Building a Start-up Team
In most scenarios, the success of a Start-up depends upon the quality of its team. From co-founders to management and its employees, everyone should be efficient. There should be a blend of great and excellent people, as there is no room for mediocre people.
You should try to have co-founder(s). You need someone to share the burden and lead the way in case of your absence for a while. One co-founder is a minimum, maybe 2 or 3 would suffice. Having co-founders with complementary skills could be ideal.
Create a Dream
As an entrepreneur, you never stop selling. Selling to the people you hire is an important part of your job. It requires creating a fascinating story, a dream, something that excites the candidates you want to recruit.
Create good presentation / overview of your company to attract talent.
Make sure the person buys the equity growth story and is willing to work with you for the exciting new things you are doing, the startup experience, as well as the equity valuation benefit.
Good enough is not good enough in a start-up team. We learnt it the hard way and fortunately very quickly we realized that it’s better to recruit less no. of people and have the best who are entrepreneurial, self-driven, skilled and result oriented.
To give an example, when we started our venture, we barely got any CVs and ended up hiring whoever we could. We learnt the hard way and created a bigger dream pitch as we started to wait longer and interviewed lots of candidates. Following is the fragment of some statistics over the subsequent months,
For almost each position we received over 100 CVs and interviewed around 20 people and hired 1 at the end. Frankly, that’s been the biggest and toughest part of our job. Unfortunately it’s hard to find the employable software engineers in ambitious and aggressive startups in India despite millions of software engineers being available here.
Also its better to hire experienced professionals into a startup (as the freshers’ can take long time to learn and deliver which a startup can most likely not afford)
Use Your Network
Work through your network to reach out to the potential candidates. Use any other sources like linkedin, naukri.com, etc.
Try and be honest with the new recruits. Do tell them its aggressive way of working, what is expected of them, and that they will most likely have to work for longer hours, for relatively less money. But in return they get the incredible product / start-up experience, equity in the company (do share equity with everyone in your team, and make them feel it’s their own company),
Do tell them your funding situation frankly. Do share any other potential challenges you face. If they are aware of all these things and later things don’t work out, they will be more accommodating. It’s just good practice to not risk someone’s career by lying. Let them make that decision after having the right and complete information.
Hire slow and fire fast (Be considerate but not emotional)
Anybody who commits to join you takes some risks, so be considerate towards that person. But regularly evaluate and communicate the results to the concerned person and in case he / she is lagging behind but is capable of doing more, do hand-hold and help him/her.
If the results are not there within weeks, don’t hesitate to fire the concerned person. Its business after-all. It’s tough but better for everyone.
Always act professional. Some practical tips are enumerated below:
Do make sure you don’t start interviewing someone straightaway. First introduce your startup, team etc and get the persons comfort and keenness to work with you (this is very critical pitching). Once the person shows interest, then you interview the person (technical and personal).
Be realistic about this process, don’t do too many interviews just because someone says you should.
Decide by taking some other team-members’ opinions. At least 2 interviews and maximum 3 worked for us.
When in doubt, better to reject unless you are in desperate need for filling some position.
If a candidate negotiates too much, or agrees to join but does not join, or agrees to interview but does not turn up, don’t communicate back badly
Candidate’s attitude is very important. Positive and flexible attitude towards work and friendly nature can go longer than somebody with great skills but more arrogance
If you reject someone, reject politely and do keep open doors for future collaboration.