Your new employees can make or break your startup, hire wisely.
These are the people that you’ll surround yourself with for countless years while you’re building your venture. It’s crucial that you get the right members on board who fit your culture and believe in your mission.
But hiring at a big corporation is much different from what startups really need because of the constant change and unknown variables. Startups need people who are comfortable going with the flow, quick to problem solve, and wear many different hats in order to achieve their goal.
So when hiring for startups, here are the top five traits founders should look for in potential employees:
You want to look for people who not only have creative ideas, but are also not afraid to voice their opinions. They have to be willing to stand their ground even if it goes against conventional wisdom. Startup founders love this and encourage employees to share new ideas.
When I was working with Sam Parr, CEO of Hustle Con Media, he told me he would rather have me stand up for my poor article ideas instead of passively accepting his judgements. Now whenever I feel strongly about an idea, I refuse to back down.
I got over my fear of taking risks and started sharing crazy ideas that might just work. This was when my article, Nas’ Investment Portfolio Is Straight Nasty, got over a quarter of a million page views. My other article, Meet the People Making a Full-Time Living From Instagram, Kickstarter, and Teespring, got over 2,000 shares in less than a week. It was an amazing things to see me pitch these “bad ideas” and have my articles perform extremely well.
The trick to coming up with great ideas is you have to come up with a ton of bad ideas. I wrote dozens of articles that only received a few hundred page views. But the more you write, and the more ideas you come up with, the more “hits” you’ll get.
When you’re creative and not afraid to take risks for innovation, you’ll fit right in at a startup.
People usually join large corporations for security and they join startups for their mission. Potential employees feel extremely passionate to the cause and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Founders look for employees with passion because when obstacles come up like failing to raise money or losing their biggest client, they need to see these failures as minor setbacks and bounce back to accomplish their big goal.
When a sophomore classmate beat Michael Jordan for the final spot on his high school varsity basketball team, Jordan was crushed. But Jordan used this moment to fuel his obsessive passion for the game. He eventually made it to the NBA and led the Chicago Bulls to six national championships, earned the NBA’s MVP award five times, and led the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 1984 and 1992.
If your employees had the passion for your startup like Michael Jordan had with basketball, your team would be unstoppable.
In order for startups to make an impact on the world, they need to affect the lives of others in a positive way. They need to understand the pains, problems, and needs of their customers so they can help provide a solution to solve these challenges.
The messaging app, WhatsApp, started as a way for founder Jan Koum to post status updates on his phone with the original plan to make it a paid app. But through compassion, it became something much much more. Koum shared the Whatsapp story at a Mobile World Congress event,
“There was a turning point when we realized we were actually onto something else here. I got an email from this girl who lived in Australia who was an exchange student… she said, ‘I’m all by myself in Australia. I don’t have any family here and it costs [too much] money for me to send them a message or call them. I cry myself to sleep because I’m all by myself.’ I couldn’t say no so I gave her a link [to the app] … and that’s the moment when I realized we have a mission here of making sure people can communicate easily and affordably no matter where you are in the world and that’s what we set out to do.”
With 450 million users worldwide, this change in direction led to Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19 billion in Febuary 2014. Koum seized this moment of compassion and used it to bring value to the people that mattered most to him.
All startup employees need to have a clear vision, goal, or purpose with their job. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg taught this lesson immediately to his early employees including Noah Kagan, the company’s 30th employee.
Kagan explained in a 2014 interview with Ramit Sethi, author of the bestselling I Will Teach You to Be Rich, that he would consistently approach Zuckerberg with ideas to help Facebook make money. But Zuckerberg always asked the same question, "Does it help us grow?" If no, he would tell Kagan he wasn't interested.
Zuckerberg's clear focus on growth "helped us clarify every decision," Kagan said. With Kagan’s own company, Appsumo, he sets one goal per year and all the team’s effort has to contribute to that goal. His 2016 goal was to grow his marketing tool, SumoMe, to 1 billion users. Kagan broke the company’s yearly goal into monthly goals for example, if the next month goal is to get to 600,000 users and he sees that they're only at 500,000, he says, "What do I need to do this week to go from 500 to 600? What are the three things I can do this week?"
Hustle is doing whatever it takes to hit your goal. Hustle is running a marathon until you finish. Hustle is finding the strength to take one more step each time you’re ready to quit.
In 2009, Tristan Walker wanted to work at the hottest startup in Silicon Valley, Foursquare, but got no responses after applying on the website and emailing the CEO seven different times. So what did he decide to do? He started working for them unofficially.
Walker wanted a job in business development so he started cold calling companies (without permission) asking if they would be interested in advertising on Foursquare. After a few companies said yes, Tristan emailed Foursquare’s CEO again and told him about the advertisers he had waiting for him and this time, he replied. They met the next day and Tristan went on to run Business Development at Foursquare.