📔 LESSON OF THE WEEK
How to decide when it’s time to start building your team (and who to look for first)
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together — African Proverb
This is one of my all-time favourite quotes ☝🏾. It really does take a village to bring a business to life and, if you plan on crowdfunding or looking for investors further down the line, your team will play a huge role in how much people believe you can deliver.
It’s normal to work as a lone founder for a period of time. But there comes a point when your knowledge has been stretched to its max, you need a skill set that isn’t your speciality or (the age-old problem) you just don’t have the time to do everything alone. And, you should probably start trying to expand your team when these problems start to crop up.
I’ve been going through this process for about a year. But I was fortunate to get some super talented volunteers on board to help me with everything from brainstorming to content creation and social media. It was a dream. Unfortunately, volunteers can’t stick around forever, but this learning curve helped me to understand when to look for long and short-term help. And, once you’ve decided to look for help, the key question is who do you hire first 🤔
Finding my first permanent team members is still a work in progress so, I’ll shed some light on what I’ve learned so far and will likely come back with a part two when the interviews and calls start rolling in. In the meantime, here’s how I identified that now is the time to hire and who to look for first…
LESSON 1️⃣ Outline your most important objectives/projects and your blind spots: Start by getting a very clear idea of what needs to be done. This will help you to spot skill gaps, identify how many people you need, the level of commitment and even how senior they should be. Here are some of the questions that I asked myself at the beginning of the process:
What does my business need to achieve in the next 12-18 months? 🚀 — e.g. I have 3x objectives: to acquire more independent hairstylists, to build an engaged online community, and to continue adding relevant features to the website.
What channels/projects do we need to focus on to make that happen? 📸 — e.g. I know that social media and PR are key channels that my business will rely on for growth.
Is there anything that can only you can do? 👋🏾 — e.g. fortunately, there’s nothing on my list that needs to be handled by myself, end-to-end. Yes, I’ll need to be involved in some conversations, but I can actually hand all of these onto other people.
What are your blindspots? 👓 — e.g. My background is in product and marketing but I’m no developer. So, I can see how important it is for me to find a technical lead to work on the new website features.
What needs to be done but is too time-consuming for you to focus on alone? ⏰ — e.g. For me, this is content and social media. These channels have a significant impact on how engaged my community are, but it requires more time than I have to give.
Answering these questions will nudge you towards the right people. By outlining your most important objectives and projects, you’ll be able to identify areas of your business that require more man (or woman) power. Acknowledging your blind spots will help you to prioritise finding people that can cover your weaknesses. The most important thing is creating the time and space that you need to focus on tasks that can only be driven by you - like generating new business.
And next up is translating all of this into a job title that other people can identify with. Having spent a few years in recruitment, I know that job titles can make or break recruitment attempts. People need to quickly identify that the role you’re recruiting for matches their skillset or ambitions. Fortunately, the questions above will help you to formulate the right job titles and responsibilities. Here’s an example of how I used them to identify exactly who I need:
Objective 🚀: Acquire more independent stylists in the UK.
Skills needed 🧰: A “people person” that has a personality that people typically take to. Also has some past sales experience and an interest in the natural hair industry.
Responsibilities ✔️: Reaching out to stylists across multiple channels, running demos, onboarding stylists, setting up profiles (about 50% admin and 50% sales).
Experience level 📊: Ideally someone with a couple of years of experience as I need them to work autonomously.
Time commitment ⏰: 4-6 hours a week as I’ll be working with them.
Job title 👩🏾💼: Business Development Exec — as the purpose of the role is to drive more stylists (aka. business) to the platform and manage relationships with our customers.
After going through this process with my other two objectives, I have a very clear understanding of who I need. Ultimately these people will give me the time that I need to focus on driving other areas of the business (like PR). And between the four of us, we’ll all be able to tackle the key business objectives.
Key Takeaway: Use your objectives to guide you when it comes to building your team. That way, you can go through the recruitment process with confidence, knowing exactly who you’re looking for and why. Remember, you’ll be in the hot seat too. Finding talented people (whether they’re volunteers, freelancers or permanent team members) also means bringing your best self to the table. There’s no greater red flag than a business that doesn’t quite know why a role is needed. So make sure you’re not that person!
LESSON 2️⃣ Think about what you can offer if you have a limited budget: A dilemma that many startup founders face is finding people who are willing to commit to working for a small fee or offer their time for free. There’s no one size fits all approach to this as it really depends on the type of roles you're trying to fill. The more senior the role, the trickier this tends to be. In my opinion, you should prioritise finding people who buy into your vision and want to see the business become a success. They’re the ones that will stay along for the ride and when you do raise funding, they’ll probably become your first paid employees. If you’re strapped for cash, there are also plenty of other things you can offer, such as:
Mentorship or training — this is likely to appeal to anyone at the beginning of their career as they’ll be looking for a chance to improve their skills.
Free access to your product (if possible) — which is a bonus if your team are also likely to use the product that you’ve created. Although, this is much easier with B2C products than B2B.
Equity (for key hires) — when you’re looking for members of your founding team (e.g. CTO or Co-Founder) and need a level of commitment before the money starts coming in, equity is a good way to make sure people are truly invested in developing the business. Here are a few articles you can read on equity splits: Y Combinator, SeedLegals and Balderton Capital. Bear in mind that offering equity comes with its risks too, so do your research first and make sure this is the right option for you.
Key takeaway: More than anything, transparency is key. Only offer what you can afford or have the time to commit to. If you’re already running short on time, the last thing you want is to create conflict with the people you’re working with by not living up to certain expectations or promises.
