4 Tips For Hiring Better Early Employees

In the early days of your startup, your role as Founder includes everything from Sales & Customer Service to Finance & Marketing.

However, there comes a point when you need to start hiring people who are much better at those specific roles than you, so you can focus on what you should be doing – leading your company.

Here are 4 tips to help you take your startup to the next stage.

Understand your weaknesses

Even though you’re probably jumping between Sales, Marketing, Finance and Product several times each day you have to realise that you’re probably not that great at any of them.

Doing everything is vital in the early days of your startup and it really helps you to understand the role but there comes a time when you have to realise there are better people for the job than you and you need to hire your replacement.

It’s difficult to know exactly when this is but it’s usually when you feel you’re doing more harm than good. Are you not closing enough sales? Maybe you need a Head of Sales. Need to take your product past MVP but not sure how? Maybe you need a Head of Product.

It’s difficult to be really critical of yourself but once you fully understand your own weaknesses, you’re in a much better position to start hiring.

Hire amazing people

Hiring the best people is vital for any company, but none more so than at a startup.

Steve Jon Hiring Quote

Let that sink in for a moment. If you’re a startup of one (just you – the Founder), your first hire will represent 50% of the talent in your company, the 2nd will be 33%, the 3rd 25% etc – that’s why it’s so important to hire amazing people because without them, your startup will be going nowhere.

For more info on how to attract the best people to work at your startup, read our post ‘5 Tips For Attracting Top Talent At Your Startup’.

We’ll write a future post on what to look for in general when making an early hire for your startup but in-short, look for prior startup experience, a real interest in your startup’s mission, someone who’s more than comfortable with rapid and constant change, someone you can genuinely get along with and someone who knows way more about their job than you do (you’d think that one would be obvious).

Give them autonomy

No-one likes a micro-manager. Candidates don’t want to work for one and Managers (including you, as a Founder) don’t want to become one. Unfortunately, micro-management is a surprisingly easy trap to fall in to.

It’s more than likely, as Founder, you’ve been completely responsible for Marketing (or Sales, Finance, Product etc) for months or perhaps even years before you’ve hired anyone for that role. You’ve hired an experienced candidate to join your startup e.g. Marketing Manager and then suddenly they’re changing all your hard work and highlighting major flaws everything you’ve been doing.

In this situation, the wrong reaction is to go on the defensive and push the new hire to do exactly what you were doing before, but just do it for you – controlling their workload, making decisions for them, ensuring you approve everything. If you’re doing this, you’re micro-managing.

You hire people to add real value to your company so let them do it. You need to realise they’re much better at their job than you are so let them make changes for the better, trust in your decision to hire them and give them responsibility to manage their own workload, make decisions themselves, approve their own work. You’ll quickly find your employees become far more engaged in their role, and respect you as a leader, when you give them autonomy.

Keep hold of your people

There’s little point hiring exceptional people if you can’t keep them in your startup long enough to see a real benefit.

First, you need to realise that although you’ve made a long-term commitment to your startup, your new hire hasn’t (unless you’re hiring a C-Level Exec – which you definitely shouldn’t be yet).

The age of lifetime employer & employee relationships has long passed. Just as you’re looking for an employee to help advance your company, your employee is looking for a company where they can gain experience to progress their career.

We’ll write a future post about this in detail, but the first step is for both you and your employee to acknowledge this and set clear expectations about what you’re both looking for over a set time period (e.g. 18 months or 3 years etc), setting goals along the way for both sides to achieve the desired outcome. There’s an excellent book called ‘The Alliance’ by Reid Hoffman which lays out this framework.

The next step is to keep in mind, this is work and everyone in your startup – whether it’s now just 2 people, 20 people or more – is an adult with experience in their role. You should ensure you create a working environment which enables people to do their best work. This starts with autonomy, as mentioned earlier, but extends to their working life.

As long as the employee is delivering on their work, is it really vital they’re in the office 5 days per week, do they have to work set hours or could they start and finish early. For some roles, set hours and office only work is required, but for others it’s really not. Assess what you think it suitable and accommodate your employees where you can.

Of course, there’s a long list of perks and benefits you can offer too. Most startup job adverts include the phrase “plus loads of great perks” but for these perks to actually work as a retention tool, you need to ensure they’re meaningful and should be low cost as you’re still very early stage.  Our post ‘5 Low Cost & Effective Perks to Keep Employees Happy’ has some great suggestions about employee perks that work and don’t cost the earth.

If you’re a startup Founder hiring early-employees, I really hope these 4 tips are useful. If you want further advice on how best to approach making these vital initial hires, feel free to get in touch!

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At Hired By Startups, we help startups, scale-ups and VC backed companies hire really talented people and build teams that are more engaged and productive. Our dedicated onsite hiring service enables startups to see the benefits of having their own internal recruiter, with the flexibility of using an agency.

We’ve helped some of the UK’s best known and fastest growing startups scale their teams whilst saving 50% on their cost and time per hire. If you’re a startup looking to scale rapidly, get in touch to find out how we could help! For more info, check out us out here.

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About the author 

Tom Ladds

Hi, I’m Tom – Founder & CEO at Hired By Startups. You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.

Hiring Tips