Former businessman, CEO, and author Lawrence Bossidy once said “I’m convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” The fact is, when it comes to hiring employees, you always want to get it right. That is particularly true for startups looking to hire their first few employees. The first hires for a startup will play a large role in establishing the culture, setting the foundation, and ultimately determining whether or not the company falls into the dreaded “90% of startups fail” statistic

Hiring as a startup is not the same as hiring for an existing company. You will have a unique set of needs and circumstances that dictate who and how you hire. For example, you might be constrained by time or resources, or maybe you need employees with certain characteristics and skills. In the following blog, we are going to look at the ins and outs of how startups hire their first employees.

How Do Startups Choose Employees?      

Like any company, a startup will choose employees based on several criteria. Two of the main considerations, though, are identifying who you need and how to find them. 

Who You Need?

Figuring out who you need to hire for your startup breaks down into two buckets: identifying the roles that need to be filled and the traits of your ideal candidate. Common roles that startups need to fill include: 

  • Executive (C-suite) Leadership
    • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to make the big decisions, delegate work, and ultimately keep the company aligned with its mission, vision, and values. 
    • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to manage money, investor relations, scalability, and fundraising. 
    • Chief Operations Officer (COO) to oversee day to day work, internal communications, and operating procedures.
    • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to create brand identity, sales enablement, and customer relations. 

It is important to note that in a startup, one person might fulfill more than one of these roles. It is not uncommon for the CEO to also work as the CFO or COO, etc. Outside of executive hires, a startup might also look to bring in:

  • Product Manager to optimize the product and ensure it is fit for launch, as well as understanding what the need for the product is in the market.    
  • Developer to help create new features and fix existing problems and bugs.
  • Sales Representative to convince potential customers to trust the startup and try what it has to offer.
  • Customer Support to make sure customers are getting the most out of the product as well as understanding the feedback and insights from the customer to improve the product. 

These roles are all important for lots of companies, not just startups. However, it is a good idea for a startup to hire employees who are adaptable, willing to work long hours, and ultimately a good fit for your team. It is likely that the first few hires for a startup will spend lots of time working together, so having a team that can cooperate, support each other, and have some fun together is important. It is also worth noting that in a startup environment, employees end up wearing many different hats and performing multiple roles as needed, so hiring employees with diverse and transferable skill sets or the ability to adapt and work fluidly is a big plus. 

How to Find Them?

Typically, there are three main pipelines to find employees: referrals, networking, and job applications. 

Referrals will usually come from a trusted friend or colleague in the form of an introduction or passing along a resume for someone. With referrals, you can more quickly understand the potential value and fit of a new hire because they are being recommended by a person you know and trust.

Networking is a great way to find talent through a particular community and by leveraging your relationships. With networking, you can make connections to not only potential new hires, but also potential investors or customers. 

Job applications come with their own set of pros and cons, like the fact that you have a broader candidate field but likely have to do a lot more research on which individuals might be best. If possible, it might be better to try posting the job opening on an industry-specific site to try and hone in on individuals who will have the experience you are looking for.

How Many Employees Should a Startup Have?

The best answer is however many you need. Just because there are several different roles you need filled doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hire one employee in each role. Maybe one person can adequately take on the responsibilities of two or three roles. Perhaps two or three people can successfully divy up the work for a role you want to hold off on hiring. You might even find you need multiple people in the same role. Whatever your case, the right number of employees is whatever the needs of the business dictate. 

Do Startups Hire Quickly? 

Contrary to the popular belief that everything moves fast all the time for a startup, hiring can and should be done diligently. A common fear for startups is that you cannot hire enough employees in time to train them before launch,but the truth is taking the time to hire the right person will pay off in the long term. You will save valuable time and resources by limiting staff turnover, and will reap the benefits of having an all-star team leading the company.  

What’s NEXT for Your Startup?

If you are looking for guidance to help grow your startup, look no further than NEXT Studios. We are a Benefits (B) Corporation venture studio with a passion for helping visionaries and businesses grow, while lifting up the communities they serve. In short, we are a studio of entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. Find out how we can help you tackle what’s next by contacting us today.  

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