Who should you hire first in your startup?
Teams are nothing short of creative partnerships. You need to find people who are driven to change things the way you want to and build something worthwhile. But just like any creative partnership, passion alone is not enough to succeed. You need people with specific skill sets to see your vision through. And when you find them, the combination is one of the most empowering things you can do for your business.
I have often seen founders take haphazard steps towards this initial hiring, based more on ad-hoc decisions than any thorough and disciplined process. I personally believe that there are three kinds of hires that will provide the best impetus for your business at the start. A powerful trio that is sure to not just get your startup off the ground, but also ensure that it sustains over the coming years.
- The pessimist aka the finance expert
When you start off, there will be a plethora of legal, financial, and compliance formalities. You need someone who can sort out all the necessary permissions, from the establishment of the business to setting up accounts and legal agreements. Dealing with compliance is especially critical at the start to avoid legal issues in the later stages of your business. At a time when your business is growing, you don’t want to waste time fire-fighting issues like regulations, taxes, labour, and state laws, etc., which can be easily handled by a professional. On the finance side, this person ensures that your books are kept in order and all payments are made and received on time. Most importantly, proper financial records are essential for startups dealing with investors, both current and potential.
Best traits: The nature of the job requires someone who is meticulous and detail-oriented as small misses can cost your company dearly in the future. I think it is wise to find someone who is restrained and somewhat cynical in her/his approach. That way, you will always be covered for the worst-case scenario.
- The realist aka the HR expert
When you hire without a structured approach, you might end up with people with very different approaches and ideologies. One bad hire can ruin the entire trajectory of your business. So get an expert who can plan and direct the entire hiring process with you. Talent acquisition will work with you to build your organisational structure with defined roles, responsibilities, and salaries. This person then carries out the recruitment using the most effective platforms, tools, and techniques. The end result would be a team that complements one another and is aligned with the larger vision and goals of the company.
Best traits: Find someone who is a good negotiator and has a knack for finding the best talent even with limited resources. My suggestion would be to look for someone who acts as a talent magnet. A people’s person who can take your vision convincingly to prospective employees and bring them on board.
- The optimist aka the technology expert
It is extremely crucial, especially for a technology startup, to hire a person with “Full Stack” knowledge. This person will define the solution stack based on combinations of operating systems, web servers, data base management systems, and scripting languages. This initial exercise determines the foundation of your product and the skill sets required for subsequent hires.
Best traits: Above everything else, an optimist and a dreamer who is willing to take risks and venture into new areas. The world of technology is ever-changing, so find someone who is constantly developing new skills and updating their knowledge.
In addition to these, I think you should get at least one of the following people:
- A “design and experience evangelist” who is trained to build and enhance the consumer experience of your product. At the end of the day, your customers will adopt a product that is useful and usable. Find someone who has the instinct to turn that adoption into addiction.
- An “image manager” who can tell your story and build a relevant connect for your business in the market. A good image specialist can shape and change how people perceive your brand. Find someone who can create the right narratives to engage with your audience.
Hiring for any business is a complicated task as it entails getting into a long-term arrangement with someone who you are not likely to know too well at the time. While there is an inevitable element of risk, I believe the points mentioned above can ease the process and give it a defined direction to alleviate some of the risks.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)