““I can’t say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”” – Daniel Boone

There is nothing more critical to your success than the choices you make about the people you work with.

Ask any honest businessman what accounts for his success and you will hear names dropping. No matter what career you choose – even something as solitary as being a writer – it requires the assistance and guidance of superlative people.

Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived. But would he have that reputation without Scottie Pippen? Or Phil Jackson? Or even Dennis Rodman?

T.S. Eliott is probably the most celebrated modern poet. His best poem, The Wasteland, would have been a shell of what it turned into without the editing of Ezra Pound.

In the world of wealth, the importance of excellent help is sometimes beclouded. Everyone knows about Warren Buffet, but few have heard of Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates is synonymous with Microsoft, yet Paul Allen was – by most inside accounts – equally responsible for its success.

Every successful businessman I know relies on one or several supporting performers. Those who rely only on themselves may have brilliant moments, but they seldom succeed in the long run.

It will be no different for you. The better your support group the further and faster you will go.

Finding your own Phil Jackson

So how do you get great people to work for you? How do you find a superstar protégé? How do you snag that rare person who can help you grow and improve your company? How do you find someone capable of doing what you do . . . when you don’t want to do it any more?

These are questions you should start thinking about today.

I should point out that your “support group” extends beyond key employees. It can also include certain vendors and advisors…certainly any partners…bankers, lawyers and so on.

Step One: Demand the Best

This is an important subject we will talk a great deal about in the future. For today, lets start with the obvious.

In order to get great people to work for you it is necessary to reject anyone who is less than great.

Getting an excellent supporter means everything will be easier. He will learn your secrets faster than you can explain them. He will take on any challenge. He will figure out solutions before he tells you problems. And most importantly, he will share your enthusiasm (maybe exceed it) and vision.

Right now I am lucky enough to be working with three superstars. Each is single-handedly running a business whose revenues, combined, exceed $30 million.. That’s a lot of business to feel good about.

In addition to the three superstars my partners and I rely on, we are in the process of grooming about six more. When (and if) they are fully fledged, I could (theoretically) kick back and cut coupons.

Step Two: Search and Cull. Search and Cull.

Getting a great person behind you is a simple three-step process.

1. Find someone as good or better than you.

2. Cut him in on your future.

3. Teach him everything you know.

Superstars, like good spouses, are few and far between. The good ones are previously engaged. Those who are available are usually defective. (If you don’t know when you hire them, you’ll find out soon enough.)

When you meet someone who seems great, don’t let him pass you by.

The Time to Start is Now

It doesn’t matter where you are on that ladder of success. You should be looking for (and educating) proteges right now.

You should have superstars helping you out in every facet of your career: strategic planning, marketing, product development and so on. When your future is at stake, there is no room for mediocrity.

Start by identifying the key functions you need to meet your goals. And then identify who you are now using (or thinking of using) for that role. Ask yourself honestly, “Is he/she really great?”

If not, resolve to replace him/her.

You can get the process moving today by making up a cut list. It should contain no more than a dozen names – the most important names in your career. After the list is done, indicate next to each name whether you consider him/her to be adequate, quite good or excellent.

Do this carefully and truthfully. And then think about how much better things could be if you replaced all the “okay” people with great ones.