People First

You could have all the gigabytes in the world at your disposal, order processing that plucks cash right from customers' pockets and a product or service that people literally can't live without--but it would all be for nothing without quality employees.

The prospect of launching a dotcom business can be very exciting, with its promise of riches and potential fame. But before getting ahead of yourself, it's important to remember that no entrepreneur can do it alone. Hiring the right personnel-who can, let's face it, make or break your new venture-is one of your biggest challenges.

Unfortunately, many dotcom entrepreneurs don't devote enough attention to hiring, believing their companies will survive merely on the strength of their business smarts and, in some cases, the amount of money raised to launch. If you're one of those netpreneurs, beware: Most experts believe this approach is fraught with peril. As with all companies, human capital and managerial skill are assets you need to survive . . . and prosper.

"Entrepreneurs don't recognize how crucial it is to bring people in, or how difficult it is in today's tight labor market," says John A. Challenger, president and CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. , an outplacement firm in Chicago. "They don't view the job of bringing people on as a top priority." It's vital to understand that it takes constant effort to find the right people and get them at a reasonable price, he continues. And hiring has got to be a strategic part of your company and its business plan.

"The entrepreneurs that have taken a structured approach to hiring are the ones who are succeeding," says Paul Villella, president and CEO of, a Reston, Virginia, company that helps start-ups and fast-growing companies hire employees.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at

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