The greatest of companies, causes and even nations have been built not just by its founders, leaders or kings, but rather by its first few soldiers, employees and generals. If Apple didn’t have the famous pirates of Silicon Valley, it may have not produced the Mac. The First 100 of any company are perhaps the most critical. As MySmartPrice has grown from just Sulakshan and I in 2010, to over a 100 employees as of June this year, I feel proud and humble by the people we have managed to get on board for our mission to be the primary shopping research destination for Indian ecommerce. This post takes a look at some of the key lessons we learnt in our 4 years of hiring some of the best talent in India.
Attitude, Aptitude and Ambition:
For the most part, degrees from big colleges are at best an indication of just how far a person has spent trying to educate himself/herself. India has been home for several great managers and entrepreneurs who have not passed out of a Harvard or Wharton or even an IIM. At MySmartPrice, we have always been open to hire a good candidate from a mediocre college than a candidate from a top college. The three key things to look for any candidate is the attitude, aptitude and ambition in the person. If the person you talk to doesn’t bring his best to the table for an interview, it is possible he will not bring much more going forward.
Go with the Gut
They say hiring is a little bit like dating. You meet, you talk and you decide if you want to associate with the person for a longer time. However, unlike dating there is little connect you get to make with a candidate on a personal level. Call it a Founder’s intuition; call it gut feeling or just plain love at first site. Nothing beats the feeling you get about a person in the first few minutes of an interview. Of the 100+ hires we’ve made, most of the ones we made with our gut, have turned out to be the best.
Entrepreneurs make great hires
At MySmartPrice, we have a penchant for people with entrepreneurial aspirations. Be it bloggers, technology entrepreneurs or even a person helping run the family business; the best kind of hires are people who understand what it takes to help build a business. Entrepreneurs have higher ownership of their jobs, take greater effort to exceed their KPIs and understand the reasoning behind most product and business decisions. There may be the minor drawback of an entrepreneur leaving the fold to start up on their own, but if there’s anything we can learn from the success of PayPal, it is that a good start up should sprout an ecosystem of start-ups.
Every hire influences the Culture
The key to have a good culture in the organization is to let every employee in the organization help evolve it. It may mean that some people may dislike a few aspects of your organization but in the end it often leads to a culture that is open, progressive and inclusive. While hiring, we always look for genuine people who not only go the extra mile but also enjoy letting their hair down and have a good time. It is important to hire people who relate to the company’s vision and its people.
It has been a really challenging 4 years for us in terms of hiring the right people. While many startups hire their first hundred in lesser time, it has been a real great achievement for us considering that we have mostly product and content people. Through our experiences of hiring we have learned the need to focus on Gut feelings, encourage entrepreneurs and look for people with Ambition, attitude and aptitude rather than focus on degrees. Hope these lessons help other start-ups with their own First Hundred.
About the author:
Sitakanta Ray, co-founder of MySmartPrice, a venture backed online price comparison product.