The Technique of Building a Team

GIST

KITSAP/BUSINESS—Few tasks are more exciting than recruiting great people for a hot startup, and few factors are more critical to success than great people. It’s not enough that candidates are qualified to work for your startup; they must also believe in your product because working for a startup is closer to a religion than a way to make a living.

Ignore the Irrelevant

There is a shortage of great employees in the world. Therefore, it’s stupid (and in many places illegal) to make recruiting decisions based on irrelevant considerations. The art of building a team requires looking beyond race, creed, color, sexual orientation, and religion. We can even add formal education and work experience to this list. Instead, focus on these three factors:

Can the candidate do what you need?

Does the candidate believe in what you’re doing?

Is the candidate likable and trustworthy?

“Early employees of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft won’t necessarily make great employees for a startup.”

Ignore the Irrelevant

Many people put too much emphasis on the formal experience and background of candidates. Sometimes it pays to ignore the lack of perfect and relevant knowledge, while at other times, it pays to ignore the presence of the ideal and appropriate background:

EXPERIENCE IN A SUCCESSFUL STARTUP.

People who worked at a company when it achieved success didn’t necessarily contribute to its success. Early Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft won’t necessarily make great employees for a startup. For one thing, at this point, they may be too rich to want to work hard again.

EXPERIENCE IN A BIG ORGANIZATION.

Employment in big organizations is not a reliable predictor of success in a startup environment. The skills needed in each context are different. A vice president of Google (with its established brand, infinite resources, and 80 percent market share) may not be the right person for a “two guys in a garage” operation.

EXPERIENCE IN A FAILED ORGANIZATION.

This is the flip side of experience in a successful startup or large organization. Many factors could have caused the failure—perhaps the candidate was one of them. Or not. Failure, however, is often a better teacher than success—especially when it’s a failure on some other company’s dime•

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND.

You want intelligent people, not necessarily degreed people. The two are not the same. Steve Jobs never finished Reed College. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, went to Punahou (an inside joke for people from Hawaii). Half the engineers of the Macintosh Division didn’t complete college.

EXPERIENCE IN THE SAME FUNCTION.

Operational experience is also a double-edged sword. Apple once hired an executive from the tampon business because we thought we needed packaged goods—marketing expertise to sell Macintoshes like sanitary napkins. However, his experience did not transfer to the computer business. There are positions like accounting that require a specific skill set, but for many functions in a startup, drafting the “best athlete” is adequate.

EXPERIENCE IN THE SAME INDUSTRY.

EXPERIENCE IN THE SAME INDUSTRY.

Industry experience is another double-edged sword. On the one hand, understanding the industry and possessing preexisting relationships are helpful. On the other hand, a candidate who is stuck in his way of thinking about an enterprise can be a problem. Again, consider the best athlete approach.

There is one final characteristic to ignore: weakness. You wouldn’t say that one of Steve Jobs’s strengths was compassion. Nor was Bill Gates’s strength aesthetic design. Should you, therefore, not hire the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? There are two theories:

Find the candidate who lacks significant weaknesses.

Find the candidate who has significant strengths.

The first line of reasoning is flawed because everyone has major weaknesses—it’s just a matter of finding out what they are. Performing well in one area is challenging enough; finding people who can do everything is Mission: Impossible.

The second line of reasoning is the way to go. A team of people with significant and diverse strengths is what you want in the early days when headcount is low and there’s little room for redundancy. High achievers tend to have substantial weaknesses. People without significant inadequacies tend to be mediocre.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x