.

McDonald’s doesn’t succeed because they hire the best and the brightest. They couldn’t afford the best, and the brightest would probably be short-timers, moving on to bigger and better things. McDonald’s isn’t successful because of their people, it is successful because of the systems their people use. They have systems for everything: for flipping burgers, for managing inventory, for hiring and terminating employees … for everything.

 Kathy and I have been running Ranch Management Consultants for 17 years. When we bought the company, we bought a reputation, curriculum and systems for enrolling students and delivering our product. Since then we have improved these systems and added on. I joke that Kathy is the vice president of everything that no one else wants to do. One of those unglamorous jobs is documenting our systems.

We have a system for sending information to people who want to know about our programs, for negotiating a contract with a venue where we’d like to do a school and for making sure everything we need to run a school arrives at the venue BEFORE the school begins. We have a system for ProfitTips. In fact, after I write this I’m going to follow that system to make sure y’all get this. 

I don’t usually do that. ProfitTips is a team effort. I write it, Kathy edits it (which is why they usually make sense) and Sally sends it out. But this time, to “walk our talk,” I’m going use the system that Sally created for sending ProfitTips and do it myself. I don’t have to worry about being an old dog trying to learn a new trick … all I have to worry about is following the step-by-step instructions in the RMC procedures manual. If you’re reading this and it looks okay and arrived on time, our system worked.

Good people have good days and bad days. They get hurt, take vacations, and retire (Sally is on a well-deserved vacation right now). If we rely on people to produce consistent results, we make ourselves vulnerable and set ourselves up for problems. We need systems. The system may be a step by step process for sending out an e-newsletter like ProfitTips or sending out a Bull Sale catalog. It may be a check list for packing school supplies or for deciding if it’s time to move animals from one paddock to another. The system could be the way people are invoiced for the things they buy from you or the way you pay your bills. Without systems, when good people have bad days or leave, you have big problems.  

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  1. I thought there was a position desired posting attached to this 6/14 profit tips “hiring good people is not enough.” With a link to photo of him and family and border collie. Seems to have evaporated. If you are able to forward this scoop, it would be much appreciated. Keep on keeping on. Thx, KO’Neill


    1. Kelley, I will get the information to you later today. Currently travelling but will get it taken care of. Thanks.


  2. Systems are important. They keep things organized, repeatable, and can maintain a quality control in which a person is responsible to work a system, not a personal direction. This enables people to do a job well, have good results, and know expectations. Systems also can help stream line activities for as I remember the phrase “We might be efficient, but not effective….or possibly effective without being efficient”. To bring both together, efficiency and effectiveness, is good management. A system is not always the shortest route, nor the shortest period of time, it has a conscious design to realize a repeatable desired objective.
    And, I look into the question of “good people” as a part of good management, and what are some underlying aspects of good management? Good management fosters the growth of people, it is empowering, it supports and enables people to self actualize.
    Structure Underlies systems within an organization. Some might think structure could be confining, or constraining, but I would say a relaxed environment is just as much a structure as is “Meet me at the barn at 7:30 and I’ll tell you what to do.” They are both structures.
    If the underlying structure is dictatorial, directive, and questioning to find fault or problems, that becomes disempowering for the employees. In this structure one can develop systems which could be seen as controlling.
    If the underlying structure is empowering, appreciative, grateful, acknowleding of success be they large or small, then it fosters “good”, and in that environment people rise and become “good help”.
    I recently started up a ranch, the fifth over thirty years of ranching. It is in a new community for me, Big Piney Wyoming; I ranched in Montana for thirty years before this. I am starting up a new operation from a “cold start”, no cattle, no equipment, no people, and a run down ranch.
    All the help are good, it is probably the best crew I have ever worked with. I have wondered how did this happen? What is going on which has created a work environment where I get to work with great help, and they love being here. The phrase this year has been ” Just living the dream…”
    I started this operation by telling people ” I will tell you what needs to be done…but I don’t really want to tell you what to do.” I have coupled this with almost daily appreciation and gratitude and acknowledgement of success.
    In some ways it is a “softer” style of management, however this is coupled with quality control, again what needs to be done, and supportive so people become empowered. It is not a directive structure, it is structure in which people realize objectives large and small. It is empowering because they also are able to realize their own potential.
    That is the underlying structure and on top of this we have been able to realize amazing objectives. Starting a 1,200 head outfit from zero is a huge lift. It is a large ranch, and was very much let go over
    the past twenty years.
    When I got this ranch I had previously sold completely out of ranching thing I would retire. That did not work. I had five horses, a couple of dogs, a pickup truck and a horse trailer; and, thirty years of experience. That said, we have created a work environment in which everyone feels a sense of growth and accomplishment. The cattle which I stocked the ranch with started calving in early March and we had the worst winter on record, and we had 93.5% live calves on a put together herd. I am very fortunate to have the crew here which I am able to learn from and work with; and they all feel pleased to be part of this outfit.
    So I offer the idea of thinking about the structure of your operation. After reading “Good to Great” as suggested by Ranching for Profit, I decided I would have three goals in my mission statement. The first is, “Do something for the betterment of others.” The second, ” Enjoy the creative process of growth, goals, and change. ” ( to realize a goal we always change) And, ” To manage for health and well being.” When I decided on these I was surprised, and also pleased. Surprised because none had anything to do with cattle or grass. Pleased because they set in motion a structure within an organization which has helped people, good people, become empowered.


