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Always Ask and Observe: “How Long Have People Been Around?”

Harrison Barnes
By Feb 09,2023
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Ascertaining factors such as how long a company has retained its employees and how many friend a person has will help you determine beforehand whether you are dealing with the right sort of people. The right kinds of people are those who have lots of old acquaintances and are liked by large numbers of people. Understanding relationships can alert you to important potential warning signs.

There is one very easy and almost fail-safe way to evaluate companies, individuals, and various groups of people. It can save you a tremendous amount of worry in business deals and it can also ensure that you end up working in places that are likely to be good for you in the long term. In fact, the longer I have studied and implemented this method, the more impressed I have been with the results. It is as follows:

  • Investigate how long people have stuck with the company, person, or organization. For example, are they surrounded by people they recently met? Or are they surrounded by people they have known for decades? In addition, how are those surrounding people doing in their careers and lives?
  • When you look at companies, how long have they been around? When you look at the people in the companies, how long have they worked for the company? How do they appear to be doing in their careers and lives?

There is nothing more to it. If you do this one thing, you will be able to make excellent decisions in your career and life. You will almost always choose correctly regarding which organizations to join, which people to associate with, and more.

Some time ago, I was in business negotiations with someone who was extremely wealthy (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars), who had what I thought was a very good reputation in business. I was extremely impressed with this individual, but the more I looked at his situation, the less impressed I became. It was not because of anything the person did or said; it was because of the people around him. With hardly any exceptions, all of the person’s business advisors, employees, and others had been with the person anywhere from a few weeks to less than a year. For someone worth hundreds of millions of dollars, who is considered an incredible businessperson, this just did not seem right.

While there is nothing wrong with having one or two new employees, when someone is getting on in years and is surrounded by people who have worked for him only a short time, it is a real warning sign. When you see the same thing with the person’s personal relationships, it is a warning sign as well. If people are continually finding themselves around new people, they are almost certainly doing something wrong to drive others away. I have seen this time and time again and when you see this, it is cause for immediate concern.

When I was growing up, I had a relative who would have a new best friend (and only friend) every six months to one year. She would make friends with the person and then something would happen. There would be some sort of disagreement that would occur and the two sides would part in a bad way. I watched this occur for something like twenty years. I have seen this with lawyers I know who get this or that new client. The client and attorney at some point get into some sort of disagreement, and the attorney is soon only working with newer clients.

So, the general line of questioning that runs through your head when meeting a new prospective employer or business associate might go something like this:

Where did all the employees go?

Why is this person surrounded by all new and not old friends?

What kind of disagreements have led to this person not inspiring loyalty from the people around them?

Is this person’s reaction to any disagreement simply to fire people?

What is going on here?

What would this mean for my business?

You get the idea.

Some time ago, I had made friends with someone who was around ten years older than I, who was an exceptional businessperson and a very intelligent individual. This person had been involved in numerous lawsuits throughout the years, having been sued by one person after another. He had also sued many people. In addition, many of the people close to this person had been party to numerous lawsuits. Much of our conversation often involved me sympathizing (as a friend does) with how this person had been “screwed” by various people and so forth. One day this person called me about some legal issue that was stressful for him and said something I will never forget:

“I am so glad you are here to listen because I do not have any friends or anyone else to talk to about this.” At the time I was taken aback by this statement and became a little uncomfortable. I had not realized that I was this person’s only friend. I was more than happy to listen, although I did feel a little uneasy: I wondered why I was this person’s only friend. It just seemed unusual to me.

A few weeks later, I discovered that this person did something behind my back in business, something brutal and dishonest. I was shocked. What he did made absolutely no sense and seemed completely unnecessary. However, looking back on this I should have realized that the person could not be trusted. I should have realized there was a reason that people avoided him. I should have realized that there was a reason this person was involved in so many lawsuits. I should have easily seen these warning signs.

Say what you want about him, but many of the people who work for Donald Trump have worked for him for decades. If people are loyal to Trump for that long, the chances are very good that he is doing something right. It is like this with any person and any business:

  • If you know people who have had the same friends and acquaintances for decades, the chances are these people are doing something right.
  • If you have had the same friends and acquaintances for decades, the chances are you are doing something right.
  • If you are working in a business where people have worked there for 10, 20, or 30 years, the chances are the business is doing something right.
  • If you are considering being friends with someone who is surrounded by people he or she has been friends with for years, the chances are that person is doing something right.

There are numerous businesses out there that are simply a “flash in the pan.” For a spell they may look like the next great thing. When these businesses pop up out of nowhere, they often attract many employees to them, including employees from older and more established companies. They may look good to potential employees because there is less supervision, the company pays more money, or something similar. However, the odds are often very slim that a company such as this will end up being around for long. Most companies fail pretty quickly and almost all of them are gone within five years. It is the established companies that are able to keep people employed for long periods of time and that retain employees over the long term–these are the companies that should inspire real interest.

An established company has had to make countless adjustments over the years to remain competitive and to hold on to its people. When you are evaluating employers, this is something far more useful than simply judging whether the employer looks attractive at the moment. Long-term results are much more important than what looks good in the present.


Ascertaining factors such as how long a company has retained its employees and how many friends a person has will help you determine beforehand whether you are dealing with the right sort of people. The right kinds of people are those who have lots of old acquaintances and are liked by large numbers of people. Understanding relationships can alert you to important potential warning signs.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

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21 Responses to “ Always Ask and Observe: “How Long Have People Been Around?””
  1. Avatar Hackwell says:

    I really enjoyed this article and found myself agreeing with everything it said. Sucessful companies tend to be sucessful because of the relationship between employers and employees.

  2. Avatar jennifer says:

    I, like every one else reading this, has seen this time and time again in their own lives. I will pay more attention to the company that my associates keep from now on.

  3. Avatar Patrick says:

    As a loyal reader of your articles I have to say this one is one of the best I’ve read. I also liked how detailed you were with all your points it really helped me understand some of your points. Keep up the good work!!

  4. Avatar ramyasugan says:

    from this i came to know how to communicate with other persons in company…and where i stand in this compitetive world……. thank you for giving me such an artcle

  5. Avatar ramyasugan says:

    from this i came to know how to communicate with other persons in company…and where i stand in this compitetive world……. thank you for giving me such an artcle…..

  6. Avatar Poll says:

    The article is great and useful. But sometime you just do not have enough time to follow the questions line.

  7. Avatar tom2000 says:

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  8. Avatar vshamu says:

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  9. Avatar jimagni says:

    In recent months, the job market has become increasingly competitive. But even as the economy slows, and there are increasing numbers of job seekers in the job market, there are many professionals who have been incredibly successful in conducting fast, effective job searches. What do they have in common? How are they doing it? Here are nine tips to speed your own job search and drive it to a fast, successful conclusion.It differentiates you from your peers and helps to position you as a leader in your field – as a specialist and an authority who knows how to do a job and fill a particular niche in the workplace better than anyone else.

  10. i Love this article i keep reading it over and over its AWSOME!!!

  11. Avatar pinkyposh says:

    A very nice article. I completely go with what is said. And for people who are new to job, I think this is a ‘must to read’ article. Gives a goog heads up.

  12. Avatar Matthew Chell says:

    A useful article. A company is a living organism , it evolves and it grows. It needs to learn from it’s mistakes and adapt and shape itself to it’s market.

    Too many start ups take your cash and fail. A company that’s been around for a while has survived the ups and downs of the market and surely must know a thing or two about good service,

    Couldn’t have put it better myself – thanks Harrison!

  13. Avatar LitonKhan says:

    It is very useful and attractive article. I read it more and more times. I am really impressed on this articles.

  14. Avatar Liton5 says:

    It’s a important article for job seeker and need for everyone.
    I really attracted on this article and I hope everyone like this so much like as well as me.

  15. Avatar Sarah says:

    Good article. I wish I would have read and followed it years ago. A previous boss who offered me a job had an extremely high turnover of subordinate staff. A week later I received a another offer for a boring job. Both job offers were for the same high pay. I should have took the boring job. There was a reason this boss had a high turnover rate.

