Editor’s Note: Trevor is the editor of “Red Canary”:http://www.redcanary.ca/, a great online magazine/community just like Found|READ, but which is focused on “fast-growth Canadian companies,” rather than startups. Trevor’s July 2006 Red Canary post on “hiring tips for startups” is obviously very relevant to Found|READers, and is republished here as the start of what we hope will be a long term cooperative effort in knowledge sharing between our two communities. Do check out Red Canary, it’s full of terrific lessons for founders who aim to head “fast-growth” operations one day. (Our mutual friend “Christina Wodtke”:http://www.foundread.com/person/3009, founder of Public Square, introduced us to each other, so we’re grateful for the connection.)
1. Great companies hire great people
Young companies worry about money. Smart ones think about value. Too many startups resist hiring a superstar because it’s not in the budget. But what happens when the competition gets him instead?
Don’t shy away from uber-talent because of compensation. If Michael Jordan wanted to play for you, would you pay him for it? What’s winning worth to you? Think return on investment – not price.
2. Map the talent genome
Your friends, family and Monster cannot build a great team. Sure it’s easy to hire a rookie from a job posting, but you won’t win with mediocrity.
The war for talent takes time and effort. Research your competition. Track who’s closing deals. Read the press releases. Choose your talent. Don’t let it choose you.
3. Pick up eggs, bread and a conquering hero
A checklist is good for interviews. But too many early stage companies overlook one crucial item: the will to win. It’s not about the dog in the fight, it’s about the fight in the dog.
Starting up is about long hours, stress, fatigue, frustration, risk and fear. It’s also about conquest and competition. A startup is not for everyone. Hire energy, emotional stability and most importantly, the will to win.
4. Oracle, Microsoft and SAP don’t need early adopters, but startups do
Beware of the account exec with brand names on his resume. He’s used to pitching in living rooms. Your team will be tip-toeing through the back door.
Selling with no installed base is tough. Hire the rare hunter/closer who opened new markets. Check references with early adopters that took a chance on him. If you can, hire two of these reps and cover your bets. One is too risky.
5. Your pipeline shouldn’t be a pipedream
Sales fights the battles, but who’s waging the war? Do you really know your market?
Sales guys do lousy market research. Hire a product manager to cultivate your value prop and pitch – someone who knows where the market hurts and which companies want the cure.
Sales is not simply feet on the street. It’s the right feet on the right street.
6. You need warp drive in 15 minutes, damn it
Hire cheap hackers and pretty soon you need another and another and another. The best teams run lean with great minds. The difference between good and great engineers is 100:1. Great engineers say “Captain! That’s impossible!” Then deliver.
7. Should the guy who built the bus drive the bus?
Thefounders came first. But that doesn’t make them good leaders. Don’ t confuse an innovator for a leader. The former is an agent of change, the latter moves the people. Leadership is glue.
Leaders give you character. They recruit, retain and cull the herd when necessary. Ask about their followers: how many signed up more than once? Did they win, place or just show up?