August 8, 2012 | 5-minute read (936 words)
What should your start-up team look like? Oooh boy, that’s a good one! It’s easy to get bogged down with hiring. But, as with every aspect of growing your company, the more focused and informed you can be, the better your decisions.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you should be building a team that reflects the type of company you want to be. Who are you? What’s your mission? What’s your emphasis? These larger questions need to inform your hiring decisions so that the team you build is consistent with your company vision. Before making a single hire, you need to consider how this one person will impact your company.
More specifically, there are a few other things you may want to consider when building your company:
Don’t Rush to Hire - You may think that you’re in need of a certain expertise and rush to hire, but before posting that job ad, first take a step back. Is it really necessary for you to hire for this role? Is it something that could be performed by someone already on your team, even if it’s not their particular strength? Challenging someone on your team to take on a new responsibility, learn a new skill, and grow into a new role can be a powerful way to stretch your limited resources and to remind you to think carefully about your core mission and to not get side-tracked. This doesn’t mean taking advantage of your staff and overburdening them with non-core responsibilities. It means empowering your team to grow and innovate individually.
Team Make-Up - If you’re starting a tech company, in the initial stages your team should mostly consist of developers, engineers, and programmers. As much as possible, you should try to create a team with complementary skills. But, if this isn’t possible, focus on the company core. Marketing and sales, and other traditional business hires, will come later. And don’t even worry about back-office. This is something you definitely want to outsource in the beginning.
Outsource Infrastructure - Likewise it’s a smart choice to outsource finance, HR, and legal. These are all essential components to a successful business. You need this knowledge. But, if you’re just starting out, it’s not likely that the founding members of your company have this specialized knowledge. And your initial hiring budget is probably not big enough to justify hiring for these positions. Outsourcing ensures that your company can build your financial strategy and stay in compliance, all while keeping your internal resources focused on your business.
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Passive Candidates - Often the best hires are the people who are already employed. This isn’t just a case of employer-envy, wanting what your competitors have. It’s a fact: if you or anyone on your team has worked with a star performer before, it’s a power move to bring them on board. Admittedly it can be hard work to convince these passive candidates to leave the security of their current employment to come work with you, but it’s worth trying to make the sell to get the right knowledge and experience on board. Known candidates also offer the benefits of seamless team integration. And making a pitch to potential passive candidates is good practice for all the other pitching you’ll have to do.
Industry Experience - This may seem like a given, but if you hire someone who already has experience within your industry, that’s going to profoundly decrease their learning curve. Also, someone who has experience in your niche is more likely to share your vision and passion, and speak the same language as you.
Shared Vision - This doesn’t mean a homogeneous staff of robots who all think and act alike. It just means that all of your employees are on the same page. They understand the company goals and are committed to reaching them together. Everyone believes in the business and is excited about it.
Startup Personality - Of equal or greater importance is hiring people with the right mindset. You can target a great passive candidate with solid industry experience, but if she doesn’t have the right personality—and the work/culture fit is off—it’s not going to work. These intangibles will vary from company to company, but some core characteristics stand out:
Hiring doesn’t necessarily allow you to create more value faster. And hiring the wrong people definitely doesn’t allow for this. Don’t get stuck with a bad hire that creates a bottleneck or issue from the beginning. Instead think of hiring as a model for all your company processes: look deep, analyze your core needs, and don’t rush to action for the sake of action.
What do you look for in building your startup team? Let us know in comments below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for HR support.
David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, a financial services firm providing a complete suite of financial and accounting services to companies at every stage of the development process. He's a financial expert and startup mentor, whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.
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