Start Up Struggles - Hiring and Team Alignment

Mr. Varun Bhutani, Managing Director, Tangish – A Trihund ProductDave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s, his vision for a start up began from scratch. He is quoted as saying “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed”. Entrepreneurs do not have a predecessor’s shoes to gain insight from and neither do they possess a prominent history of successful commodities that they can use as a benchmark for their next project. Therefore, what becomes essential is how even the most seemingly insignificant job in a start up requires out of the box thinking.

What differentiates a merely profitable start-up from one that goes on to becoming a biggie is the entrepreneur’s knowledge, and capability of identifying the right people who can help him achieve what he aims for. The adage ‘a company is known by those who run it’ isn’t just applicable for a start up, but probably for every organization - no matter how big or small.

There are few things that help a start up in the hiring process to recruit the most ideal workforce. In most cases, entrepreneurs end up focusing on an applicant’s past experience as a measure of his/her work capabilities. They tend to depend on the applicant’s prior work experience, while giving importance to traits like experience gained through competitions in college, what drives the individual and the skills they’ve developed during their career. This helps assess if the candidate is the best fit for a position.

It is important to account for all sorts of personality traits during the hiring process. For example, a techie who has the potential to come up with the most efficient piece of code for an IT based start-up should not be overlooked merely because he wasn’t verbose enough to highlight his
accomplishments as a developer. Being quiet does not mean being under confident or incapable. In a startup scenario it is always important to look out for all types of people as they may be able to contribute in a useful way to the organization. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to have an interviewing process that helps understand the best of even the most hesitant individual.

Start ups usually comprise of small teams, and every department does not have a huge set of members. Hence, it is up to the people working in different departments to keep up with each other’s progress, making adaptability a key component of an individual’s skill set.

Having a selection procedure which also makes the candidate go through questions that help derive traits pertaining to their EQ (emotional quotient) helps understand how an applicant would react to different situations that a start up may experience along the way. Unlike established companies, the processes are in place to keep a check on the progress of their subordinates, start ups require employees who have the ability to take independent decisions. People working in a start up aren’t just part of a workforce that is expected to do their job and wait for some higher authority to approve it.

From a potential candidate’s point of view, it is imperative to understand what the entrepreneur is there to achieve and be aligned with the long term vision for the organization. Taking responsibility for every aspect the company goes through, be it losing out on a lucrative deal, or failing at properly executing a marketing idea, is a factor that differentiates a desk job worker from a trailblazer.

To motivate the idea of team alignment the employee is encouraged to think like an entrepreneur making them ‘Intrapreneurs’. Intrapreneurs are entrepreneurial thinkers who drive organizational change and are motivated by creation. In line with the culture of a startup, a hierarchy may not necessarily exist or may be very nascent stage. Enabling employees to share certain ideas directly with the decision makers of the organization allows for clearer and more succinct communication. There may be further modifications as the idea is developed into a reality, but the important part is to allow self-starters to bloom which is very important in a start up scenario.

Another way to encourage this is to have regular brainstorming sessions where everyone has an equal say and can be heard without interruption, this helps with team alignment and encourages camaraderie and office culture. Even if the size of an organization is a big one, this can still be implemented perhaps by breaking it up into departments, to keep the numbers more manageable.

To quote Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”