Most of the challenges for a start-up come from two areas: cash flow or people. Both are critical. Let’s focus on the people piece here (though you need cash to pay them).
It is vital to get the right people on board with your start-up; then ensure this evolves with the growth of your business. Attracting and affording the best talent is not easy, even for established brands with deep pockets. For start-ups, you will normally not be in a position from day one to pay market rates to the best candidates, some of whom simply will not have the risk profile to take a big drop in salary in return for the potential upside and overall experience at an exciting early stage company. Find the people with a passion for your business. Job satisfaction often outweighs pure cash.
Remember, the people in your team are your business and will be responsible for its success or failure. “A-quality” people will attract and hire other “As”, whereas “B-quality” people tend to be intimidated by “As” so tend to hire “Cs”. This is where bigger organisations go wrong and can ruin an early stage business before it has even had the chance to get started. You need to hire people better than you and have them do the same.
This is not always possible at the start, so two parallel strategies come in to play here. Firstly, if you find great “A” people, pay them the extra 20% that you were planning to pay for that role. They will impact 100% more than the “B” person you were going to settle on for relatively less cost. If you truly cannot afford the extra, look at other ways to incentivise them through things like bonus schemes, responsibility or a real step up in job scope (personal development). If someone buys into your vision and sees a real opportunity for themselves, you may well find they are willing to take a hit on their base salary in order to see the benefits later and be involved in building something special. The second strategy (and this is not an “and/or”, more likely a combination) is to hire people who can take the business forward in key areas, but understand that they might not be there for the long-haul. It might be that the role outgrows them or they outgrow the role. This is fine too and part of the journey for your company and for the individual.
Every member of the team should be driving the people around to improve, ask questions and raise the bar… every day. With the right people and vision, you can achieve amazing business growth and build a culture that breeds success. You need to work on it though. A bit like a formula one car… constant tweaking and improvement to shave off the extra fractions of a second that make all the difference.
Simon Campbell – @simon_campbell