Silicon Valley Won't Save Your Business, But Industry Professionals Will

Instead of relying solely on Silicon Valley-types to disrupt your industry, recognize the unique qualities that industry professionals can bring to your business.

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By Jason Lange

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the most fundamental steps in every startup's life is building the perfect team but this is no easy feat. You have to find the right blend of drive and skills to take your business to the next level while screening for culture fit.

To simplify this process, entrepreneurs often direct their attention to a candidate's skills first, which is a great place to start – that is, if they know which skills to look for.

Take my company BloomBoard, a platform for education development, for example. Being a software company, you'd think our recruitment efforts would focus on hiring "disruptors" from the tech space. But most of our customers work in the education industry, so our team is balanced with former teachers and administrators. For many startups, including us, keen industry expertise matters immensely.

By hiring people who are motivated by our mission, we can continue to drive a company culture rooted in passion for equipping schools with more effective teachers.

Related: 3 Crazy Interview Questions to Help Identify Top Sales Talent

The advantages of hiring within your target industry

When you hire within your target market, you bring in people who understand firsthand the problems you're trying to solve for your customer base. Industry professionals are often your best source for identifying what's ailing others in the industry, so having them on your staff is essential.

Because industry professionals have walked the walk, they can talk the talk, which is critical for building trust with your target audience. Customers can spot an imposter from miles away and inauthentic language is a telltale sign. Using the wrong language can also make-or-break a sales call or pitch and dictate customers' brand perception.

Aside from understanding the industry and knowing its lexicon, industry professionals can also relate to your customers on a deeper level. They've been there, and their passion for the industry fosters more commitment to your users, reinforcing your mission and culture.

Related: Want Your Company to Get Ahead? Hire People Smarter Than You.

Building a more empathetic team

Cultivating an atmosphere that puts the user's perspective first starts with attracting and locating the right industry talent. Here are a few more ways you can promote empathetic thinking in your organization:

Lead with your mission: More often than not, people passionate about an industry were industry professionals before joining an outside company, and they believe in the cause above all else. If you want to attract the best in the industry, make it blatantly obvious that your company embraces the cause. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Millennials seek employers with a social responsibility in line with their own values.

Institutionalize the practitioner perspective: The more you stress the importance of the practitioner's perspective to your team, the more targeted your efforts will be with solving the right problems in the right order.

Get out of the office: Regardless of what you think you know about your users, nothing provides the same level of insight as observing them firsthand. By hiring industry professionals, you tap into a network of testers that can provide a better perspective of how your product or service works in the marketplace, which can guide your path forward.

Companies need to empathize with their users to earn their trust and attention. If none of your team members have deep-rooted experience in your target industry, you can't possibly resonate with your audience authentically. For us, having former teachers and administrators on our team lends incredible insight into the pain points educators face and the underlying obstacles in the education system.

Instead of relying solely on Silicon Valley-types to disrupt your industry, recognize the unique qualities that industry professionals can bring to your business. The single greatest contributor to a company's success is its talent.

Related: 4 Tips for Making the Right Hires in a Super-Competitive Job Market

Jason Lange

CEO and Co-Founder of BloomBoard

Jason Lange is CEO and co-founder of BloomBoard. The company provides a marketplace for personalizing educator development and uses the data collected from observational and evaluation tools to create individualized learning plans and recommendations for teacher growth.

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