I’ve been hiring staff for many years- both when I was in the corporate world and now that I’m a serial entrepreneur. There have been many lessons learned; as an entrepreneur, this has been particularly true since there are some fundamental differences in terms of the flexibility and agility of a small business versus the bureaucracy of a large corporation. The big mistake I most often made was making assumptions about employees and contractors, namely that we were always in alignment. In general, this is a bad assumption!
I won’t recount my horror stories here but instead will share three tips that I’ve employed in the last several years for hiring successfully.
1) Document the role and responsibilities. When deciding to hire, draft a job description of what will be required for the role. Be specific by including strategic and key tactical activities. I’m a huge fan of checklists. They’re easy to manage and everybody understands them. Think about how this role fits into the overall organizational structure and how it will help the business overall find success. Then, as part of the job description, detail requirements for success in the role- e.g., college or post graduate degree, team player, practical experience, willing to travel.
2) Create benchmarks for success. When training the new hire, make sure that you have identified criteria for success- milestones that, if accomplished, will make your business more successful and provide a roadmap for the employee. This criteria must be measurable so that you can accurately gauge their achievement. If key assumptions change, then benchmarks can change so that everyone is always in alignment with strategic objectives. For example, if the new hire is in sales or business development, think about what items you would like to see happen for success which are realistic for the role. You might measure the number of ‘qualified’ leads pursued, the number of partnerships secured (which can drive individual sales), and of course volume of sales. Allowing for a ramp up period, you can measure these items with regular frequency. If there are qualitative factors, such as crafting marketing & sales material, make this a part of the benchmarks for success. Finally, make sure that you review these benchmarks regularly, especially in the early days, to make adjustments as necessary.
3) Provide incentives. A salary alone in this job market can be welcome but adding incentives can foster a greater commitment to the business. Determine incentives that are in alignment with the benchmarks identified above. If the employee successfully meets the benchmarks, offer some sort of reward—maybe a cash bonus, equity, extra vacation, or some combination thereof. In terms of what to offer, think about what comparable jobs are paying in the market. A quick search on the job sites, like Monster, will provide some indication. Also, as a startup, for the right personality, an equity based incentive can go a long way, even if it’s nominal.
Keeping these tips in mind when hiring, will make your new hire more successful and will no doubt help your bottom line. Take note and keep me posted on your progress or email me with any of your thoughts.