Startups and hiring: forming your team

Startup hiring process is, as in every other business, complicated. Possibly, too indefinite. The questions of necessity of new team members, depth of the financial pocket and business development are present at every stage of �doing business�, but they do not provide one single correct answer. Then, how do startups hire? Where do they search for new assets? How do they know when a perfect match is made?

There�s noone else better to share some opinions on the topic than startups themselves, so we opened a chat room and invited TechHub Riga and our members MaxTraffic, Reach.ly and Furnny to unfold their experience behind the hiring process.

Getting out of the shell

�If it's a new startup, it is hard to start if you don't know anyone,� TechHub Riga CEO, Alise Lezdina, mentions. Of course, a startup can already have a complete team of all required skills from the very beginning, yet there are many that are still searching for good and loyal talents. In the latter scenario you can either decide to cover the lacking skills yourself or get out of the shell and expand your network.

Network expansion, though sounding as a difficult task, may turn out to be the most productive. Plus, modern world offers tons of opportunities on how to track the potential candidates. �Personally I use a lot LinkedIn, Github (developers), Dribble (designers),� Reach.ly CEO, Ernests Stals, explains. �To find introductions I look for connections on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.� So it is not always a straight forward search and meet, and do an interview process, but learning who the people are before talking about a particular position; it�s about doing your homework and getting used to the environment you are now a part of.

�Using your personal connections and approaching people who you know really well is the most effective way,� MaxTraffic CEO, Kristaps Mors, adds. �And if you cannot find anyone, then go to meetups, hackatons and other events which would attract those kind of people that you are looking for.� Hence the door to talents is never closed, you simply need to open it and check what�s inside. TechHub Riga alone hosts many free startup-related events, such as monthly meetups or TechHub Riga Startup Academy, and dozens of other technical, entrepreneural, innovative and hackathon-ish events are nearby.

People and their personalities do matter

Be prepared for a hiring struggle where the candidates will (or will not) know what the startup world means. �Startups have this image of working out of garage and with low salaries. A lot of people are scared away by this. But in reality many Latvian startups now have competitive salaries and nice premises or they are just based in TechHub. Then there are those who are looking for stability and this is something which is hard to find in startups. Some people are just not for startup world,� Ernests reveals.

�In the interview process it might not be a good idea to talk too much about startup stuff, because many people associate startups with incubators, high risk and no stability. If you are not looking for a co-founder, then you might consider presenting yourself as an ambitious, fast-growing company,� Kristaps shares. �Look for ambitious people, who would enjoy more responsibility and who like to see the results of their work. Many are tired of stressful work in agencies or boring corporate jobs, where their ability to do meaningful work is often not possible because of politics and bureaucracy.�

The team size and budget

�Normally, the hiring starts when the startups receive the first income from the product or when they receive an investment or soft loan, but quite often it also begins while the only resources the startup has come from founders,� Alise says. �There are companies which are sales driven with simple product and they would need to scale their sales team pretty fast. On the other hand, there are small technical teams that have smaller market and direct selling and they can be small much more longer,� Ernests adds.

Put the startup terms on the table so not only you think that the candidate is the perfect match, but also the candidate sees the perfect match in you. �There are early-stage startups that work with no budget, they cannot hire [for money]. They need all who participate in their development to truly believe in the progress of idea and contribute their time and knowledge receiving shares or barter deals in return,� Furnny Project Manager, Ruta Fridrihsone, notes. In addition, you can consider such options as bootstrapping and co-founders� title offer that will help you build a team with less financial resources.

Being ready for the lows of hiring

One of the main tests in entrepreneurship is to remain solid and not to crush under pressure. �Growing team too fast means that people have less time to adapt with new circumstances. It might become quite a challenge to organize everyday work if one has too many people too fast without particular vision where to lead all of them,� Ernests says. Then it�s important to understand whether you need an over-staffed team or a nice coherent team. �It will be really hard to work with mismatching people and in most cases the team will fail,� Alise explains.

Remaining solid also demands you to retain leadership qualities in every situation, especially, if you play the CEO�s role in your startup. �If you make a mistake and it is not working out, fire the person as fast as possible - otherwise you will just burn your time and money,� Kristaps remarks. �And other team members might get a wrong impression about the company - that you can produce no results and get away with it. It might help if you have set some clear expectations before hiring, so that you can evaluate - if the job is done good enough or you need to hire someone else.�

�Another reason why startups can be afraid to hire is a constant fear of something,� Ruta indicates insecurities, present in idea- or early-stage startups. �They may think that their idea can be stolen or they will not have enough financial resources to pay [salaries and rent], or they will not be able to implement the idea despite everyone�s contribution�. In this case, the startup CEO needs to develop management and leadership skills to deal with these insecurities or delegate a team member who can inspire the team to achieve the startup�s goals better. Otherwise, they will get stuck in the lows of hiring, miss the chances and stop the growth.

Finally, even though every hiring process is different, there is just one asset that is integrated in all of them � you. While forming your team you build an enormous experience base and personality both within your startup and the community. Your presence will let you create connections and hence find new talents faster. How you use them, however, depends on you.