My first business was fixing computers. Jeremy Blum and I founded the company when we were 14 years old and worked on it all throughout high school. For the most part, it was always just the two of us fixing computers. We repaired as many as we could while balancing school and were pleased with the profit we were pulling in. As I am getting exposed to larger and growing organizations like influencers@, it’s becoming clear why the CEO can’t fix computers.
If we break down a business, it is essentially made up of:
- Getting customers: selling, engaging with people and keeping them happy.
- Servicing customers: building or providing a product or service that customers are willing to pay for.
- Operations: making the business run smoothly, accounting, people, logistics, office space, internal stuff, culture.
Each of these responsibilities is pretty intense and requires somebody’s focus. One of the reasons why a startup is so challenging is because usually everyone focuses on everything. In the early days, that’s ok. From being a part of a 9 month old profitable business, I am beginning to realize that this system starts to break down for more mature ventures. The executive and founding team has to start moving away from the “computer fixing” and more towards a focus on growing the business. That might mean overseeing sales that bring in more computers to fix, recruiting awesome new computer technicians and providing an environment that makes fixing computers as efficient and profitable as possible. This is when we begin hiring people.
Hiring people is scary because you are suddenly entrusting someone else with what you believe you do best. You need cash or equity to pay them with and you suddenly have to think about a slew of challenges that were non existant in my high school business: payroll, human resources, people liability, complex scheduling and other people’s human emotions in your business. That stuff is tough!
To scratch the surface on hiring, here are a few guidelines to consider when you are making the first hires in your organization:
1. Hire slowly
Spend a reasonable amount of time interviewing, testing and hanging out with a person before you give them an offer. Some hires are easier than others, but this person is going to be a part of the company culture and responsibile for some aspect of your business. That means that he or she is pretty darn important!
2. Look for people you know
Start with the lowest barrier to entry when looking for hires: people you know. I’ve hired a ton of folks that were involved in the Entrepreneurs Club for influencers@. I already knew them and their capabilities.
3. Seek passion, not skills
I’m a big believer in hiring people that are passionate about the job and the business over someone who is a so-called “expert” in a specific skillset. You can read more about that here.
4. Be a mentor to them
The stronger your hires become, the stronger your business becomes. That means you should invest considerable time, esspecially in the early days, mentoring and staying close with these people. I take every opportunity I can to show Dave Fields better ways to phrase emails and organize schedules.
Hiring is a big and exciting move in any start-up business. Sometimes it works out, other times it might not. Either way, the founders and leaders will eventually have to move away from service delivery and towards even greater company challenges, and hiring smart people is the first step in making that possible.