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Riding the Pine

Riding the Pine

By: Ross Paterson

Have you ever heard the term, benched? Sitting on the Bench. Riding the Pine. All negative terms/analogies for being taken out of the game. This week we want to introduce you to a positive bench analogy, one of the most forward-thinking tools for the SMB owner. We call it the Virtual Bench.

When a small business team loses a great employee, it hurts. They don’t always get stolen by the competition. We have seen family health crises, a spouse moving for a new job, radical career path changes. It could be anything. The bottom line is, we must play a little defense, too. When we build a virtual bench, we are proactively answering a few questions.

  • What if we grew 50%?
  • What if my VP of sales left?
  • What if my production manager can’t handle a larger role?

In most SMB’s, we can’t afford to have extra people on our payroll just in case something happens. So, we build a VIRTUAL BENCH to get high-quality prospects lined up for the future.

  1. Always be recruiting. When we have a well-defined culture, we can share vision and values with dynamic people we meet in any context. If you find a candidate that is a cultural fit and skilled for future positions, put them on your Virtual Bench.
  2. Break bread quarterly. You may not be able to afford them yet, or they may not be ready to move yet. Connect with them over a meal every quarter (or more frequently). Pre-sell the opportunity, start defining a future role, understand their ‘must haves’ to make a move.
  3. Define the path forward. When the timing gets close, determine the details of the transition, clarify expectations, define the role, and assess your candidate however possible. We highly recommend using TTi personality and Gallup strength assessments to know how they are wired. Sharing the vision with their spouse/family over dinner might make sense, too.


We have trained and coached this process for a decade, with hundreds of successful ‘hired-from-the-bench’ stories. We practice what we preach (all leaders should). Click here for details of our newest XtraMiler called up from the bench, Brandon Woodside.

The employee market is more dynamic than we have ever seen it. Get to work on your Virtual Bench today. Let us know who you need on your bench, we might be able to make a connection.