Originally posted on Creator Magazine, by Andrew Bridge.
Hiring your first round of employees is a major milestone as an entrepreneur and a crucial component of determining a successful first year. As Steve Jobs famously said, “When you’re in a startup, the first 10 people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.”
Getting the right people for the job can feel like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, but having a focused recruitment plan can go a long way towards making sure you get it right the first time. Here are five boxes to check before the first offer letter goes out:
1. Culture comes first. Most well-seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that one of the most effective ways to create a stellar startup team is to rank fit over qualifications. Yes, potential candidates need to have the relevant skills for the job, but more importantly, they need to apply these in a way that contributes to the culture of the business in a positive and meaningful way. In a startup environment where teams are small and hours long, a bad cultural fit can be disastrous. To develop an authentic brand with true ambassadors, your team needs to be aligned to your mission and vision, working together to bring them to life.
2. Factor in founders. Before deciding whom to bring on board, it’s the right time for founders to evaluate personal growth areas or gaps in experience. Hire employees that will complement existing skills or address deficiencies you have. Don’t be threatened by someone with expertise in an area where you may have none. Embrace it. Sara Blakely, founder of the Spanx clothing company, is well-known for her advocacy of hiring for your blind spots, telling Richard Branson “the smartest thing I ever did in the early going was to hire my weaknesses.”
3. Create custom roles. Challenge conventional corporate roles by really looking at how your business operates and hire accordingly. Don’t be bound by traditional job descriptions—understand your operational dynamics and create custom roles to match. Instead of a full-time, in-house sales role, would you be better served with a broker network of national agents? Be flexible in your approach to building an organizational chart, and make the most out of each role you can afford.
4. Think down the line. Don’t hire for where your business is now. Hire for where your business is going. Try envisioning the company one year, two years, five years down the road— and invest in people who could run that company.
5. Get a little help from your friends. When it comes to finding the right people for the job, look to your own network first. Your friends and colleagues likely know a lot more about what you’re trying to achieve than a staffing agency or recruitment firm, and they also know the kind of qualities you admire most (and despise). Let your friends do some of the work for you, and ask for referrals or introductions.