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How to hire for a successful start-up

Whether you’re hiring from the get-go or your start-up has been around for a while, hiring the right team is vitally important to its success. 

As an individual (and a human!), you won’t have every skill required to make your business successful in the long-term, and that’s ok, as you can hire to fill those skill gaps with the right talent. Even the most successful business people don’t claim to be capable of everything; instead they have a team of experts reporting to them.

In this article, we look at the important things to consider when hiring into your start-up.

Know yourself and your business

Self awareness, classed as the starting block of great leadership in this article by Forbes, will play a big part in understanding what skills you need to bring into your business. 

It’s more than knowing, for example, that you struggle with the finance aspect of your business. Looking deeper into your soft skills will help you understand the characteristics of the person you bring in too, in order to work in harmony. 

Being truly honest with yourself may not be an easy task on your own, and you may benefit from following a model such as the Johari Window, or working with a consultant, mentor or advisor to really understand yourself. 

Before you take the leap, ensure you know your business and what it needs in order to progress to its next stage, and be ready to let go of some of those responsibilities, trusting the people you hire to fill those needs. Be a leader, not a dictator.

The hard and soft skills of the candidate

Having someone that closely matches the skill-set you need for your start-up is great, ideal really. But bear in mind that if your product or service is unique, you may struggle to find an exact match to the skills and experience you’re looking for. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be picky – this is exactly the time to be picky. But also be realistic and consider whether that person is likely to quickly bridge any gaps instead of searching endlessly for a unicorn.

Consider whether your candidates’ alignment to your business values and purpose – are they already bought in and committed to what you’re trying to achieve? While they don’t need to know everything inside and out in advance, having a passion for what you’re doing will maintain their motivation for longer. 

By the time you reach the hiring stage in your business, you will have experienced first-hand how challenging start-ups can be; mentally, physically and on your time. Start-ups are not easy, and hiring someone who hasn’t already tasted that exposure may struggle to cope. Soft skills are also harder to develop than experience itself, as explored in this article by Training Industry with this great analogy: “You can teach someone to fish, but you can’t teach them to enjoy fishing”. 

An example of what you should look for include: 

  • Calm
  • Organised
  • Agile
  • Innovative 
  • Problem solving ability

Utilising a work associate or coach to support you throughout this whole process will help you impartially identify these skills and more, as it can be a challenge to complete alone.

Hire for the long and short terms

It would be easy to hire for the here and now: you need someone to fill a need you have and fast. However, your start-up won’t be a start-up for long and hiring a team that will be with you long into the future will work better than leading you to needing to rehire further down the line.

It’s likely that whoever you hire will have a diverse set of responsibilities when they first join, similar to yourself. However, consider how that role will evolve over time and whether the person you’re considering hiring will adapt well to those changes, which may include a more succinct role, line management or even working in a different location in the future. 

Build a strong relationship

An open and honest relationship with your new hires will help you both to adapt to their arrival quickly, helping the business succeed. 

This begins before they even accept your offer, by ensuring you pay them appropriately. While you may want to save costs, their buy-in to your business won’t be enough to retain them if they can’t afford to live. Including shares in their package, or similar alternatives, may be a way of bridging any gaps in their expectations. 

It is important to establish strong and honest communications as early in the process as possible, and that includes trusting them with responsibilities you will be letting go of yourself. Listen to their views and ideas and be constructive when giving feedback, so that they feel valued. While you will rightly be protective over your business, being controlling and secretive will not create a positive culture or working relationship with any of your hires. 

Applying to an incubator programme, such as our own, will help you every step of the way with this process, as well as give you access to established business people in the region who advise you on your journey. You can apply for our next cohort here. In the meantime, grow your knowledge through our varied library of blogs, or contact us with any questions.

The next application deadline is Friday 6th May 2022

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