By Omar Douglass, Guest Writer for The Purpose is Profit Blog
If there is one thing that any experienced small business entrepreneur knows, it is the value of a great team. No matter how competent you may be or how rock solid your business model is, the success of your startup depends on the people you hire. Recognition of this fact early on can make the difference between building a viable business or one that succumbs to the gravitational forces that can pull a business down.
So now that you know what you need to do, how do you do it? As Ed and Wyn wrote in Drafting the Dream Team, the key is to know yourself – that is, understand your own distinctive competence. Then, determine the complementary competencies your endeavor needs to take off. Understanding your own role, as well as the kind of culture you wish to create, is essential before fielding candidates. After all, you are putting together a team that you will be playing for and not simply managing. The level of preparation and front-end thinking you put into your recruitment game plan is the first test of your leadership and determines your likelihood of recruiting teammates who can help you win. Entrepreneur Magazine has explored more on other intangible influencers on hiring and retaining talent. Lou Adler, the performance-based hiring shaman, says, “Getting it right starts with defining the work that needs to be done. And often that’s the toughest part.”
Once you clear these hurdles, you will no doubt want to begin hiring the best talent money can buy. But as an entrepreneur, it is likely that you don’t have much money to begin with and cannot afford to waste any on hiring the wrong person – especially if you’re bootstrapping the business. I recently reached out to my friend, Michael Masters, 4X entrepreneur and Founder/CEO at San Francisco-based AdTonik – a TV advertising mobile extension platform – for verification of this fact and to get his take on best-hiring practices for startups. While Mike and his team have been fortunate enough to receive angel investment, he runs his mobile advertising company with the same ‘waste-not’ mentality he learned to operate under years ago.
According to Mike, “a startup is an experiment that can end at any moment.” Despite the growth of AdTonik over the last year, and his positive outlook on where they are headed, the knowledge of what could happen in the absence of constant vigilance over the direction of his business informs Mike’s hiring philosophy. What he looks for in potential new members of his team boils down to three things:
1) Integrity – natural honesty and accountability
2) “Learning machines” – fast, flexible thinkers whose basic competence enables them to learn the product/market quickly and whose hunger drives them to take the information into field and bring back insights to make the business better
3) No fear – people who can handle rejection, be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and be, as Mike puts it, “masochists with a high pain threshold.”
Additionally, AdTonik maintains a goal of remaining as flexible as it wants its employees to be. While having an MBA is great, Mike says that he really values things such as the ability to be a committed team player, a willingness to work through the hard times to reach the good ones, and even a candidate’s record of delivering against and outperforming expectations in jobs they did not like ahead of having a model business-school resume. And for Mike’s part, the approach seems to be serving his three-year-old startup quite well.
Thus, knowing thyself and thy company, while adhering to the reality of your company’s financial position, will enable you to do the best job when hiring.