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Last Update: Sunday April 11, 2021

Key Idea: Hire People You Like

You own it and you should like all of the people who are working with you. More...

Key Question:


Hiring people you like may sound simplistic but it is actually profound and we have heard it from many business owners.

Q: How do you find people that you like?

A: Slowly and carefully. At the French Laundry, Thomas is concerned about the team because they have to work in such close proximity to one another. We have never seen anything like what we saw in the kitchen. Thomas even says that the kitchen personnel have to be like dancers who perform a ballet every night. Translate that comment to mean that each person must be nimble and thin. In fact, there were no large or overweight employees at The French Laundry just as there are no overweight dancers on the payroll of a dance company.

What does this have to do with liking a person? People are a total package and how they appear will tell you a lot about how they will fit in to your existing organization. Also, like attracts like. Thomas Keller is nimble and thin so he is attracted to this type of person. At The King Company, which was founded by a former football coach, we found plenty of former athletes on the payroll. These men continue to lift weights -- in fact there is weight lifting equipment in the warehouse for anyone to use -- and most of them coach little league teams and encourage their children to be physically active.

Nicole Miller, the founder of the fashion house that bears her name, told us she only hires people she likes. Nicole didn't have to explain her philosophy to us and because her firm is small, she doesn't have regulators crawling all over the place making sure she gives every person who is seeking a job an unfettered opportunity.

The people part of running a business is the hardest part and strong small business owners have figured out there is a science and an art to hiring. If a person has all of the qualifications for the position, they still might not be hired if the owner doesn't have a good feeling about the person. Wanda Brice is owner of a professional staffing company and she told us that she only hires nice people. We think this is another way of saying she only hires people she likes.

Back to the question: how does one determine if one likes another person? You should first trust your instincts and second you should give yourself time to validate your first impression. Wanda Brice says never hire a person without a trial period. She gives herself, her staff and a new hire a 90-day trial. During the first 90 days, either the new hire or the employer can decide to dissolve the relationship with no penalties. We know of many mediocre business owners who rush to hire a qualified warm body and are sorry later when they discover the technically qualified person is not a pleasure to have around.

Think about it

Do you like everyone who is on your payroll? How did you end up with people you don't like? What should you do to change your hiring process?

Clip from: The French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller

Yountville, Napa Valley, California: He took a little-known restaurant in a little town and turned it into one of the most famous places in the world.  Le Monde said (paraphrased), "Can it be possible that the best French restaurant is not  in France but ...California?" 

Visit The French Laundry and the man who made it come to life, Chef Thomas Keller.  He now also owns Per Se in New York City, and Bouchon in Yountville and in Las Vegas.  To accomplish this growth, he has recruited, hired and trained some of the best chefs and service people in the country.

Writer Irvine Welsh had this to say about dining at The French Laundry,  "...I salivate now as I think of the Truffle-pickled Hen Eggs with 'its creamy yellow' and Chopped Black Truffles.  ...obviously, the title of 'best restaurant in the world' is subjective to the point of lunacy. Having said that, I doubt it would be possible for The French Laundry to be equaled.

...Thomas Keller is a true giant among chefs, coming over as a genuinely inspirational figure, and to see him in action in his kitchen is pure joy."

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French Laundry

Thomas Keller, Owner

6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Visit our web site:

Office: 707.944.2380

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Hire People You Like

HATTIE (Voiceover): Some 20 cooks work with Thomas in the kitchen. This year, Stephen Durfee won the Beard Foundation's award as best pastry chef in America. On your award, did you submit any recipes or anything?

STEPHEN DURFEE (Pastry Chef): No, it's all entirely based on people who come to the restaurant to eat. So it was a complete surprise when I found out.

HATTIE: So every day in the morning, you come in and you fix how many different items?

STEPHEN: We have about eight or nine dishes that are on the menu...

THOMAS: (Voiceover) Here, you create an energy in the environment, an energy within the environment.

HATTIE: Right.

THOMAS: And that energy only accepts like energy.

HATTIE: Like attracts like.

THOMAS: Exactly.

HATTIE: Success breeds success.

THOMAS: Exactly. So you have those people that come in here who are--can be successful in that energy. And every day now we try to tweak the organization so that it becomes a little more efficient, a little more effective for people to work in, a little more organized so that there's not that chance that someone doesn't understand what's going on in my head and my sense of logic.

So I build around me a group of people who have the same type of vision, the same type of passion that I have. I could almost watch somebody walk through our kitchen and say, `Yeah, there's a person who's gonna be successful here,' or, `There's a person who's not gonna be successful,' just by the way they walk, just by the way you communicate through your body language or your body movements, how you work around other people. . . I call it a dance in the kitchen.

I referred earlier to it as being athletic. Well, it's also like a dance; we can move through the kitchen without stepping on your toes.

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