When it comes to growing and scaling a company one thing is clear. You’ll need to build a great team. We’ve talked about how a founder should be spending time in previous posts and one of the ways we spent a lot of time exploring was putting together a leadership team.
While this is an important part of building your company to poise yourself for growth, you can’t overlook the other members of your team. The leadership team may set the strategy and provide the framework for growing the business—but its all the other roles that are responsible for execution. These are the people we’re going to focus on for this post—and why hiring momentum is so critical to both the short term success of your business and growth in the long run.
Venture Capitalist Hunter Walk says, “From an investment perspective, the ability to recruit talent is a key sign of promising founders. Since we invest in seed stage companies, there’s often only a small team (or no team beyond the founders). But there are signs to look for, such as (A) do their former coworkers want to work with them again and (B) asking about their hiring plan. “
Determining who you need and when
If a VC like Hunter asks you about your hiring plan, you want to be prepared. While, obviously you can’t guarantee those you make offers to will ultimately join you, it is important to have a plan to attract enough of the right people at the right time.
Mike Lingle offers this hiring plan template to help you build out the team on paper. This spreadsheet helps you plan for three years of hiring from budget to timeline. He cautions against hiring too aggressively in any one month and spreading hires out over a period of a few months. If you can onboard people in groups, it may be more prudent to hire closer together, but remember that hiring and onboarding are time and labor intensive when done correctly. For example if you are hiring 3 salespeople - having them onboard together because their needs are similar might be able to save you some time and repetition.
When sourcing candidates think about the skills you need to move your work forward as well as the skills you will need as you grow. A sales VP from a well known brand is going to have a different skillset than a sales VP who has only worked for seed stage or series A companies.
Even if you can’t hire someone you liked at this moment in time, consider building out a virtual bench. You can do this by tracking (in a spreadsheet or your CRM) people you want to stay in touch with. Consider sending an email update on your company and progress quarterly if that makes sense. If you can meet face to face on zoom or for coffee or lunch periodically to nurture the relationship that can help too. By having some bench strength you will be able to keep up the hiring momentum and not start from scratch every time you have an open role.
How to attract top talent
Perks like ping pong tables and kegs in the office are so 2018. The workforce’s top priorities today have shifted significantly since the pandemic, with a much larger emphasis being placed on a desire for work-life balance. According to our 2021 Remote Works report, 90% of all Americans want remote flexibility in their future careers, with many saying that it improved their mental health, job satisfaction, and productivity. Other benefits like healthcare, company culture, and more flexibility in when and how they work were listed as top motivators for employees.
Plenty of people are open to roles that didn’t match their previous role/title exactly. This is great news for you as a new company, especially if your business model is more disruptive and titles don’t directly align to traditional roles. Use this concept to find people with the skills you need, even pulling from other industries or sectors. If you’re searching for someone with process and leadership skills—consider veterans! If you need people with great communication skills consider journalists or corporate communications professionals.
As a newcomer to the business space, your startup may not be able to fully articulate your culture but as the founder, it’s your responsibility to sell the vision. Another top priority for job seekers is diversity and inclusion, so make sure your hiring plan includes recruiting diverse hires. Just posting a job or asking for referrals is not enough. You need to be actively recruiting for diverse hires.
Startups in general have a long way to go in this regard. In a Techstars Diversity and Inclusion Report that surveyed 680 startups, only 12 percent employed five or more tech workers belonging to underrepresented minority groups. Yet 72 percent said diversity was important to them. So remember, it’s not about putting out statements or saying you value diversity, its about showing your commitment. Look at your board and leadership team - what identities does each member bring to your organization and what is missing?
Retention strategies for the rapidly growing startup
Nothing will zap your momentum faster than a mass exodus. In startup circles and beyond people talk. From negative Glassdoor reviews to having former employees stories published in internationally-read publications or splashed all over LinkedIn for the world to see, former employees spilling the toxic tea won’t help you build a new team without some major damage control and a really big mea culpa.
After stories of misconduct by CEOs or toxic cultures many companies never recover. Consider stories like Uber and Away. It took a lot of hard work and leadership changes for these companies to move past the poor behavior, recover their brand, and be able to continue attracting the best talent to work there.
Hiring momentum is a powerful key performance indicator for a growing startup. Consider how you can leverage your careful planning to extend your runway through increased funding, a shorter runway to profitability and increased organizational productivity. Having a larger, and cohesive team means the work will get done more efficiently.