Why employees are more important than founders in a startup?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Hiring for startups can be very different from that of large companies. Huge multi-national companies are process driven and need employees who can follow instructions and processes diligently while everyday could be a fire fighting day for a startup.


Many startups make the mistake of hiring employees who are merely looking for a job rather than someone who is looking for a life experience. A lot of entrepreneurial people have been turned down from jobs at startups because they challenge the status quo, and the founders fear that they might be training someone who might one day become their competitor.

In an era where product cycles are shortening, and some of the largest companies today were startups merely 10 years ago, this fear is hardly palpable. Pavan Soni, a research fellow at IIM Bangalore, said at a business conference, “Why do you want an employee who is loyal? Instead, hire someone who leads innovation and creates an unfair advantage over your competition.”

 He further went on to say that employees who are innovative have a lot of interests besides their job, that’s one way to judge if someone is innovative.

If founders value employees who stay back late at the office rather than the ones who leave early to pursue other interests, then they’ll find it hard to attract talent that drives innovation.  There’re times when your team needs you, and you need to rise to the challenge and stay back late if required, but it’s not the same as being one dimensional and giving away your entire life to your business.

Founders need to create a culture where employees are encouraged to push the envelope, come out with new and better ways of doing things rather than being robots that merely follow instructions. 

When you encourage your employees to take risks where they are not penalized for honest mistakes, one of two things can happen – either they come out with something special that creates disproportionate results, or they might do something that can be catastrophic to the business.

It’s a risk entrepreneurs need to take because in a world that is driven by innovation more so today than ever before; every startup is looking at disproportionate growth rather than an incremental one. It’s like asking yourself, “Should I play it safe and be ordinary, or take risks and either be special or nothing.” It no longer pays to be ordinary, so you’d rather risk everything to be the best you can be.

Most founders are busy building products rather than creating a company culture that drives innovation. Employees can be a great source for ground breaking technology, inspiration and new ideas.

For a startup, an employee who plays it safe and needs step-by-step instructions for every single task can take up all your time and energy, it might be more prudent to hire someone who is self-managed, comes up with new ideas that no-one has thought of, and is constantly identifying areas in your company where there is a void that needs to be fulfilled.

An entrepreneur’s primary role should be nurturing talent, and creating an environment for people to achieve their full potential. Instead, we’re seeing several founders who’re focused on the mundane and are leaving company culture to chance.