Looking for partners in a startup is almost as difficult as finding really good dates. But it’s a bit less linked to chance than true love, at least.
First, figure out exactly who you’re looking for. I mean, in detail: this view is bound to evolve. Look for people you get along with but have complementary PERSONALITIES.
Personalities, not skills, I said.
As Mr Branson puts it:
There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team. If you get the
perfect wrong mix of people working for your company startup, it will die you have a far greater chance of success.
The first thing to look for when searching for a great
employee partner is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture yourself. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, and DELIVER, you are on to a winner.
Personality is the key. It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgement. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited in the pressure of interviews.
You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.
Some managers get hung up on qualifications / degrees / past experience.
I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.
Actually, like a ton of details, they mean something because they give you elements about the personality.
It’s just not possible to have spent 15 years working as a Management Consultant and say you know the in-and-outs of entrepreneurship- you’re absolutely ready!
Well, as long as you get paid almost as much.
That’s remaining an employee.
Having “(almost) launched” 34 ideas, like the true entrepreneur you are, but needing money.
That’s becoming an employee.
Nothing wrong with that, I guess less than 0.01% of people launch their own company and make it a business, that is something that generates revenue (or at least you can sell to someone). It’s very difficult especially if your family has no money. It’s only gratifying after a while and most often, never- and always very demanding. It’s something too many people want to like (the “wantepreneurs”) but few actually will.
At Smartdate I made so many hiring mistakes that we could have withstood all the tough luck without them. These make me a good talent spotter now, because I never would want to go through what I endured.
I used to think it was a good thing to “try out people”. It’s not. The wrong people destroy value besides time and money, even in a few weeks. Plus in France, it’s always a pain to fire them.
The first person I hired was a disaster. I had strong doubts and was going to rescind my offer right when he showed up. I got weak: I needed someone, and that was an online dating business based in France, meaning talent was not exactly knocking at the door.
Jesus that guy was the worst pain and one of the best specimen of a stalker-loser I came across. Great way to start your company!
Besides being useless, he started making the most absurd demands after 2 weeks (I want 30% of the company and so on). I fired him on the spot and he relentlessly sued me for at least 2.5 years. I received threats from his family for a year. Of course now I’d never hire anyone with a French contract, and would ignore the whole thing, but I was still the kind to want to be proven right when attacked / challenged.
That, and wanting to “be in charge”, “take responsibility for” - gave too many people the false impression it was “personal”. In fact, in most subsequent cases, I liked the person. I would fire someone because the people working with him asked me to, and were really happy not to have to do it. Besides not making the hiring mistake in the first place, if you need to let go of someone who doesn’t directly report to you, the last thing you wanna do is make it look like it’s some arbitrary decision from “the King”. As flat as your structure is, as a founder/CEO, you don’t go to some intern to explain why he’s fired. Whatever team leader there is, must do it.
Learning how to communicate is the area where I improved the most since 2010. Patience and thoroughness, notably in hiring, is the second. Learning the in-and-outs of web product management and coding the third.
(Note 1: Don’t ever set up your company in France unless you can’t do otherwise. I’ll come back on that. I love France and a lot of French for many things, but as a general rule not for business. Don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing, the “cons” are just too strong for me.)
(Note 2: But the “cons” in the US would also deter many people. I hate the absolute prevalence of money, for a start. I am very competitive but I hate to see people who will do anything in the name of business, and leave ethics out. Competitors are more predictable in Europe: they won’t help as they might do in the US in specific cases, but they won’t execute sophisticated sneaky war plans either)
(Note 3: Ignore and exile any negative person as I’ve explained. But plan thoroughly for all business litigation scenarios if you are in the US, because at least a client, a troll and a competitor will sue you- for any reason. That’s the cost of doing business in the US. I hate litigation to death but there is no way you’ll escape it. If you’re a pure tech startup you’ll fare better as the people in the Valley are not as aggressive as in NYC).
That doesn’t mean you can’t take “risks” when building your team. Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks, if you LIKE them. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group.
But when you have doubts, it’s ALWAYS going to become worse.
“It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”