Alon Toker of Mega Builders Construction and Remodeling has been there. Before he downsized to selling all the jobs himself at his $3-million Chatsworth, Calif., company, he employed 18 salespeople, selling $8 million.
Toker says there are good (real producers) and bad (troublemakers) prima donnas. Both require attention from an owner trying to build his business.
Prima donnas aren't hard to identify, Toker says. "We let them in because of the greed factor. These people are very charismatic, yet they can lead to disastrous results."
Toker suggests asking the following questions to uncover a potential prima donna. Many are ideal for reference checks:
* Have they jumped from job to job?
* Do they promise the sky? Do they say every 11 leads mean 10 sales?
* In previous jobs, did they exaggerate or belittle attention to detail? Were their contracts vague? Did they promise too much?
* Do they take instruction well? How do they handle it when a client cancels a job?
* Do they bring in projects at a price that can't be produced?
* How much time does it take to manage them? Do they tend to generate client problems?
* Do they bridle at established procedures or want to change them? Do they want to write their own procedure book?
If you seriously consider hiring a prima donna, Toker says, weigh your ability to harness that strong producer against how he could disrupt business. Everyone brings issues, Toker says. "Finding the perfect salesperson is like finding El Dorado, the mythical golden city -- it doesn't exist."
And if you already have a prima donna you want to get rid of? "That's easy," Toker says. "Tell him to go home."