Founders dream of changing the world, but you can’t do it alone. The team you build will be instrumental in determining your future successes and failures. Much has been written about a startup’s first hires, so let’s focus on some best practices to help scale your startup beyond 20 people.
Founders must evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their team. Every company has organization holes. Founders must diagnose which are the most important holes to fill to round out the team. Startups are a team sport and skills must be complimentary. Early on all-in-one hires (aka “Unicorns”) can be invaluable because they cover more bases with fewer people. Over time, however, this strategy doesn’t scale.
Sometimes specialists are needed and other times you can hire on raw intelligence, teaching high potential individuals new skills. Hiring candidates who check all essential boxes but have room to grow often outperform someone who checks all the boxes at the time of hire. They are also more likely to stick around as there is room for career advancement. The most ambitious and competent candidates rarely take roles where they already have all the skills required for the job.
In order to recruit “A players,” you must clearly define what you’re looking for. Saying you want candidates exclusively from Google, Facebook or Apple (or Stanford, MIT, Harvard) is not a viable strategy for most companies. Hire on competency, intellect, determination and passion, not just on logos.
5 Hiring Tips for Scaling Your StartUp:
2. Define Objectives & Key Milestones for success in the first 100 days and first 12 months. This will enable you and your team to optimize the interview process, test for the right skills, evaluate candidates side-by-side, align internal perspective and set mutually agreed upon goals starting Day 1.
3. Ask short list of candidates to pitch you their ideas on what they want to accomplish in the first 100 days. Use this to learn and debate ideas, opportunities & strategies. The best candidates will stand out from the rest.
4. Define & articulate your culture. Not only does it attract more great people, but it’s a powerful weapon to keep the amazing people you already have.
5. Effectively tell your vision. Your employees should know it by heart and repeat it consistently when asked. An aligned team is powerful and impressive. It unites, gives purpose, drives culture and differentiates your startup. Remember, candidates are evaluating you too. Startups evolve (and likely will pivot), but candidates want to know you have a vision, a deep understanding of your market and an undying commitment to succeed.
Mark Jacobson is Founder & Managing Partner of Ignition Talent Group. For over a decade, Mark has worked with and advised hundreds of startups, growth stage and public companies helping to build their executive teams.
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