Hiring Your First Employee
One of a startup's biggest mistakes is taking a hasty hiring approach. Who should I hire? Why not hire for every role immediately?
Pace yourself. Business owners that hire too many employees too quickly may be at risk of experiencing certain ROI negative pitfalls. For example, a startup may quickly hire an employee who has an impressive resume. However, it's important to consider that the first one to 15 employees at a startup wear a lot of different hats. Your business must understand how all hires can aid weak spots or how their skill sets will elevate the company and its growth.
A startup in its early stages needs to hire with purpose. Founders aside, here are the key employees that take a startup from good to great.
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Operations Officer (COO)
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- VP of Sales
- Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
- Product Manager
- Project Manager
- Customer Success Manager (CSM)
- Human Resources Manager
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
A CEO acts as the backbone of a startup. They make important decisions, implement plans, and lead management and operations across the business.
A great CEO lives out the startup's mission and values. They are professionals in their space but also visionaries. Hiring a CEO means recruiting a leader capable of wearing many hats, understanding the best people to hire for the startup's success, and having big dreams for the future.
Chief Operations Officer (COO)
A chief operations officer (COO) oversees running startup operations daily. COOs report to executives, usually a CEO, to discuss company goals and the practical steps to reach said goals.
COOs often share data and information with CEOs regarding business operations. Key data, like creating a supply chain timeline or ordering equipment, allows a COO to maintain operations and help reaches the startup's goals. If there are any issues, a COO will immediately report them to the CEO to determine how to move forward. COOs also regularly communicate the startup's regulations and policies with employees. Beyond working alongside the CEO and communicating with staff, COOs supervise operations across finance, recruitment, and legal departments.
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
A chief technology officer specializes in tech development and tech processes. This is usually an internal, hands-on role within the startup. A CTO may assist with inventing the product and defining workflow and procedures for members of the IT team. IT members include software engineers, developers, coders, and builders.
CTOs are also well versed in tech roles, like coding. If the startup doesn't plan to hire more members for a tech team yet, the CTO will step in and help with coding, designing, testing, and debugging software.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
There are many other titles for a chief financial officer (CFO). Other titles include financial managers and accountants. A CFO helps manage a startup's finances and focuses on these critical areas in the business.
- Strategic planning: CFOs look at long-term financial planning. They examine pricing and product strategy, fundraising efforts, and M&A.
- Financial planning: This includes tax planning, monitoring P&L, and rolling sales forecasts.
- Reporting: CFOs handle accrual accounting, tax reporting, and D&A schedules.
- Recordkeeping: CFOs help prepare budgets. They keep thorough records of payroll activity, including checks and invoices and any credit card activity on the business account.
- Transactions: CFOs assist in making and receiving business payments and buying and selling goods and services.
VP of Sales
The VP of sales does what no other hire can do. They convince prospects to buy the startup's products or services and close sales and deals. Once this happens, the startup develops a healthy revenue stream. The VP will then be able to hire for more sales representative roles.
The VP of sales also creates a sales strategy, researches the business from top to bottom, understands pipeline management, and sets a timeline to reach target goals. This role requires hiring talent that is confident, scrappy, and gritty. The ideal VP understands how to get back up on the horse after falling off.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
The VP of sales works to gauge interest in a startup's product or offering with prospects. A chief marketing officer (CMO) tells customers why they need this product or offering in their lives. CMOs create and build the startup's customer base, market the offering and drive demand and growth.
A CMO drives audience engagement and retention and researches brand positioning and identity. They assist with all other marketing communications duties, including email marketing, digital marketing, PR and branding, managing PPC and other advertising initiatives, and public events and appearance.
A product manager takes ownership of the startup's product. They create user personas for the product, establish positioning internally and externally and create a pricing structure.
Sometimes the creator of the product is the founder, or CEO, of the startup. The creator is often very invested in their creation and will hire a product manager that is just as interested and invested in the product and bringing its vision to life. Then, the founder or CEO may trust the product manager to take the reins on product creation and perfection.
Project managers manage projects and ensure they meet deadlines. A project manager will plan each aspect of a project, assign and divide workloads, direct members of the team, and organize and submit all deliverables on time.
Customer Success Manager (CSM)
The VP of sales works to attract and close deals with prospects. Meanwhile, the CMO shares with customers the reasons why they need your offerings. After purchase, the customer success manager (CSM) plays a key role in the customer experience and overall happiness.
A customer success manager builds internal workflows and processes for new customers. They address concerns and questions via customer support tickets, generate revenue using upselling and renewal purchases, and make sure customers understand the value of their purchase. A CSM also emphasizes a satisfactory customer experience. A great experience means positive word of mouth and happy customers.
Human Resources Manager
Many startups hire a human resources manager or a talent acquisition manager, a recruiter, or an HR manager. Many founders hire initial employees on their own. Some startups decide to hire an HR manager after their initial key hires. employee is usually hired later, as the founder initially may plan to hire employees on their own.
HR assists with all aspects of the hiring and onboarding stages, checks in with employees and addresses any workplace issues, sets up employee benefit systems, and develops workplace policies. The more a startup grows, the more it becomes critical to have a member of HR — preferably several members — present to account for the needs of employees.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.