On startups and hiring

Genius Hiring Feedback

How you know your recent hiring decision was genius:

  • Your “urgent tasks” list is dramatically reduced to the point where you can start working on “things that need to be done soon”.  And all the tasks you transferred to the new hire are getting done.
  • You find yourself with a little bit of “free” time to step back and look at the big picture.  Especially as you approach release, it’s so easy to get mired in details!
  • You find yourself with a little bit of “free” time to work on the pieces that will really differentiate your product or service.  It’s easy to let these slack a bit, because the competition isn’t providing them at all, but at the same time it’s important to make sure they really stand out!

Wishlist hires

I have been the only full-time, committed person on this project.  As such, there are many people I have grown to appreciate even more since founding this startup.  Everyone who works in/as:

  • Operations
  • Infrastructure
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • CEO
  • committed tech minions

These people are all amazing, and while I can do a passable junior-to-intermediate level job at all these things, my life is greatly improved when experienced professionals do them and I can focus on my areas of expertise and passion.  But it can be difficult to identify the next role to hire that will clear up my time to work on other things.  This is complicated by some challenges that are unique, in my experience, to this experience.

Startup hiring challenges

First, my employees are all consultants.  Actually, technically, I’m a consultant!  For my cofounder’s umbrella corporation, until we spin off.  That means the people I hire are relatively independent of each other, even if I occasionally put two of them in contact for a collaboration.  I’ve managed and integrated the work of a half dozen people before, but it’s a very different experience with a lot more integration work when they’re all functionally independent.

Second, I have to think carefully about how long it will take me to get them up to speed for these tasks.  If it will consume too much of my time, and I’m not guaranteed to have a long-term contract with the hire, it’s a no go.

Third, if the work I want them to do can’t be cut off from others’ work very easily, I don’t want to hire someone new to do that.  I might be able to grow someone into an integration role, but it’s best for me to oversee that until I have confidence in the employee.

Fourth, if it’s work I’ve been hired to do in the past, and I don’t mind it, it can be difficult to give it up to someone else.  After all, I may be better and faster at it, and I don’t need to be brought up to speed.  But in reality, I spend easily half my time coordinating everything, and the rest of my time is better spent on tasks I can’t reasonably dole out to anyone else.

Celebrate good decisions

You get the idea.  There are a lot of considerations, and identifying the most appropriate new hire is complicated.  I recently hired a developer to do some of the more separable integration, improvement, and bugfix tasks for me.  Best decision I could have made.  It’s exhilarating to have all three of those genius hiring feedback items within two weeks of a new hire!

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