Hooray! You business has product market fit. Customers are purchasing, telling their friends, and coming back for more! This is a huge milestone for all young companies, but it leaves many wondering “what’s next?”
The answer…. Hiring.
Now, if you’re a first time entrepreneur, hiring can be a nasty and sneaky job. It’s riddled with tricks and traps that can cripple your company at any step. Luckily, I’ve made nearly every mistake along the way and I’m writing this post to help other founders stay clear.
To avoid past mistakes, I built a small, but important set of simple rules.
1.) Always Hire for Values (i.e. culture)
This is the most important rule. If you don’t hire someone with similar values to the organization, it will not work out. And, when you’re just starting your company, you can’t afford to have a bad hire because it will cripple your growth.
So, now you’re probably wondering….how can I hire for values?
It’s not that hard, but you need to do some heavy lifting up front. For example, you cannot hire for values if you have none. The first step is to write your values down. This is the holy bible of your organization – it shows what you believe, what you stand for, and sets the precedent for all future behavior.
After you’ve written down your values, you must become skilled at identifying the values of others. This isn’t easy either. So let’s break it down into two parts. First, you need to study the person’s past history, what were they doing? Trying to make a quick buck or trying to help the world? After you’ve done your homework, you’ll need to learn a bit more. This part is tricky because it relies on your ability to ask good questions. You’ll need to know what motivates them. Are they financially driven or value driven? Are they willing to make sacrifices? Why do they want this job?
If you clearly understand your values and know a thing or two about asking good questions, there’s a good chance you’ll find someone who aligns with your company culture.
2.) Always Hire People more Knowledgeable than You
Any first-time founder will tell you, there is a never-ending black hole of information you’re expected to know. And, not like “oh yeah, I’ve heard that before”, you need to be like “I understand the ins and outs, the tradeoffs and everything in between like the back of my hand”.
This is clearly impossible to do by yourself, so instead focus on your strengths and hire people with expertise to fill in the gaps. This will help you make massive leaps in your business, rather than small steps. It will also save you time and money. You’ll spend less time learning and more time executing.
Note, if you can’t pay competitively, you need to make more money before hiring them, don’t try to skimp people on salary.
3.) Prioritize Hires to Drive Revenue and Fundraising, then support these.
In the end, businesses are run on cash and if you don’t have any, you’re finished. Out of Business. Caput! If you want to survive and thrive, you need to sell (or grow)….fast. For every business I’ve worked in, we’ve prioritized our first hires around bringing in revenue and then building operations around the revenue.
Look at it this way, it’s easy to hire an operations person when you’re making a lot of money. It’s hard to hire anyone when you have none coming in.
4.) Do not compromise
Maybe you think this is obvious. You say “I’ll never do this”, but most of you will. You’ll post a “compelling” job description on your companies Facebook, LinkedIn, and Angel.co pages and a few people will apply. You’ll look through your measly list of applicants and hire one hoping they’ll work out.
If this has been you, I’ve been there too and it may be okay in the beginning, but as you grow and learn more, it’ll get bad. That “hope” you had in them earlier will turn to doubt. Evil thoughts will creep into your mind… Is this person really perfect for our company? Could we have found someone better if we’d interviewed more people? And on, and on.
So, what’s the trick?
Do the work. Review 100+ resumes, interview at least 20 people over the phone, and 5-10 in person. Then, decide. If you’ve followed steps 1-3, there’s a good chance you’ll have hired the right person.
Important Caveat to this whole piece – no matter how long or perfect you thought a candidate was, not everyone works out. Give them everything they need to succeed and if they cannot, cut the cord.