So you have a great idea that you have been working on and now you need to recruit the first few members of your team. The first few members of the team are like founders, so you must choose wisely. No matter how good the idea is, if you cannot get a nice group of people together to execute, your plan is bound to fail.
In fact, one of the key questions asked by investors is “Who are the key members of the team?” and “How do you know each other?” In the words of Peter Thiel, founder of Paypal, the wrong answers are along the lines of, “We met at a start-up conference two weeks ago.”
The task gets even trickier for non-tech founders. Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind:
1. Find people who share the same passion for the project as you have
Finding people who feel as strong about the same thing as you do is not the simplest of tasks. Look around in your personal network of people; people you have known for a long time or you have worked with before. As a start-up, you are looking at solving a problem; hence, you need people who will dedicate themselves towards solving this problem rather than running away from it.
For Instance, At LingosMio, I had almost a natural selection as the first member of the team. The one who taught me my first foreign language and probably more passionate about languages than anyone else I knew.
2. “Substance over Status”
This is something Peter Thiel says in almost each of his talks. Don’t be impressed by the titles on a resume. In fact, avoid people who are too proud of their titles or their education. Look for those who can get the job done. You may feel good about having someone from Harvard around you, but if they are unable to get things done, it’s not going to be of much help.
3. Look for those people who you get along with
When you start a business, you must understand you are in it for the long haul. Just because someone is skillful or intelligent, it is not reason enough to be hiring someone. You are embarking on a long journey; make sure it’s with people you genuinely get along with. As a part of your recruitment process, make sure you talk about things apart from just the project. If you are unable to talk about anything else, I would not recommend working with the person no matter how intelligent or hard working he or she may be.
4. Find people with a complementary skill set
For a non-tech founder, the first member of your team has got to be someone who understands technology and understands the problem you are trying to solve very well. Apart from this, look for people who will be able to do things that you can’t. If you can’t do sales look for someone who can.
5. Hire freelancers where you can
You have to be absolutely sure when hiring somebody that you will be able to keep them busy. At a very early stage, there is no point in increasing costs. Try to find freelancers, who will be able to provide you with the work you need. Not only they are flexible, but a lot of them are very skilled too. For example, At LingosMio, we have worked with more than 40 freelancers so far from all over the world.
6. Take your time in finding the right people, do not hurry!
The first few members will make or break your business. You do not want to save a month of your time and then fall two years behind your plan. You need to understand that you are in it for the long haul and your team members are too.
At LingosMio, we took more than 3 months to find those we felt were the right engineers to take it forward. You have to find people you can put your faith in and this is not an easy thing to do. So take your time, do not hurry!
Understand the people you are going to be working with; if they get too agitated with too many meetings to discuss the project, they are probably not the right people. The first few members of your team (founders or non-founders) are like your family. Business will have its low points and the only way to get through it is to stick together. If you don’t get along well with each other, you will fall at the first hurdle that comes your way.