  16. Avatar MaryBeth says:

    Excellent points for work and for personal life. I have always asked the question at job interviews “How long was the previous person in the job and why did s/he leave?” What the employer says gives me an idea whether I should take the job, if it is offered. If he says “she was here for 10 years and left because she returned to finish college/her husband got a job across the country and they moved/she got promoted/she is taking care of her elderly mother, etc. that makes me feel better…but it isn’t a guarantee that the job is a good fit for me, just that longevity in the job hopefully means the job is good/where you can learn and grow AND that the employer is fair/reasonable and the other employees good/okay to work with. But if an employer says that she wasn’t in the job very long (e.g., less than 2 years) and that she left due to creative/personality differences or that she couldn’t do the job, then I follow up with another question: how many people have held this job over the past 2 years/5 years? If the answer shows that there is a revolving door, and the reason is the same (people couldn’t do the job, creative/personality differences), then that tells me it probably isn’t the person or people who held the job who were the problem, but that the problem(s) lie with the employer/management, lousy coworkers, or just a job that isn’t doable no matter who has it.

    A job interview isn’t a one-way street–they’re interviewing me to see if I can do the job and if I’m a good fit for the company/organization/agency, and I’m interviewing them to see if they’re a good fit for me. It goes both ways.

  17. Avatar Betty Boo says:

    I have a question, after reading “Why You Should Never Miss a Company Holiday Party or invitation to Your Boss’s Home”, and found that a good read. I find it conflicting, with Always Ask and Observe, which is also a good read. M y reason are as follows: In the first article, employers may keep employees for emotional reasons or because they hire friends, in some case these are the people that move up in the company, allot of biases, some to the point that where the friends with thin the company have no qualifications for that position. In my company most of them have been around 10 + years, but not because the employer is doing something good, but because emotionally they kept these people around for that long. If someone sees this, they may think that is a good company to work for because this company must be doing something right and surely may have a good track record by keeping these employees. Little do they know that once you’re hired, is a totally different picture? A conflict of interest plays a big role in some companies like mine. Some employees like me that may be liked (but not that much) chose to deal with it and not speak up and afraid they may lose their job. I speak up and cover my tracks, thus supervisors need to prove me wrong. So far they can’t. When you follow the chain of command to settle or resolve issues, well a slap in the hand is all they get. All big shots are buddies enter-twinning with each other except human resources, but I wonder about that too. In my case, I don’t’ brown nose or become anyone’s pet. I do my job well and I speak my mind. I have never in my life after +30 years of working have I ever been in any trouble or written up. I have excellent references. In this company, there is always an excuse or they try to find a reason to justify why some special employees can get away with certain things and why others can’t. One of many big example is fundraising. According to our employee hand book, that is not allowed. Yet!, even as we speak, there are at least 4 people advertising for charity events asking for money and one person has a box in their desk with items for sale proceeds for a charity. One of the four is a supervisor bring and selling things for her children’s school events has a box of candy for people to leave money. So I figured, well that’s ok, maybe I can do it too. So I sent out an invite to a special event just to test the waters. My involvement in community service has been now for 25 years. That same day I got called in the office and was asked never to do that because it was against company policy. My response was I won’t do it again, but I thought it was ok, since everyone else is doing it and I see that you get informed via emails as well. My supervisor didn’t say anything. After I have accumulated 8 years of evidence, my journal is very interesting, I might get fired, oh well (probably not though) and there is a first time for everything right! My next stop is human resources, because I will not let anyone take advantage of people that are actually loyal employees that have been discriminated against, even if it doesn’t benefit me.
    Betty Boo

  18. Avatar bordas says:

    A useful article. A company is a living organism , it evolves and it grows. It needs to learn from it’s mistakes and adapt and shape itself to it’s market.

    Too many start ups take your cash and fail. A company that’s been around for a while has survived the ups and downs of the market and surely must know a thing or two about good service,

    Couldn’t have put it better myself – thanks Harrison!

  19. Avatar lisa says:

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this moreover ?taking time and actual effort to make a very good article?however what can I say?I procrastinate alot and certainly not seem to get one thing done.

  20. Avatar Mark Davis says:

    Dear Mr. Barnes:

    I would like to apply to a number of positions currently posted on your website, but I am having trouble submitting my resume and cover letter through my preexisting account on your website. My request to have my password emailed to me was unsuccessful. I have submitted a request to your to reset my password to your IT person, but I have not heard back.

    Can I submit my information to you directly, or can we speak over the phone?

    Thank you,

    Mark Davis

  21. Avatar varun says:

    is it sure

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