SEALs have a saying for everything. “The only easy day was yesterday.” “Everyone wants to be a frogman on Friday.” “It pays to be a winner.” “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

But my favorite may be this one: “You can’t polish a turd.”

Yes, people will grow in the job: they’ll grow in experience, knowledge, and ability. But you can’t expect anyone to grow into a commitment to excellence if he’s starting out at mediocre. It just doesn’t work that way.

There’s a great line in the film Jerry Maguire, when Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) is telling her sister why she thinks she’s falling in love with Jerry (Tom Cruise): “I love him for the man he wants to be; I love him for the man he almost is.”

Don’t do the Dorothy; don’t hire employees for the team members they almost are. Don’t hire mediocre talent. Hold the standard. Hire people who share your commitment to excellence.

Hire the Best

When you need to hire a lawyer, hire the best. When you need to hire a designer, a writer, marketer, customer service person, a CFO, hire the best.

Of course “hire the best” may mean hire the best you can, given your circumstances. Obviously, when you’re starting out, you may not be able to afford the most expensive legal firm or ad agency. But that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, set a standard, and hold it. Hire the best doesn’t have to mean spend the most money. Excellence doesn’t have to break the bank.

In our first year, I realized that if we were going to be creating a lot of original video content, we needed a videographer on staff. Not only that, we needed an excellent videographer on staff. At the time, I was living in Tahoe. It wasn’t like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago where you can find first-rate talent on any block. Tahoe was not exactly a metropolis teeming with media talent. Plus, I didn’t have the budget for a position that a major established big-city talent would have commanded anyway.

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