  3. So true!! Excellent writing!!!


  4. Thanks for your considered response, Dave. I appreciate the work you do to help get and keep good people on the land by encouraging strong and purposeful systems. I want a system that attracts good people and helps them become even better!


    1. So do I
      …although I don’t think the challenge is finding good people…there are plenty of them. The challenge is to create opportunities for people to be able to achieve the scale they need to have a successful careers ranching. There are plenty of opportunities for competent ranch managers … the bigger challenge is for those who want to build their own ranch businesses. If you aren’t born into it, don’t marry into it, or didn’t create a pile of money in some other career first, it’s tough … not impossible, but tough.

      Thanks for your comments.


  5. This is scary good and relevant. Scary because I have been involved in and seen so many bad systems that I want to throw the baby out with the bath water. And relevant because I really hunger for a system that allows for success even when I have a bad day or two or a vacation or two! When I have looked for a new position or organization or project to get involved with, I rarely interview with questions about their system. I interview for a position to learn about the people. Probably a poor strategy. But I don’t have a system for interviewing. Or being interviewed.


    1. If in preparing for your interview you:

      1. Looked up the company you’ll be interviewing with to learn what you can about them (and probably thought through the important things you want to know)

      2. Made a list of questions you’d like to ask and thought about the best time and way to ask those questions

      3. Anticipated the questions they are likely to ask you and thought through, and maybe even rehearsed, effective responses

      4. Determined if there are any props (e.g. before and after pictures of a project you completed, a report you compiled) that might be useful in the interview

      5. Thought about the first impression you want to make and what you can do or say to make it

      6. Considered what to wear to reinforce that impression. impression

      7. Cleaned out your car/truck (one of the things I like to do when interviewing people is to walk them out to their car to see how messy it is. If their own car is full of junk it may say something about how they are likely to take care of your things.)

      …you are well on your way to having an “Interview System.” All that’s missing is documentation and a feed-back loop.

      The documentation might be as simple as a checklist to make sure you’ve done all of these things (and there are probably others I haven’t considered).

      The feed-back loop may simply be asking yourself “What went well?” and “What could have gone better?” each time the system is deployed to make sure it produces the best results possible.

      This may seem like over-kill. Maybe … but who’s going to get the job you are competing for … someone who takes the time to prepare or someone who just shows up and wings it?


      1. Thank you for all your efforts in communicating to us very powerful information !!!


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