Everything is hard when you’re in a startup and when you finally get the company of the ground – well – it gets even harder. Many startups will never need to worry about the first growth phase as they die and wither away long before that. Those few that do, will face a challenge that can easily make or break the company. As it often is the case, the first people to enter a startup are usually friends, classmates or family members of the founders. At the early stages this approach can have its benefits. It isn’t until the company starts to grow that things start to get complicated.
Recruiting is hard. And if you’re a startup it is even more so. However, recruiting is not the only personnel challenge that growing startups face. Recruiting should always be adjusted to the phase of growth that the company is going through, because at every phase the company is aiming to achieve different things. Are you recruiting to a 5-, 50- or 500-person company makes a huge difference. However, it’s not automatically the new-hires that cause the challenges, it’s also the old ones.
It’s not given that a person responsible of e.g. marketing in a 5-person startup is still the right person for the job, when the company has grown to a 500-person company and is looking to expand overseas. Yet, this is often how things plan out. Those who have been with the company the longest, are usually the ones holding the management positions when the company grows. It’s true that these persons have often grown into these positions and in-a-way earned them. Point is that this races the importance of getting those very first hires absolutely correct to a whole new level.
Hiring the best talent is always hard. Regardless, the bar should be set very high from the beginning. There should be a very clear vision for what the company will look like as the first hires will set the culture and define the company. It’s also important to understand what are the non-negotiable qualifications for each position the company is trying to fill. And then the company should stick to them. The thing is that this might be somewhat easy up until to the point when it starts to feel impossible. At this point it’s easy to start making compromises just to fill the position – never make this mistake. “No hire” is still always better than bad hire. “No hire” can slow the growth but bad hire can kill a company.
With all this said. It’s well justified to use a recruiter (internal or external) from the very beginning. In essence an amazing recruiter is just as essential to a startup’s success than an amazing programmer.