The People You Hire Make or Break Your Business, Says the Founder of Postmates

'We underestimated how a couple of extra people can change the outcome of a company.'
The People You Hire Make or Break Your Business, Says the Founder of Postmates

Bastian Lehmann, co-founder and chief executive officer of Postmates Inc.

Image credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images
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Bastian Lehmann, the CEO and co-founder of Postmates, the 6-year-old company that will deliver almost anything you want, is a big proponent of making sure that nascent ideas get their chance to thrive.

Postmates works with about 40,000 deliverers who carry out some 1.5 million transactions a month across 44 American metropolitan markets. But the inspiration for the company started 16 years ago, with a stressful move from Germany to England and a misplaced snowboard. It wasn’t until 2011 when smartphones became so ubiquitous that the technological infrastructure necessary for the company’s success snapped into focus.

Related: Unlimited Deliveries for $9.99 a Month Sounds Insane. For Postmates, It's the Future.

This fall, the company closed a funding round of $140 million led by Founders Fund, putting the total amount of money raised at about $278 million. This summer, the fast-growing business also launched Plus Unlimited, a subscription feature that for $9.99 a month gives users unlimited free deliveries for orders $25 and over.

We caught up with Lehmann to talk about learning where to focus your efforts as your company grows and the importance of asking the hard questions when bringing on new hires.

1. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently from when you were first starting out?
There were times when we raised funding and we had offers to take more money and we were too worried about dilution. But I think retrospectively, I would advise, especially when you start a company, never to leave any money on the table. Take the opportunity to raise when you can.

And even though I spent a large amount of my time on recruiting, and we understood how important it is to have the right people do the right jobs, I think we underestimated how a couple of extra people can change the outcome of a company.

Also, everything is going to be 10 times harder than you think it is.

Related: This Founder Shares the One Trait He Looks for in Every Hire
 

2. What do you think would have happened had you known this back then?
Looking back, it becomes clear how much of a pickle we would have been in if we hadn’t paid that much attention to [recruiting]. There is always the possibility that someone can be upgraded in a team with another person that is that much better. I think that being relentless in reshaping the team and have the appropriate talent for the stage that the company is at is super important. Even more than we thought it would be. The impact of a couple of people is dramatic.

3. How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this lesson?
I think it can be challenging for people to run a hiring process that is really designed to figure out if someone is good. Nobody wants to ask the questions that can hurt. Trying to make up your mind and not taking what someone tells you for granted, asking a lot of "why" questions. Even if you are talking to someone that is older than you or that much more senior than you are, be ruthless in that process. That [attention to detail] has always played an important part in [developing the company].

A resume can look really impressive or that person could been a part of an exciting company. But you want to understand if that person you want to hire to run that [department or project] actually did that at [his or her] old company. There are actually fewer people that have successfully run things and made an impact than you would think.

Related: Hiring Your First Employee? 5 Things You Need to Know.

4. What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now?
It is a lot harder the bigger the company gets. It requires a lot more communication between the teams than I thought it would. I always thought I would still have time to build things, but that is not true. In such a small amount of time, the bigger the company gets, you’ll spend your time differently, shaping it with teams, rather than doing it yourself.

5. What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My best advice would be to ignore most advice, because you somehow know what you want to do and what you want to work. When a new idea gets born, that new idea is so fragile that you need to be really gentle to it. Don’t let it get bulldozed over. Have the inner confidence that your small idea is going to work, and do what you want to do. Try to have fun every day.

Edition: April 2017

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