11/09/2012 11:17 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Human Capital Is Your Most Valued Capital

Running a startup is fraught with many challenges, from getting users, to raising money, to building a product, to managing sleep deprivation. My biggest challenge in building Taste Savant was actually in the area where I have the most experience. Before I founded my company, I had spent 10 years as a manager in large organizations and startups. I learned what it was like to be in a scrappy environment with few resources and a place flush with cash, and in both environments, I honed my skills managing others and building high-performing teams.

But when I went out on my own and started transforming my idea from just a vision to a business, I seemed to have forgotten all that I had learned. In the startup world, you're encouraged to move as fast you can. Get a prototype out there, get a beta product out there, and then test and iterate, and test and iterate. The faster you move, the sooner you can learn and, then, the sooner you can improve.

So when I began working to build Taste Savant, I moved as fast as I could. I figured, let me get whomever I can to help me progress this business, and we'll improve the team later and over time. I didn't put much value on human capital in the beginning, because my mantra was, "go, go, go." My desire to move quickly distracted me from what I always knew: Human capital is the most valued capital in a business. People are what run and build businesses; not money, not customers, nor trends. In fact, "people" are the ones who design the products, who raise the money, who attract customers and who set trends; they are the most critical to the success of a business.

But since I wanted to move swiftly, I forgot all that. In the beginning, I jumped into relationships with anyone who fit the minimum requirements. I settled for anyone who seemed able to do the job and who was interested in working with me. I wasn't pushing hard enough in my interviews, and I wasn't looking for the best possible candidates -- I was looking for anyone. And why? Everything I had learned over a decade of experience told me to do the opposite -- to find the very best, and to take my time in doing so. But this need for speed clouded my judgment.

Over and over again, I saw that I had brought the wrong people onto the team. Since I settled and had low standards, each of the people I brought on in the beginning didn't last long. And so I'd begin the process again, trying to find someone new to fill those positions, and, in retrospect, I realized that I was spending more time recruiting for positions twice, rather than being patient the first time around to find the best.

This became apparent to me after this happened twice. I paused, reflected, and realized what was going on and changed my approach to recruiting people immediately. I took my time finding the right people and began evaluating people on the following:

1. Are they passionate? -- Do they care deeply and strongly about something, anything?! If so, they will use their passion to keep them going in the rough times.

2. Are they driven with great work ethic? -- Do they put their all into what they do? I don't need someone who will work 20 hours a day, but I look for someone who takes their role seriously and is committed to success.

3. Are they skilled? -- Are they skilled at their area of expertise? Can they contribute in the area that they are working in better than I can, and better than most, if not all, candidates I have met with?

4. Will they not be afraid of conflict and challenge? -- This is very important and often missed, and something I learned in B-School. Will this person debate me? If they disagree with my decisions, will they push back? Will they fight for what they think? I'm not looking for "yes people." I'm looking for people who will push me to think smarter, and make better decisions.

5. Do I Like Them? -- Are they fun to be around? Will I enjoy having a non-work conversation with them? Will I want to go for a beer after work or go bowling one night with them?

And now that I've instituted this rubric when looking for new members of our team, we're on a roll! So if there's one thing I've learned in building Taste Savant, it's to find the very best people, always. I now have a team of five people all dedicated to making Taste Savant the best it can be. Each of them wants to see our business succeed, and each of them is the very top of their field, helping us win.

Taste Savant is a highly curated restaurant discovery site designed to help the savvy diner decide where to eat. What makes us different is that we curate and aggregate restaurants and reviews from trusted sources and only those sources. We feature the very best restaurants in New York, and reviews from sources that matter like critics, chefs, bloggers, your friends and other users. We've created a one-stop shop for restaurant discovery including menus, reservations, delivery, and lots of other great things.