Top Startup Mistakes: Screwing Up Hiring

I post tons articles that I find around the web to help my followers move your businesses forward. Often, people write in asking me to elaborate on pieces of those articles, so I’ve started a series to do just that. I recently posted an article from Entrepreneur about common mistakes people make when launching a new company. The first of those big mistakes that I want to address: getting the hiring process wrong. 

When you’re building a business, your team is everything. Who you hire will make or break your success. A great hire can add incredible value to your company and free you up to focus on your real strengths while a bad hire can tank your business by costing you time, money, and customers. That’s why the phrase “hire slow; fire fast,” is so popular.

Despite knowing this, however, messing up the hiring process is one of the most common causes of stress and even failure for new businesses, so here are some tips to prevent you from blowing in your business:

Firstly, make sure you’re not getting into the hiring process until you’re really ready for it. Sometimes when new entrepreneurs first get started building their businesses or they’ve recently raised funding or gotten a revenue infusion, they want to run out and hire a huge team. This could be because the entrepreneur lacks confidence and feels he or she needs to bring in a ton of experts to succeed or it could be because the entrepreneur wants the ego boost of having a bunch of people on the payroll. Either way is a bad reason to hire. The only right way to do hiring is to hire to fill gaps in company needs and to improve the efficiency of the company. Before you begin hiring anyone, assess whether what they bring to the table is more or less valuable than what you’ll have to pay them + the time spent training and managing them + the other costs of hiring like taxes, benefits, and payroll. If someone will have a negative ROI, don’t hire. It’s as simple as that.

Secondly, if you have decided that you’re ready to hire, make sure you hire the right person! New business owners spend most of their time feeling like they need to put out a million fires and that there isn’t nearly enough time in the day to get even fraction of their to do lists done. That means that once it’s time to hire, they often feel like the sooner they can get someone into the position and take some of the load off, the better. However, putting too much weight on getting someone onto the team quickly is a great way to end up with even more headaches because you’ve chosen the wrong person. Taking the up-front time to assess if a candidate is really the right person for the job will pay immense dividends down the road.

When you’re going through the hiring process, of course, look at the skills and experience of your applicants because you need someone who knows their stuff and can hit the ground running. However, perhaps even more important than the candidates’ skills are the candidates’ personality, work style, commitment to your company, and long-term goals. Finding someone who is a good fit for your company’s style and culture is just as make or break as finding someone with the technical skills you need.

Additionally, make sure you play by the rules in the hiring process and beyond. The last thing you need is a migraine-inducing lawsuit because you violated employment law or didn’t clearly document your compensation agreements. This is especially important if, after bringing someone onto the team, you realize that you’ve made a mistake and need to let that person go.

Remember the adage “hire slow; fire fast.” Hire slow means add roles only when necessary and take the time needed to find the best candidates for those roles. Fire fast means don’t let a bad hire poison the well with a negative attitude or sub-par work. If you made a mistake in hiring, rectify it quickly.

Making a mess of hiring is an incredibly common – and incredibly damaging – mistake made by all too many entrepreneurs. If you follow these tips, you’ll be ahead of the game and can save yourself a lot of future stress.


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Startup Misconceptions: It’s Easy to Build a Team & They’ll Stick with You Until the End

In my effort to always provide a steady stream of useful information to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, I post tons of interesting and helpful articles that I find around the web that I think can help answer questions for my followers and help you all move your businesses forward. Oftentimes, people write me asking to elaborate on those articles or pieces of those articles so I am starting a series that will do just that. I may combine a few or leave a few out here and there, but I will cover the topics that people most often asked me to elaborate on.

I recently posted an article from RockthePost about common misconceptions people have about launching a new company. The next of those misconceptions that I want to tackle here is the mistaken idea that it’s easy to build a founding team and that those original team members will all still be together at the end. 

Many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that once they have their business idea, pulling together a kick-butt team that will help build the new company to success will be easy to do and that those team members will stick around until the end. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Creating the right mix of talent and personality on a founding team is extremely difficult…and it’s a major key to success. You’ve surely read dozens, if not hundreds, of times that investors bet on a team even more than they bet on a product. That’s because they know that a killer team is much tougher to come by than a killer idea and they’re willing to put their money behind those that shine.

When building your founding team, you not only need to find talented team members that can really deliver in their area of expertise, but also, you need to find team members that will mesh well together, are committed to the same vision, have thick skins and honest mouths, and are comfortable with the business’ growth strategy and hierarchy. Look for team members who:

  1. Are superstars in their area of expertise, but can also see beyond their own silos
  2. Think big picture, but don’t need to be the captain of the ship
  3. Have complementary skill sets – you don’t need or want 6 clones of yourself; you need and want team members whose strengths balance out your weaknesses
  4. Are easy to get along with, but not because they’re push overs – you need people who will be honest and speak their minds but aren’t stubborn or difficult to get along with
  5. Share your vision of where the company should go and how it should get there
  6. Are reliable and responsible – everyone should be on a vesting schedule anyway, but you don’t want to have to rely on that to know that your team will get their jobs done

If you pull that all together, you’re basically looking for a magic unicorn of a founding team…and that’s why so many teams don’t stick together for the long haul and so many companies with great products or services fail. When you’re setting out on your entrepreneurial journey, make sure you give the building of your founding team the time and attention it deserves. If you need some more tips for how to pick partners, check out my old post on the topic of choosing a cofounder here.

You should also never assume that all of the original team members will be there until the end. No matter how careful you are at the outset when building your team, sometimes things simply don’t work out. Make sure you’re prepared for that by having structured the business in such a way that a founding team member’s departure doesn’t destroy your momentum or cost you dearly in equity. Always have an agreement in place that clearly outlines every founding member’s rights and responsibilities so that if there does come a time when someone needs to depart – amicably or not – you know exactly how it will be handled. For more information about what to include in that agreement, check out my older post here.

Despite being one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when building your business, so many aspiring entrepreneurs drastically underestimate the difficulty of building and maintaining a founding team and the unfortunate misconception that it’s easy to do can quickly cost them success.


Now I want to hear from you. Have you been shocked at how tough it is to build a solid founding team to launch your new business? What difficulties have you encountered and what tricks have you learned for making the process easier? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below and, if you’re not already watching at, be sure to get over to the website to join the conversation. 

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Tips to Attract and Retain Top Employees at Your Startup or Small Business

Every entrepreneur knows that the team he or she builds is the backbone of the business and that without great employees your company won’t thrive. But when you’re just starting out or are a small business without the mounds of cash the titans have to attract top talent, how do you find -and keep- the stars you need?

1) Understand what motivates the type of people who would look for -and thrive in – a job at a startup for small business to begin with.

2) Connect what your company’s mission is with what the candidates’ passions are.

3) Provide autonomy and a clear vision of how that role directly affects the success of the company.

4) Provide opportunities for growth.

5) Build an awesome team with complementary personalities.

6) Consider stock options, profit sharing, etc.

Remember, attracting and retaining star employees is about making them feel fulfilled both emotionally and intellectually more so than keeping their bank accounts topped off, so a business need not be a large multinational to get and keep top talent.

For more details, check out the video:

Do you have additional tips for how to attract and retain top talent without spending everything your business has? If so, please share your tips below!