As a founder of your own venture, you are probably more emotionally attached to the business than any other relationship you have ever been in. The business strategy, the product, pitches and plans for funding amongst other things often end up stealing the limelight (and your attention) more than another very important aspect – the team.
I truly believe that it is the team that helps you make it or break it. Get the right mix of folks who believe in the product as much as you do, and you are all set.
But how do you ensure that you achieve that when most of you may not even have on ground recruitment expertise? Well, here are a few tips which you may find useful:
- Create a structure
This is the most important because you need to figure out how your company will operate, who will report to who, how many people you need, what should be their expertise etc.
Additionally, you will also need to identify positions and designations in the organisation. For instance, who is needed on a full-time basis, who can work as a part-timer, how many consultants you need, who all are going to be the partners, do you need interns etc.
Remember, working in an environment where there is a degree of structure will help in employee retention too. Nobody expects you to have the same configuration as a seasoned, full-blown organisation but a basic outline will ensure you don’t function as a banana republic.
- Keep it small, keep it simple
Don’t be too ambitious with the number of people you want to hire. Having a wish-list is one thing but try and make do with a smaller number of executives. It helps keep the figures on your balance sheet in check and you can always think of hiring more once you get the funding.
Additionally, keeping numbers tight will also help in cross-functionality and expose your associates to other roles.
- Prepare for the interviews
Yes, you too have to prepare for the interviews. You want candidates to think you are serious about your business and not a flaky, fumbling person. You will be providing their bread and butter, so they should feel they can count on you.
Research them beforehand. Check out their profiles on LinkedIn and if you know someone in their previous organisation, no harm making an informal check to get a feeler of how they have worked in the past.
Prepare questions for what you would like to know about them and their work experience.
Prepare answers about what they might ask you about your business. Be clear about the role, the structure and what you can offer them. They might ask you about growth prospects, appraisal processes – answer them honestly.
- Diversity is key
Hire people with different skill sets that complement your own. You don’t need clones of yourself and there is no point in hiring someone who does the same thing you can do on your own.
For example, if you are an engineer and your strength is product design, hire someone with strong marketing skills.
But always ensure you like them- it’s tough otherwise irrespective of the skill sets they bring to the table!
- Your core team needs to be seasoned
It might seem tempting to hire new talent, just out of college and bubbling with fresh ideas. It certainly is a great idea and you should definitely go ahead and do that – just not for the core team.
Your business is dependent on your core team and my belief is that they should be seasoned professionals. You may argue that you started your venture straight out of college and I feel that is all the more reason to go with someone experienced to guide you.
- Try and work with people you know
Of course, new faces are always welcome additions, with all the fresh ideas and working styles they bring to the table. But I believe that there should also be a healthy mix of people you know and have worked with in the past.
It’s not a question of capabilities, but comfort in this scenario. When you are starting your own venture and are in the midst of a million things, a friendly face and dependability is always welcome.
- Scouting Methods
Once you have had your organisation’s culture and job roles clearly defined, go scouting. Visit the best colleges, job fairs and trade shows to get the talent you are looking for. Use these platforms for networking and get them excited about your business. Don’t hold back; it is only going to give you insights on what’s out there in the market and your potential as an employer.
- Long term commitment
While interviewing someone, look for signs of long term commitment. It’s not easy being with a start-up and the environment can get a bit too much to handle for a lot of people.
You need someone who is in this for the long haul and will stick with you through thick and thin.
- Shared values
You will find a lot of people with the right expertise, skills and industry knowledge. But the persons you need to hire are the ones who share the same values as you do.
In a start-up, you work very closely with all your associates, irrespective of role or designation. It is easier to spend all those long hours with someone who shares the same outlook towards life as you.
During the interview, dig deeper and find out more about their family, siblings where they spend their childhood and see if you can find some common ground and build on the comfort level from there.
- Be prepared to make mistakes
Like I mentioned earlier, you probably don’t have your own in-house HR executive and are not planning to outsource the job either.
That is the best part about a start-up – you get to be the one-man army, at least in the beginning.
Be prepared that you will make mistakes on this front too. But just dust yourself up and try again.
If you know a few friends in the industry, talk to them and I also feel that it never hurts to hire an HR consultant, if only for a bit to help in the beginning.
As venture capitalist Mike Suster once said, “Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do”.
I leave you with this thought and the advice that don’t neglect the hiring process or give it least priority. Remember, you won’t follow your vision on your own.