It can be an exciting time when a startup organization is ready for its next growth phase. After the founders or business owners have done their job well and launched a successful offering, chosen investors, and decided on the official brand -- it’s time to pick out the perfect dream team to help things move to the next level. However, the uniqueness of a startup can create some challenges when hiring new people. With limited resources, it can be hard to prioritize who should be hired first or what sort of employee you really need. But every company should keep a few key positions in mind so let's explore what those roles should look like.
More often than not, a startup needs to bring new talent on without the guidance of a dedicated human resource professional. Navigating employment laws, applications, interviews, and background checks can be really time consuming and complex for the inexperienced entrepreneur. While a startup can utilize the services of an outside staffing agency, there are still contractual costs associated with that option. So when it comes to startup staffing without help, what's a small business to do?
Startups face unique challenges when it comes to staffing
Finding the right people is a challenge every business can relate to whether it's established or brand new. But startups are in a position where they might need a particular skill set to advance to the next level while being unable to attract people who have it via the usual means large companies might use (such as salary, benefits, or other perks). A few common challenges startups face include:
No posh salary here: Workers' compensation is a huge factor when talking about the hiring practices of large and small businesses. Often, a startup has to carefully allocate funds in multiple areas, from product development to payroll. This means a startup may not be able to offer the same salary as a large company, but it can make up for this with progressive raises based on performance. Interesting perks can add value to the job offer, for those looking for free lunches, nap pods, game rooms, and pet-friendly work spaces.
Stable vs. instability: Startups also have the reputation of being unstable, which is not exactly what a bright young Gen Z graduate may be looking for. However, when one looks at the job market, candidates have a better chance at lasting in a startup where they can work hard and be recognized for their efforts. They are not just a number like at a larger company. The startup can also give someone with plans for a leadership role access to a department that is all theirs to build.
Local vs remote: Just like other organizations, startups are finding it difficult to find talent in many areas. This is an especially big issue for startups who need not only someone qualified for each role, but are willing to go the extra mile when needed. Very few people stick around anymore when things get tough because of how easy it is to job hop these days. Locating talent may need to be creative, such as focusing on hiring remote contractors and hiring from different regions. It may take this long-range search to hire the right people who have above-average work ethics and loyalty.
The top 6 roles to prioritize as a startup
When hiring your first employees as a startup, there are some critical roles that need to be filled first. The order of hiring isn’t as important as the skills that each role requires, and the tasks that must be covered. You’ll want to hire people who have a true interest in your business and what you are trying to grow. You will need professionals who are trustworthy so you can focus on other areas of running your business. These are the individuals who will shape your company’s culture and create the foundation for your success, so choose wisely.
Product Development Director: For a SaaS or product focused company, a product development team will be deep in the trenches trying to keep up with product developments and improvements. But do you have someone who can oversee the higher level direction you need to take with your product? Hire a seasoned Product Development Director who has a track record of moving products through all lifecycles and can anticipate the needs of your customers now and in the near future.
Marketing Management: Without someone to manage marketing and develop your brand message, it will be difficult to let your target audience learn about you. During the initial startup phase, there was likely some basic marketing done, but now as the startup grows, it will require a full-time person to direct all future marketing efforts. Seek out a marketing manager who has successfully worked within your industry and someone who is well-connected. This person must be well-versed in all marketing formats and how to measure marketing results.
Sales Management: Choosing someone to be in charge of your sales efforts is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Up until now, you’ve likely been the sole sales person for your product. Find a sales management candidate who believes in your offering as much as you do, is a go-getter, and doesn't let obstacles get in the way. A good sales person is always learning how to be better at sales, and can adapt to different types of customers so that they feel comfortable. Bonus points if the person you hire for this role is able to work well with both marketing and customer success.
Customer Success Manager: Once you start selling, you need to think about customers. Keeping customers happy and introducing them to new developments are tasks that require a great deal of time and effort. Hire someone who is comfortable dealing with a diverse customer list as they will guide the future of your product. Consider all the customer feedback that can support new ideas and improvements. A customer success manager is vital for a startup as they need to convince customers to be patient while they wait for new product developments. Look for candidates who are prompt in responding to customers and who are warm and genuine in person.
Human Resources Director: Oh HR, where are you? Once you start bringing on new employees, you will need an HR professional who is available to process all new hire paperwork, conduct background checks, order uniforms, conduct training, and support the business as the go-to expert on all matters of employment. Human Resource candidates can easily be found on industry organization directories like the Society for Human Resources Managers but keep in mind when bringing one into a startup, you probably want to look for a person who is flexible and personable so they can gain buy-in quickly without a formal HR framework already in place.
Accounting and Payroll Manager: Financials are the biggest headache for entrepreneurs. Therefore, you need to hire a skilled accounting manager who can manage all of accounts payables, receivables, and payroll. Hire an accounting professional with a strong background in business finance, and one who either is or can have a CPA review reports. Your accounting employee should be well-versed in corporate and employment taxes.
As your startup business grows, these are the six employees who will support the business and create a strong foundation for the future. While temp agencies can be useful in bringing in hands when you need them, these 6 foundational roles should be filled with care and precision. After all, these will likely be the people who are instrumental in growing their respective departments as the startup continues to succeed. So next time you schedule a round of interviews with some eager job seekers, keep in mind exactly what sort of skills and personality traits you need to look for and still to your hiring plan. Startup staffing isn't easy but when you get the right people in the right seats, it can accelerate your growth like nothing else.
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