How to Hire for Startup Growth

Perhaps many people forget, but the most important factor in any organization is human talent. In 1983, Steve Jobs, who was part of the board of directors, decided to hire John Scully, a senior Pepsi executive, to take over as CEO with the task of increasing the company’s competitiveness. However, Scully eventually took the decision to relieve Jobs of his duties within the company with the support of the board of directors. This decision proved to be damaging to the organization over time, leading it through a turbulent period of organizational change and loss of market share. The result was the return of Steve Jobs as CEO in 1997.

The Apple case is replicated every day in startups that are developing a business. The critical part from the start is to create a strong, experienced, and connected founding team. How do you create that founding team?

Being a founder has the complicated task of building a startup with acquaintances who could be family or friends. They are usually people you met previously at school or at work. Also, you can look for the founding team through referrals from your networks or acquaintances. That’s why it’s important to meet people from diverse careers and professions — the more diversified, inclusive, and talented the team, the better the chance of success.

Developing a startup involves hiring people. Each stage of development requires different talent characteristics. For example, if you are in a seed stage, it is not the same talent profile you require vs. what you need if you are in an accelerated growth stage. Always consider your stage of development and future when hiring staff. The talent pool could come from personal references, business networks and postings of required job descriptions on platforms such as Michael Page, indeed, LinkedIn, etc. If the company is growing rapidly, it is probably advisable to use the services not only of a Headhunter but also of a startup whose service is to manage the recruitment and selection process, such as Upwork, Torch, Handshake, Adia, etc.

As the startup grows, the founders need to increase the team to support the workload and expansion requirements of the business. At that point they may decide to hire managers for the company. If the position has large responsibilities and requires previous experience in the same sector or in another successful startup, Headhunters can be used to recruit the ideal person. The benefit of using a talent firm is to access their large network of contacts and make the search for the best talent more efficient. Sometimes the recruiting firm may not have the right contacts, especially if the positions are very specific.

Using your own networks and references when hiring managers may be the best choice as you can reach the best talent and above all people who share your principles and values. However, this involves more filtering of applicants, which means spending more time on the process. If you use your networks, think about other startups, corporates, VC funds and anyone else who is connected to your industry sector.

Growing a startup requires seriousness and business logic. So, when you are growing your team remember to choose the best person for the job in terms of skills, experience, and cultural principles. Avoid having preferences when selecting talent either by personal, business or family ties.

In addition, it is of utmost importance that you stay true to the corporate culture you want to develop. Define values and principles and only select people who meet them, even if the recruitment process takes a long time. Likewise, the person selected must have the ability to adapt to the position and absorb the workload that comes with working in a startup.

Establish clear diversity and inclusion policies from the outset. It is proven that a startup with multiple personal characteristics where everyone has a unique differentiated experience and complementary talents is more successful than an organization where everyone thinks and acts alike.

It is important that the recruitment and selection process is fast and efficient as the best talent will not wait and they usually have several development proposals. Also, remember that there are multiple startups competing for this talent so it is very important to emphasize the growth opportunities and the benefit that the potential employee will get from joining the organization.

Even as the organization grows, remember to give preference to internal talent before seeking external talent. Your staff are looking to grow the organization to provide opportunities for personal and professional growth and development.

Growing an organization takes time, it is important that at each stage of development you think about organizational development, including structures and required talent. It is not about growing a startup for the sake of growing it. Growth has its raison d’être, and it must be attached to the stage the startup is at and above all to the goals that the startup needs to achieve to grow and succeed.

“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world”- Steve Jobs

Hector Shibata. Director of Investments & Portfolio at ACV a global Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) fund and Adjunct Professor for Entrepreneurial Finance.

Ricardo Latournerie. VC Investor at ACV.

ACV is an international Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) fund investing globally in Startups & VC funds.

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