LESSON 3️⃣ Know how to write a great job spec that will attract the right people: Now that you’ve figured out who you need and what you can afford to offer, it’s time to create a job spec that will attract some talented people. We’ve all read one too many bad job specs — think about how they made you feel 😶 — so lay the right foundations and really sell the role in a way that excites people.
Start with an introduction to your startup and the mission statement — you want to find people who believe in your business and what it’s trying to achieve. So opening up with an introduction to the business and what you’re trying to achieve will likely get the right people hooked and interested in applying.
Be reasonable with time commitments — if you need an extra set of hands (for free) ask for a reasonable level of commitment. Something along the lines of 4-5 hours a week is fine if you’re looking for a volunteer, but if you ask for someone to commit to 15+ hours a week… then expect to part with some 💰.
Be transparent about the stage your business is at — there are plenty of people who will understand that you’re running a startup and that comes with a limited budget. So, don’t embellish what you’re able to offer in order to make up for the pay. Team dinners, courses and discounts sound great, but can you afford to commit to that? Be transparent and honest.
Make the process clear and as simple as possible —complicating the recruitment process is not going to make it any easier for you to find great people. An initial all and two stages of interviews is pretty sufficient for a permanent team member and I suggest simplifying it even more for volunteers. Also, be transparent and explain the process in the job spec so that people know exactly what they’re signing up for and there are no unexpected surprises along the way.
Key takeaway: Finding great people (whether they’re volunteers or paid team members) starts with a good job description. Take your time and if you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s the link to a job description that I’ve just posted for another business. There are also some startups and established companies that do a great job of selling themselves — take a look at the jobs posted by the likes of Slack, Asana and Clue too.
LESSON 4️⃣ Ask for help if you’re a non-technical founder looking for technical people: Building digital products like websites, apps, and SaaS platforms means that you will need someone to take the reigns of the technical work. If like me, you come from a non-technical background, this can feel a bit daunting. On the upside, you can always find someone from your network to help you along the way.
For example, I’m about to start looking for a Technical Lead but I know that I need someone to help my judge the quality of their work. So, I’m be asking a few friends who are in similar roles to help me with everything from the job spec to interviews. That way, I can be confident that the process will be thorough enough and I have another persons opinion to feel happy with my decision.
Key takeaway: Ask for advice if you’re hiring for any roles that you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re not able to evaluate their skillset, then you need to turn to someone that you trust for guidance. Every little helps 😉
I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions about recruiting your first team members, feel free to reply to this message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
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Being patient with progress as a Founder
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time — Leo Tolstoy
We all know how important it is to be patient. But it’s not the easiest thing when you’re building a business from the ground up. I’ve lost count of the days that I’ve thought, “I just want people to believe in the idea as much as I do 😭”, or “can we please just be the next big thing already?”. We want success to be this ongoing linear process that doesn’t come with many (or any) road bumps 👇🏾
Naturally, it’s tough when what you want isn’t in line with the reality of being a startup founder. You have to accept that there will be a mix of highs, lows, averages and moments that truly test your commitment. While a lot of people don’t like to admit it, there are also days where you might want to throw in the towel completely — trust me, I’ve had a few of those 🙋🏾.
Funnily enough, I’m always recentred by the idea of the world that I want to create. I became a Founder to make a difference and create a product that has a significant impact on underserved communities. Whenever quitting crosses my mind, I always think, “there are so many people Mane Hook-Up could help”, and that genuinely keeps me going. I’m not sure if that counts as exercising patience or if it’s just pure stubbornness 😅 but either way, the long-term objective always out weights the temporary discomfort of not quite being where I want to be.
So, next time you’re feeling impatient with your progress, ask yourself:
What impact are you trying to have on the world and what part does your product/service play in making that happen?
What would happen if no one addressed the problem your product is trying to solve?
What could the world look like in 5-10 years time if your product/service really blew up?
Hopefully, the answers will be enough to keep you on track too ✌🏾
🧰 FOUNDERS TOOLBOX
As a tool and app junkie, I’m regularly looking for anything that can streamline a process, cut down on time, and overall, make my life as a founder easier. For anyone who needs them, here are a few tools that found a special place in my toolbox this week.
Video editing with DaVinci Resolve
I stumbled across Da Vinci Resolve during the height of the pandemic when I had decided to create an educational video series for Instagram. I wanted our content to look as professional as possible and didn’t want editing to take up huge amounts of my time. So, using an intuitive editing tool was key and Da Vinci ticked all of the boxes. Not to mention there are tonnes of online resources, both on their website and YouTube, to help along the way.
The beauty of Da Vinci is the breadth of features allow you to create beautiful videos, but it’s also structured enough that the beginner can jump in and get to grips with it pretty quickly. Initially, it took me around 2 hours to edit a 10-minute video but, after a couple of weeks, I could edit everything in 30 minutes or less. Having looked at plenty of video editing options out there, for me, this is by far one of the best.
Plus, there is a paid version for all of the Pros out there too.
Screen recording with Descript
You might find yourself creating product tutorials to help customers navigate their way around your website or product. Ideally, you need a tool that allows you to create/edit screen recordings: enter Descript. Similarly to Da Vinci, Descript is pretty intuitive and easy to use. You can work on-screen recordings, podcasts and even interview transcripts all in one place. So overall this is a neat all-rounder for anyone who is working on audio or video editing. You get 2 hours of transcripts for free and then have to subscribe to a paid plan for more time.
Help Becoming a Founder to grow by sharing it with a fellow founder or friend 🔥 🔥
🐤 TWEET TIPS
Sound advice from the Twitter community…
Coming up next time…
And that’s a wrap for this week. Here are some of the things that are coming up next!
Switching developer teams (woo this one was A LOT) 💻
Finding support without a budget 💰
Forming partnerships with like-minded brands 🤝🏾