Hiring Your First Employee

Hiring your first employee is a huge step, one that requires careful consideration and timing.  It should never be done quickly, or in a crisis, and you should have a clear idea about what you need and why you need it.  You need to make sure you have a place to put them (ie workspace), and understand all the legalities around contracts and insurance.  But what about expectations within the startup about hiring?  

Jenn Steele, writing in OnStartups, gives a good outline of expectations vs reality for hiring:

  1. Co-founders rarely agree on who and what they need. Even if you agree on what sort of person you need, finding a person you both/all agree on is difficult. 
     
  2. The perfect person doesn't exist.  You will never find someone who is perfect in every way, for everyone.  Make a list of requirements which you have to have, but also nice to have, and rank them. 
     
  3. The ideal hire will be willing to work for what you're willing to pay.  As a startup, cash is tight and there is only so far you can stretch. However, the right person will be prepared to meet you somewhere in the middle.  Negotiation is crucial to this process.  But ultimately if you can't afford it, you may need to walk away.
     
  4. Management isn't what you need right now.  You need high-input contributors, people who can do specialised things, not people t manage those specialists.  Get your company off the ground, get it growing in a happy fashion, and then think about management.
     
  5. There's a LOT more institutional knowledge than you'd expect.  In a startup, you and your co-founder(s) are alone and working on your startup alone.  Usually in a very small space.  You probably know each other inside and out by the time you hire someone else.  Being the new person in a situation like that means they don't have all the knowledge about your lives, and wont understand the inside jokes.It's good to remember that to ensure you don't alienate a new person.
     
  6. Nothing is forever.  Nobody gets things right all the time.  The person you have hired may turn out to be the wrong person.  You may have to fire them.  Or they may move on to something else.  Being mindful that the first hire is neither the last or necessarily the best will help you stay focused on your startup's needs.  

Getting it right when hiring is a tricky business, but if you can be as clear as possible about the who, what and why's of a new employee, you will stand a better chance of finding the right person.