Hiring as a startup business can be one of the areas in which most startup founders have the least amount of experience before they get started in business for themselves. Yet, it is one of the most important parts of the business, especially when it comes to startups. It will make or break your venture.
Here is how to tackle it, and the most important parts of choosing the right team members, as well as who smart entrepreneurs hire first.
How To Approach Hiring As A Startup
The Startup With The Best Team Wins
The startups which succeed in their categories are those with the best team members. It is the number one factor in success. Your business idea and product come a very distant second to this. Above all else, hire the best possible team. This doesn’t mean the best team you think you can afford on a lean pre-revenue startup budget either. It means the best out there in the world. A world-class team of the top experts in each of their fields, and with relevant domain experience. So, the best marketers, designers, accountants, lawyers, and so on.
One important thing to note is that investors really bet on teams and that is why the first employees will make it or break it. You want to capture the essence of the business with a big slide on the team out of the 15 to 20 slides that you will present to them. To help you kickstart you may want to get started with a great pitch deck template.
Hire Based On Values
Experienced entrepreneurs know that it is far more important to hire based on culture and matching values, than based on resumes. You want experienced talent, but whatever is lacking in skills or specific knowledge of your systems can be made up for with training and coaching. As long as they have the values and motivation, everything else can be learned. The opposite is not true. Whether it is through your carefully worded job ads, referrals, taking time to network and build relationships before hiring, or the interview process and workplace rules and environment, you can carefully hire for matching values.
Hire With Aligned Interests
Some founders just hire for their resume, degree, or skills. They are happy putting compliant bodies in seats in exchange for a paycheck. Then, they get frustrated with people taking checks and not pushing the needle in the right direction.
In addition to hiring for values, motivation, and passion for the mission, you can also structure your employment arrangement to align your interests.
Making sure they are incentivized to deliver on the most important metrics is one of the most obvious ways to do this. You can even layer this to ensure they are really setting your company up for long term success while making progress now. Like rewarding for customer happiness, as well as, profitability and sales. This can be done by offering options, achievable bonuses, and performance-based compensation. Just make sure you balance this with your recruits’ immediate financial needs, and understanding the sacrifice and risk you are asking them to take with you. Including the high chance that you might not be able to make every payroll on time.
With An Understanding Of Your Changing Needs
Hire with an understanding of who you will need for each phase of your startup. Very few people will be with you for the full cycle of your startup. You’ll be reinventing and have a completely new company every 12 months. Keep this in mind. Make sure you are hiring ahead. Know that you will let people go, and hire new ones who have the experience to guide you through the next phase of growth.
Who To Hire For A Startup
Who should your first hires be?
Bringing in additional co founders can be a financially savvy way to fill experience and skill gaps, without having to commit to big salaries. Chosen well, they can make everything easier, from just weathering the journey to fundraising.
Advisors are a powerful addition to your team. They can bring a wealth of world-class experience and credibility to your startup. Some may work on monthly retainers. Others will put their name on your startup, website, and pitch deck in exchange for equity shares. This move can catapult your success in a far shorter time frame than trying to go it alone.
There is so much to do as a startup founder. To get anywhere, and to go fast and achieve a reasonable return on your time, you really need a personal assistant. Someone who can field all the inbound which isn’t a top priority for you, and conduct all the research you need on making other hires, and handling daily admin tasks.
Customer service is vital for the success of your startup. You can do everything else perfectly, and then ruin everything by dropping the ball here. You can have the perfect product, market, pitch, and timing, and then flop miserably by failing to deliver customer happiness with those early contacts and prospects. Having someone dedicated to pleasing your customers can make all the difference.
Veteran entrepreneurs make it clear that they wish they had hired a professional executive team much earlier. This means a CMO, CFO, CTO. Maybe even an outside CEO.
Each department executive can then oversee hiring for their vertical. They are closest to their departments, and will be best qualified to first hire the best marketing and sales pros, fundraising experts, product and design engineers, and then, all the cogs in the wheel to scale things.
How to hire for a startup? It starts with knowing the best principles to hire on. Then choosing the right dynamics and engagement structures to keep everyone aligned and working in the right direction. Then start making your most important hires. As soon as possible put someone else in charge of HR to handle it for you.
Alejandro Cremades is a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley & Sons, the book was named one of the best books for entrepreneurs. The book offers a step-by-step guide to today‘s way of raising money for entrepreneurs.
Most recently, Alejandro built and exited CoFoundersLab which is one of the largest communities of founders online.
Prior to CoFoundersLab, Alejandro worked as a lawyer at King & Spalding where he was involved in one of the biggest investment arbitration cases in history ($113 billion at stake).
Alejandro is an active speaker and has given guest lectures at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and at NYU Stern School of Business.
Alejandro has been involved with the JOBS Act since inception and was invited to the White House and the US House of Representatives to provide his stands on the new regulatory changes concerning fundraising online.