The early startup hires are the toughest to select well. Every new enterprise is hungry for people. The early hires shape each company’s long-term culture and make near-term decisions critical to executing its plan.
Hiring the best talent is required – it’s not an option in my experience. The best people greatly increase your likelihood of success. Highly able people attract more of the same. They are comfortable making tough decisions under demanding circumstances. The results will be amazing for your startup.
Over decades, I’ve found hiring compromises inevitably lead to the demise of new enterprises. I’ve seen attempts by founder CEOs to “save money” by deliberately hiring “average” people who cost less. Consistently the CEO ended up shutting down the business. It seems to be a startup rule. All or nothing, Just the best you can hire or don’t start.
Hiring errors can kill a startup. They cause trouble with the company’s culture and trigger near-social-riots that greatly distract the company’s management. I find a wrong-fitting person is like a cancer that grows until radical surgery.
SNAP dating founder, Cliff Lerner describes this in his book “Explosive”: “One lesson I learned too late when trying to solve the culture clash was if there’s an employee who looks good on paper, but doesn’t reflect the company’s values, I should let them go sooner rather than later.” He goes on to say “The longer that person is kept at a position that everybody knows isn’t working out, the worse it is for both parties. So pull the trigger, let the person go, and get on with business.”
Hiring exceptional talent is very challenging, but can be done and is very worth the effort. Cliff Lerner said about an engineer of a huge product project, “I gave him the chance to sing. . . . Ultimately, my faith in him was rewarded, because in just weeks, he almost single-handedly built something that matched up billions of social connections. Once again, the power of a terrific engineer – A-list talent – led to extraordinary results.”[i]
You are in a hurry, have a hyper sense of urgency to get going: get into the market selling your first product before competitors, or you are dying inside because your company is not growing as fast as your targeted, wildly growing market is. Those emotions are powerful and can lead to rushing with hiring decisions. Poor choices are painful to realize and eliminate. After departures, they leave scars.
Securing the best people that you can find takes time, intense effort and a lot of recruiting skill. That’s a skill that venture investors and experienced builders of startups will look for that in the founder CEO before they join. It’s critical to the success of your new business.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!