When making early-stage hires, is it better they beskilled at one thing or be a jack-of-all-trades and why?
The following answers are provided by the YoungEntrepreneur Council (YEC) (http://theyec.org),an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising youngentrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab(http://mystartuplab.com/),a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs startand grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and emaillessons.
1. Specialized, but Adaptable People
When we hire people for our agency, we look for people whoare really strong in one particular area, but who are adaptable and can fill inthe blanks where needed. As the organization grows, we'll have amazinglytalented people in specific areas who can focus on their crafts while also leadingteams, driving projects and advising on what is happening in theirindustries/niches.
2. Adapters and Skilled Workers
This question really depends on what positions you'relooking to hire. If you're hiring a bookkeeper, office manager, developer oranything else that requires a certain silo of knowledge, hiring the bestcandidate in that silo is a wise move. If, however, you're hiring a manager,marketer, salesperson or executive, being multifaceted is incredibly importantwhen you need people who can adapt.
In the early stages, find people who are willing to doanything and learn anything they don't know how to do. When you're firstgetting started, it's helpful if you have employees who are willing to dowhatever it takes to help the company. I've found the most important attributesin an early-stage hire to be humility, strong work ethic, flexibility, aptitudefor high growth and a team-oriented mentality.
4. Flexible Candidates
Although the position will determine the scope of skillsneeded, a more important trait is flexibility. Startups adapt quickly to theenvironment and jack-of-all-trades workers will need to set up and changeprojects quickly, while employees with focused skills will need to adapt asneeds change. An HR specialist, for example, may need to switch from hiringinterns to finding seven to ten developers.
As startup enthusiasts and the media fawn overbootstrapped startups that make a killing, many other businesses flourishbecause they have capital that they use for smart investments. If you canafford it, hire specialists (even in the early stages) who can deliver bigresults once the wheels start turning for your business.
6. Culture Fits
The most important factor for hiring is finding a goodculture fit. The right person can multiply the output of the team with his orher contribution. Skills can be learned, so it doesn't actually matter ifthey're skilled at one thing or a jack-of-all-trades, but culture can't betaught.
Jacks-and-Janes-of-all-trades are critical in a startup'searly days. You want passionate generalists more than specialists. One examplefor us is Virginia Lee. She helps with customer support, customer development,product requirements and even planning our launch party. She did all of thisand deferred much of her salary in exchange for equity. We wouldn't be heretoday without people similar to Virginia.
8. Multi-Skilled People
Look for people who can wear many hats. At an early stage,you don't even know what your startup is going to need in three months. Don'thire people with super-specialized skills that might not be applicable in a fewmonths. Look for folks with multiple talents who can and are willing to do whatit takes for your startup to succeed.
If I had to choose, I would say go forjacks-of-all-trades. Versatility in the early days of a business is key. Youwant people who can get their hands dirty and help across the board.
10. People People
I would tend to lean toward people who are all-stars inone skill, but only if they can also deal with people. That’s a must for myteam. Once you have your stars in the core areas of your business, then plug inthe jack-of-all-trades to fill the gaps.
11. The Right Fit
You want the right people on board before worrying aboutwhere exactly the lines of responsibility are drawn. Because the business plan,competitive landscape and technologies will be extremely different in 18 to 24months, the most important part is getting the correct, adaptable team in placeas you finalize the direction of the company. A well-rounded employee is muchmore valuable.
12. Versatile Employees
Ideally, you want to hire a candidate who has thestrengths you desire, but who also has background knowledge in a variety ofskills. By doing this, you will have an employee who can adapt quickly to newtraining, strengthen his or her skills and be versatile for your company.
13. Added-Value Hires
Early on, you typically have such a small staff that youcannot hire just one person per task. Every hire needs to wear multiple hats.But that doesn’t mean that they need be a jack-of-all-trades, per se; that’sextreme. Nor do you want someone who is just a one-trick pony. You should hirefor the middle ground -- someone who has multiple skill sets and can add valuein different areas.
14. Versatile Employees
As you grow, specialization of roles becomes increasinglyimportant. Early in a company's life however, the versatile, Swiss ArmyKnife-type employees can provide a disproportionate amount of value while youare capital constrained and limited on the number of people you can add to yourteam.
15. Specialized Employees
I think the only person who needs to be a jack-of-all-tradesis the founder. For early hires, it's better that they are exceptional in aspecific area so you can have them focus on that. If someone's a bornsalesperson, he or she should be selling. If someone's an exceptional hacker,then he or she should be programming. There's no reason to have the personspend time on a bunch of other things.
In a startup, people tend to wear multiple hats due to theoverwhelming needs of a growing company. Business owners keep human capitalcosts low while creating a tight-knit, unified environment in which everyonecontributes to its success. Employees can focus their specializations to fitthe needs within a department and hone their skills as professionals. It's awin-win.
17. Cultural Fits
Either skilled, focused individuals or jack-of-all-tradestypes will be successful in your company if they share your vision, fit in withthe team, have a good interpersonal work style and are relentlessly focused onhow to immediately contribute to your team. Skilled folks can help managedomains, but jacks can thrive in uncertainty and change. You need both.