It’s all about the team: Great people make a great company. And for a business that is just getting off the ground with little money, strategy or even product in place, having the right people on the ground floor is even more essential. So, how do entrepreneurs find the right people to help them start a business?
Over the last 20 years, I have launched several companies in the growing fin-tech industry and found every company and situation is different. But there are three things that seem to remain the same when it comes to bringing on the best possible team members.
Do they want to practice?
The first company I started had a former professional basketball player on the board, who told me something I’ve never forgotten: “Everybody wants to win, so go after people who want to practice.”
Hiring an employee that’s committed to working hard doesn’t just mean finding someone that will stay late, come early or send emails on the weekend just to impress you. It means finding someone that is able to focus on the building blocks, getting simple but often boring fundamentals of business right.
Do they fit the culture?
Another board member I previously worked with also sat on the board of the San Francisco symphony. He shared with me the struggle symphonies often face of finding the balance between programming edgier and challenging music that attracts young, new musicians for the orchestra while balancing the classic Beethoven and Brahms’ symphonies that audiences want to hear. He said the trick, which also applies to building a new company, is to get the culture right, so the talent you bring on are challenged and customers can relate to the brand. The popular business idea that culture trumps strategy hits the nail on the head. When hiring new employees, you need to find individuals that fit your culture and will be passionate about building a loyal client base.
Have they learned anything?
Until a business has grown to have defined departments that require specific skills and roles, I recommend paying more attention to candidates’ ability to learn than prior work experience.
When hiring for a new company, it’s more important to find someone who actually learned from their last job than someone with a stellar resume. I once interviewed a young woman for an entry-level marketing job, who listed on her resume that she once worked as a waitress. I told her I thought with previous internships and a college degree that she could drop the waitress position from the resume. She immediately told me how what she learned from dealing with difficult customers and the chaos of working at a restaurant helped her grow as a professional. I hired her over other more experienced candidates, simply because she was able to tell me about what she got out of the job rather than just listing her responsibilities at previous jobs.
Finding the best employees for your startup will take some time. To build the team that you want to grow with a company, make sure you take a step back from resumes and candidates’ pre-determined interview responses to look for individuals that will fit your company culture and are eager to learn new tasks in an emerging field.