Home » Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients – Excerpt from Hiring & The Potter’s Wheel

Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients – Excerpt from Hiring & The Potter’s Wheel

(Here is another excerpt from the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art)

Chapter 4 Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients
“The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the third good humor, and the fourth wit.” – William Temple, Sr.

Mary arrived at the deli early and sat at the same table she and Dr. Scott had shared last week. She had worked herself up to really let Dr. Scott have it when he arrived. But as he walked through the door, seeing Mary already seated, Dr. Scott waved in her direction and exclaimed with a broad grin, “Wasn’t that fun? I just love digging my hands through clay. Forget pottery, I could just play in the mud and be happy.”

Dr. Scott’s outburst disarmed Mary, but she gathered herself enough to respond, “Sure it was fun, but I didn’t learn a thing about human resources, and I still don’t have a plan for how I’m going to be successful hiring twenty new people. I think you set me up just to fill up your brother’s class. You owe me for that.”

Dr. Scott could see Mary was upset, but he peered over his glasses and started in, “Mary, you can…”

“Stop, I know what you’re going to say. I can do better,” Mary replied. “Don’t go there right now. I’m not happy about all this. I’ve got this job to do and you’re toying with me.”

“Okay,” he said. “I probably should have warned you about my brother. But he is a great teacher, and I stand behind what I said about this class being the best program on human resources.

“Tell me, Mary, what did you learn last night?”

“I learned about clay. Not people, just clay.”

“But what did you learn about clay?”

“That there are three main types of clay, and you must choose the right raw ingredients to get the right final product, otherwise your pottery will be flawed before you even start.”

A thought hit Mary… the right raw ingredients. It dawned on her. Yes, that’s it! It was there all along. You have to have the right raw ingredients before you even start.

Dr. Scott could see Mary’s face dawning with realization. “Something’s coming to you, isn’t it?” he said with a grin.

“It’s all about the raw ingredients. If I want to find the right twenty people for the job, I have to know what raw ingredients I’ll need. Otherwise, I may pick people without those ingredients and they’ll be flawed at best.”

Dr. Scott smiled with approval. “I always said you were one of the smart ones. You are absolutely right. It’s all about starting with the right materials. You have to identify the right traits your potential applicants should have. So, the next step… how are you going to do that?”

Mary thought for a moment. “I’ll need to make a list of all the traits the perfect person would have for the job.”

“And what else?”

“What else? Isn’t that it?”

“You did say there would be a training program, right?”

“Yes,” she confirmed.

“What will you teach in that program?”

“Oh, I get it. I need a list of traits or skills that will not be taught in the training. Sort of the… uhh… ‘non-teachable’ traits.” Mary thought further. “I know. I’ll make a complete list of traits and break them down into two lists, non-teachable and teachable. Then I’ll know first, what I’m looking for and second, what we’ll be training.

“Dr. Scott, I must apologize. I take back all the mean thoughts I’ve had about you since last night. This is great. I feel so much better about this.”

“One more thing,” Dr. Scott added. “After you make your list of traits, draw up a list of questions for the interview that will help you identify if the applicant has those traits. You have to have some means to truly find out if your applicants have what you want. If you need, you can email your list of traits and questions to me for review. Maybe that will make up for the little deception you feel I played on you,” he added with a slight grin.

Lunch was served and Mary spent her meal making mental notes of how to get her staff to brainstorm a list of teachable and non-teachable traits. Mary was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t notice that Dr. Scott had already paid the bill and was ready to leave.

“Have fun Wednesday night,” Dr. Scott said as he departed. Do you want to meet again Thursday?”

Mary was so excited about her new discovery she had forgotten about the next pottery class. “Sure, I’d love to meet Thursday. But this time I’m paying.”


Mary felt like skipping back to her office. The rest of the day she and her staff interviewed the current sales reps trying to identify all of the traits necessary to be successful in that position. By the end of the day Wednesday, they had their list, and Mary had the start of her plan.

Here is what people are saying about the book…

“Phil, Just finished reading your book, and I loved it! Perfect length. Easy to follow. Beautifully written. Seriously, pulling off dialogue like that is incredibly difficult to do, and it deepens one’s understanding and appreciation for the lessons you taught. The topology between hiring and pottery was spot on. I’ve done a poor job of hiring employees in the past, and really wish I had this step-by-step process when I owned my retail business years ago. I especially like the tip about giving new employees a safe place to practice their new skills. How true!” Tom WanekMarketing Beyond Advertising

“Just finished your book and loved it. A very easy read with a format that will be helpful to many small business owners as it follows a story line with a company in need of hiring fast and hiring right. You take it one step further though and stress the importance of integrating the new employees correctly. I especially love your tying the job to specifics found in the job description and by interviewing the hiring manager to formulate interview questions as well as your stressing having a set process to follow when hiring since all of us HR types understand the importance of following a consistent process too.” Karla Dobbeck, PHR – President, Human Resource Techniques, Inc.

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