Although hiring employees is a crucial part of dotcom success, it's even more important to keep those employees. Unfortunately, even after hiring the best and the brightest, retaining good help can be a challenge in a dotcom environment, where the office hours are long and the payoff is far, far away.
"Working for a dotcom isn't easy," says Cobb. "It's a lot of long hours and a lot of commitment. But we try to do everything we can to make it fun and enjoyable."
For example, Cobb says that the company frequently has "Bagel Days," when free bagels and coffee are brought in to the office in the morning for the staff. Plus, every night the company buys free pizza for staffers who work past 7 p.m. The company also took its entire staff to a screening of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me when it opened in Denver-several employees even dressed up for the occasion.
Villella says there's a whole gamut of incentives like that now in the dotcom world, and they're designed to help create "a team-like environment, where people come together and develop a passion for what they do." And incentives don't stop there. Many companies, including eBags.com, also offer employees three-week vacations and stock options. But before you offer incentives, make sure they fit within your budget. "Many start-ups are doing small things, like giving employees a day off when they finish a project that they've been working on 24/7," says Burke. "This can be really motivating at a very low cost."
A New Page
Need some inspiration to help you through the hiring process? Try The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass) by screenwriter and business coach Patrick Lencioni. The book, which is currently being circulated in recruiting circles, uses a self-help approach to guide entrepreneurs through the common workplace "temptations" to jealously guard career status, consistently remain popular with subordinates, unfailingly make correct decisions, constantly strive for an atmosphere of total harmony and always appear invulnerable. (Sound like you?)
Surfing For Staff
The best way to find talent? Hit the Net.
Online entrepreneurs are using the Internet for recruiting more and more. According to an independent study of 141 small businesses (many of which were dotcom startups) conducted by Auburn, Maine, Advantage Payroll Services, 63 percent of respondents believe that Internet recruitment is growing dramatically, relative to traditional methods such as newspaper advertising or face-to-face recruiting. In addition, the study found that 57 percent of entrepreneurs use the Internet for recruiting and 32 percent expect Internet usage for recruiting to increase 21 to 40 percent.
Top tips dotcom entrepreneurs should know when hiring
Paul Villella of HireStrategy.com offers the following tips for dotcom entrepreneurs on the hunt for new employees:
1. Create a "staffing blueprint." This plan will help you avoid the mistake of random hiring. It should include what sources you need to consider before hiring a specific candidate, whether you can afford to hire that candidate and whether you can get the candidate when you want.
2. Keep your options open. Don't make the mistake of undervaluing networking and other grassroots opportunities to identify candidates.
3. Establish a culture. Help your employees identify with their work environment and give them a reason to be part of the culture. Then, don't stray from the fundamentals of that culture.
4. First interview: Plan tactically. At this stage, tell the story and share the vision of your company-and don't dwell on any conflict between the two. Talent is quick to see that as a red flag.
5. Second interview: Sell your company's story. Before signing on, candidates must be drawn to your vision and culture. Ask a key employee to take the candidate to lunch and talk about the company. Don't let a good candidate slip out of the hiring process by using intimidating "team interviews."
6. Use PR. As an unknown organization, use the power of public relations to build your company's image. Getting your dotcom in the press provides a positive push in a way that expensive advertising sometimes can't.
7. Recognize the dotcom world is in its second phase. Today's candidates, aware of the new pink-slip phenomenon, want to know if your business plan is sustainable.
8. Recognize that cash is king. Stock options are no longer valued as a core compensation. Your best candidates know better than to think stock options mean "money in the bank."
9. Capitalize on crossover hiring. Look for candidates who have successful track records in other disciplines. Look beyond strictly dotcom experience.
10. Don't hire too quickly. Even if it takes time, hire people who understand your company's vision. Besides, venture capitalist take into consideration that you're minimizing future risk by looking for the best.
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines.