THE BLOG
12/22/2016 04:31 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2017

Three Tips for Hiring Startup Employees and Retaining Them!

You've started a company and have taken it as far as you can with just yourself and maybe a cofounder or two. Now it's time to hire your first set of employees!

This is both an exciting and scary time for many entrepreneurs. You want to get the hire right, but you also need help as soon as possible to capitalize on the exciting growth you're experiencing.

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Today I'm going to share three tips to help you not only hire the right team members, but also provide some insight in how to keep them loyal to your company. After all, many startups are competing for a limited pool of top tier talent, so when you find someone great you want to keep them from being poached by a competitor!

How to Build a Startup Team

1. Look for Skill Diversity.

Entrepreneurs tend to be smart and many successful entrepreneurs are extremely smart.
The most successful entrepreneurs know that they're very smart, and that confidence allows them to tackle big problems without thinking it will end up being a giant waste of time.

Do you fall into that category of people? Since you're reading this post you most likely do.

The thing about always being the smartest guy (or girl) in the room, is that when it comes to building out your startup team you're probably inclined to hire someone just like you. Another genius.

While I'm definitely not advising that you don't look for other smart people, I do think it's important for you to look for people who are smart in specific areas of business.

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You don't need to find someone who is a genius at business growth and finances and marketing and human resources. As the CEO/Founder you're the only person who needs to be versed in all of those areas.

Instead what you need to find is someone who is great at business growth, and another person who knows finances like the back of his hand, and a third person who could write a marketing acquisition plan with her eyes closed.

Look for subject-matter-experts to fill important roles.

In Foundr V1.0 Rod Drury of Xero says, "it's not about hiring people just like yourself; it's about trying to build diversity. High-performing teams need a whole range of skills, so build that unique collection of people who together can be awesome."

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Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, echos that sentiment. Case says, "Recognize that entrepreneurship is a team sport. It's not just about the founder or founders, it's about a broader mix of people. You have to strike the right balance between having a team of people who work well together and having distinct and diverse perspectives. If you just focus on people you like to work with, chances are, it's not going to give you the different perspectives you need."

Building out a diverse team is important for growing your business long-term, and it's also a critical aspect of obtaining funding. Your investors will want to see that each area of the business is run by someone with experience and knowledge in that particular area. That inspires confidence that your team knows how to take the business to the next level.

2. Look for Problem Solvers.

When you start posting job listings you're likely to receive hundreds of resumes from people who would never be a good cultural fit at a startup. There are lots of good employees who simply need more stability than a startup can provide because they have families to care for.

Additionally, many more people won't have the option and/or desire to work long hours and weekends when needed.

Once you've weeded those people out, you'll likely be left with a handful of people who seem like a great fit. From there you'll once again have to weed down the list based on salary requirements.

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In the end you may be left with two or three great candidates for each open position.

How do you pick between them? Look for the problem solvers.

Ask every candidate about a problem they once faced at work and how they overcame it. Ask them how they've dealt with budgetary constraints before, as that is something that will almost certainly come into play at your startup.

If possible, have a few worst-case-scenarios prepared in advance and ask each candidate how they would handle these scenarios.

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In Foundr V1.0 Robin Chase from Zipcar says, "the people who hire in the early days have to be problem solvers, people who will scramble together and figure out how to do something themselves."

While you will never know 100% before hiring someone if they'll be a perfect fit, asking in-depth interview questions can definitely help you reach 99% certainty.

3. Give People Control Over Their Domain.

Once you've made critical hires for your startup team, it's just as important to retain those employees.

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One of the best ways you can retain great employees is to give them control over their own domains. You hired these people because they are experts in their given areas, so let them do what they do best!

That doesn't mean you shouldn't establish clear performance metrics, but it does mean you shouldn't micromanage the ways in which the team goes about meeting those goals.

According to an article in Forbes, to retain employees you should, "establish well defined metrics for evaluating an employee's contribution to achieving business goals. Expect and demand good work. Review performance versus those metrics on a regular basis. Acknowledge good work when it's delivered. Discuss work that missed the mark and jointly determine who to avoid a repeat performance in the next round."

Additionally, "as your company grows and matures, and more infrastructure is formalized, performance reviews can be opportunities to discuss employee career goals, and obtain input for creating stretch opportunities for them - both within their current roles and in new ones."

Essentially you'll want to reward your best employees with growth opportunities as your startup grows. Don't look to hire outside employees for executive roles if you can elevate existing employees into those roles. Not only will your initial employees know your company better than an outsider could, but promoting existing employees is a nice reward to give to those people who were there with you during lean times.

Getting Started

Now that you know what to look for in job candidates, and how to retain them once hired, it's time to start looking.

You can post job listings on sites like LinkedIn or Career Builder. You could also use a service like ZipRecruiter, but one of the best ways to find awesome employees is by asking for a referral from someone you know and trust.

You could even reach out to a startup blogger and ask if he or she knows anyone looking. Even better, try attending a startup networking event and meet people on your own. As a bonus you may run into a potential business partner or investor there!

Good luck and have fun. If you have any questions leave me a comment below and I'll do my best to answer!