Proteges and Parasites-by Preston Wilson


I had lunch with one of my best friends and business partners a couple of months ago at a diner where we meet and catch up sometimes. This particular time, he did some venting that provoked me to really think about how to successfully select delegates and personnel. He holds a position of tremendous responsibility in upper management of a large corporation. For over 10 years the company was led by the creative minds of the entrepreneurs, and during that time the sky was the limit. The company exceeded every goal they set. The momentum and creativity was so strong that influence and unlimited resources seemed to follow suit. An attitude of cruise control never crossed anyone’s mind from the receptionist to the CEO.  As has become common in the past couple decades, the decision was made by the founding entrepreneurs several years ago to sell out to a larger management corporation, just as the company was at a peak of its growth. The upper leadership was transferred from the heart of the entrepreneurs to the minds of management. Years have now passed under this new team of leaders and the company has made no progress. The company has become stagnant and lost momentum. I can only imagine where the company would be today had it been transferred into the right hands. Whether you are growing your business and are in need of additional time and talent, or are seeking to pass the executive baton, it is vital to the company and our local economy that you make the right selection.

I place the hearts and potential of staff and leadership into two categories: protégés and parasites. A parasite wants to be a part of what you have to offer, because of what you have in your hand. Parasites may have strong education backgrounds and a resume with large corporate  names on it. They seek information on how they can draw resources from the company for their pleasure or benefit. A protégé wants to be a part of your company, because of what is at the heart. They are interested in how you are driving the business. A protégé wants to understand and be infected by the passion you have for the company. Protégés are typically happy people and desire instruction. Parasites are typically wound tight and are defensive. Protégés are interested in discovering ways for the company to excel, while parasites are there to put your past into Excel. Take a few minutes to think of some examples that you know of that fall into either of these categories. These two personality types aren’t difficult to discern.

I have been a part of the development of a business new to Gaston County for several years. Because of time and talent constraints, the business  struggled  in the beginning. We had the concept and passion, but we made a quick hire from a resume in the beginning, putting management in place that proved to be a parasite. We learned quickly from this mistake and in time realized we needed to seek out a protégé. That time invested in seeking a protégé has well paid off. The protégé position has developed into a partnership. This person sought and caught the vision and is now the President of the company. Many of you in Gaston County have experienced the positive effects of this right selection of leadership.

Apply this principle as you grow and your business and our local economy are sure to benefit from the results. If you are seeking a position in a local company, consider what you have to offer the company. Businesses don’t hire to benefit you; they hire you to benefit the business. While you are seeking out employment, examine and discipline your mentality be that of a protégé.