Some thinking I’ve done on how to do hiring

Below is an email I sent out to everyone at Infer in August of 2016. I’ve made some changes to clarify terms that the general public might not understand. Read only the bold sentences if you want a summary.

A little over a year ago Yang [one of the cofounders at Infer] asked me my opinion on the hiring process for the Data Analyst position, and I didn’t have a thorough answer at the time, but I said I would think about it. I have a tendency to take a long time to think something through, but when I’m done I usually feel like I have a crystal-­clear answer. And I think that is what has happened in this case: I feel like I have a crystal­-clear answer on how to think about hiring.

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Problems that prevent routine white-collar tasks from being automated as a service

Recently I had a serial-entrepreneur acquaintance send me a form email for a new company he’d started with six others that aims to automate all routine tasks that white-collar workers have:

I have a quick question: When you hear the phrase: “Annoying business processes”, what comes to mind for you?

My company automates these processes. We can handle anything (anything!) that can be turned into a set of instructions. Even if the instructions contain complex logic — we’re totally custom. Even if the labor required would normally take hundreds of hours — it’s the same price.

I responded:

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An email to a friend with some ideas for creating a repeatable sales/growth process

Here’s an email I recently sent to a Stanford/HLS-grad friend of mine who started a delivery company that sells to individuals and businesses. He’s currently trying to figure out a repeatable sales/growth process. Because his product involves physical delivery, he’s aiming to target groups of businesses that are within close proximity of each other (eg in a strip mall / office park). As with Box/Dropbox, he can sign up one person at a company and then try to get that person to sign up others. I’ve made some clarifying edits and removed some identifying information.

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How to Read Business Biographies

Here’s an email I recently sent to someone who is interested in starting a business within the next few years; he had asked me if I had any advice from having read a bunch of business (auto)biographies:

I’ve attached a list of some of the books I’ve read since graduating college. Note: I haven’t read all of those books cover-to-cover, but I only included books on that list where I read the “meat” of the book. I’ll explain:

I recommend you think about reading books like eating steaks at a restaurant or in your home. Sometimes you’ll get a steak served to you that has a little fat around the edges, and what I do is cut that part out and not eat it. Sometimes you’ll have a lot of fat, and you only end up eating half of what was given to you by weight. Books work the same way.

I recommend that if you decide to read business biographies, you focus on the first few chapters, where it is explained how the person went from being like anybody else to being more successful than other people. If those chapters make up only 1/10 of the book, I think it’s smarter to read those chapters 10 times than to read the entire book once.

Another analogy I use to explain how to read is Ikea furniture: when I’m assembling Ikea furniture, I don’t read the instruction manual cover-to-cover before I start. I just read the first step and do that step, and then I read the next step. Business biographies work the same way: most biographies spend the bulk of their pages talking about the subject once he/she was already successful, but that isn’t as useful to people like us because we haven’t yet gotten to the same level of success.

So instead of reading these books cover-to-cover, you’d be better off focusing on the beginning, which is more relevant to your current situation. If you follow that strategy you’ll also be able to get through more books, and you’ll develop a better sense of what other successful people have done early in their careers.

Wailes, Nathan – Continued Study