Founders Need to Play Offense to Recruit the Rock Stars

January 9th, 2014 / Comments Off on Founders Need to Play Offense to Recruit the Rock Stars

Most founders starting a new company are only looking to hire a few people, not an army. The challenge in working with such a small team is that it’s critical to get only the very best players. Too many founders see that as intimidating, and that thinking needs to be changed. Founders need to play offense instead of defense.

Don’t ever think that you are working from a disadvantage; that what you are working on isn’t good enough to attract top talent. Instead, understand that you are working from a position of strength. It’s all about attitude. Operate from a mindset that demonstrates what you are building is very rare and special, and you are offering a once-in-a-lifetime ground floor opportunity to those who are qualified to participate. It’s like having front row seats at the Super Bowl—you only have two open seats—which of your friends will be lucky enough to be invited?

Here are four practical tips for finding the rock stars:

Always recruit. I was always looking for talent and generally had one or two “ready-now” recruits whom I could woo for any critical position that worked for me.

Don’t be swayed by big names. Just because somebody works for a great company, it doesn’t mean that they are great or will be right for your startup. There is a big difference from being on the bus at a great company and driving that bus. There are also great talents out there who don’t always work for brand name companies.

Pay extra-attention to those with grit or scrappiness. The best hires often have something to prove, and are motivated by a profound desire to excel in their jobs.

Rule out people motivated mostly by money. If your candidate is focused a high salary, you should be questioning whether or not he or she is the right fit. (Being motivated by equity is a different story as that’s tied to performance and demonstrates a belief in the company.)

Four ways to attract—and retain them:

Be the best place to work. Be the place people are clamoring to join. It’s not about massages and gourmet food; it’s about what was accomplished, what was learned, and how well people were treated.

Have huge aspirations. Be inspirational with what you are trying to accomplish as a company. This starts from the top.

Stay humble. You can always be better.

Be fun to hang with. Care about your people. Treat anyone you bring on like a family member. When former employees look back on their career, you want them to think that yours was the best and most fulfilling job they ever had. That’s never about money; it’s about being a part of something meaningful.

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