A Team of Two: Are You Ready For Your First Hire?

laptop-on-office-desk_426-19315253In the world of startups, there is a first time for everything. Your first product, your first sale, and, if all goes according to plan, your first hire. Preparing your business for its first hire is a daunting task to even the most seasoned entrepreneur. It’s one of the most crucial moves you’ll make starting out, and one that most startups can’t afford to mess up. An early stage hiring mistake can mean severance pay, equity redistribution, and sometimes even litigation post-termination; Not to mention the time and resources you’ll put into finding your NEXT first hire.

Big decision, right?

Let’s look at some key considerations to keep in mind to make your first hire your best hire.

Do I Really Need Someone Right Now?

Remember, no one is telling you have to hire anyone. This is your gig, your company, and it’s got to run the way you want it to run. Stop and think before embarking upon this hiring journey and ask yourself, “Do I really need someone right now?” Is your company grinding to a halt without that extra set of hands? Or do you just need a bit help here and there? Many back-end business services are now handled by consulting companies (Upmentum, for instance!), freelancers, and even contract employees, who can assist you with operations, accounting, even marketing and social media management, before you need to dedicate someone fulltime to these endeavors. If you don’t think you need someone full time, devoting the same amount of effort and passion into the project as you are, it may be worthwhile to contract the tasks out, as opposed to bringing someone in.

Who Do I Need? What Are My Weaknesses?

If you think there’s just too much to outsource, and you’re ready to jump in and hire that first employee, it’s time to consider who you need, and what gaps that person should fill. Remember, you don’t necessarily need two of you. So if you’re a stellar software engineer, you may not need second. Hire for gaps in your organization. Maybe you’ve developed a killer product, but have no idea how to scale the business and roll the product out to your customers. Maybe you’ve got the idea but need a great engineer to help you execute. Find those gaps, and hire the person that can help them get filled. Also, as a first hire, you don’t have the luxury of filling a niche position. You’re not hiring the VP of sales, or the president of marketing, you’re hiring someone that can do both of those jobs (and chances are a few dozen others). Hire the person that isn’t afraid to do it all, because chances are they’ll need to.

Big Names Don’t Always Mean Big Results.

Remember, bigger isn’t always better. Many times startups will hire individuals with big names behind them, hoping that whatever cache that name brings to the table will translate into big results for the company (and sometimes, it does), but more often than not, big company candidates are used to structure, and a narrowly defined job role, tailored to their specific expertise. The startup world isn’t narrowly tailored, just ask any software engineer turned “PR expert” as they write their first press release. You want someone that isn’t wading through bureaucracy, but instead someone that is nimble, lean, and ready to get their hands dirty. They may not know everything now, but they’re ready to learn anything later.

Maybe You Haven’t Met Your First Hire Yet…

Many startup individuals will hire from their existing network. Depending on how many professionals you know, this could work out great. But if you’ve only worked in R&D your whole life, you may not know too many people that have worked on a finance team, or been involved in a sales organization, or know how to pitch to investors. If the skill set you’re looking for isn’t in your current network don’t be afraid to branch out. Hit networking events, scour Linkedin, or even give job posting sites a try. Third party recruiters can also yield great candidates, although those hires will come at a price by way of referral fees. Don’t be afraid to hire outside of your comfort zone, your greatest asset may be waiting to meet you at that networking event next week, so get out there and start shaking some hands!

So, You’re Ready To Hire, Huh?

You’re ready to hire? Great! It’s a big step, but if you do it right, you’ll be forming a partnership that should last you throughout the lifecycle of your business. Remember, this person will be the one standing next to you when you ring that opening bell for your IPO, or signing the paperwork with you after that Fortune 500 makes you an offer you can’t refuse. So choose wisely, and happy hiring!


Need help planning the expansion of your business? UpMentum can help.