Discuss

How do I know when I need to hire more people?


#1

Most entrepreneurs start out with a team of one, maybe two for their company. But at some point, you have to hire more people in order to grow your company!

The question is: how do you know when to hire a new person?

Whether you’ve decided you need a marketing director, or a COO, or a salesperson, how do you know when you have enough money and enough momentum to move forward? What do you consider in terms of risk vs. reward for adding another person to the company?


#2

There’s another thought to this to, which is: knowing when you actually need to hire someone, vs. when you have to get a job done. Let me give you an example:

A startup I’ve been working with recently needed to add a salesperson quickly because they needed to reach out to retail store managers quickly. They started going down the hiring path until I asked them what would happen after that particular promotional strategy was over - would they have something else for that person to do? And would they need that skillset longer term to further the goals of the company?

They decided that what they really needed was interns and contract workers to accomplish a very tactical goal. And while it was more expensive to do that than it would have been to hire, they’ve also not burdened themselves with an employee who wouldn’t really fit into the longer-term needs of the company.

So the advice is: don’t hire for a particular task - hire for the longer term needs of the entire company and make sure you can see someone in the role for years to come and not just when you have this current pressing need.

Martin


#3

So how do I decide when it’s time to bring on a co-founder? I have ideas for a business but none of them are fully formed yet and I think it might be useful to have someone to start a company with. I really want to get into entrepreneurship but don’t quite know how. Any suggestions on how to team up with people to get there?


#4

Hmmm - I don’t think there’s a single answer to this, but there is some data out there pointing the say. First off, all of the academic work shows that co-founding teams of two (and sometimes three) have the highest chance of success. When you have a co-founder, you (hopefully) have someone with complementary skills who can expand your ability to prove what needs to be proved and to figure out strategic decisions. A well-chosen co-founder is one who adds real value to the enterprise - not by being identical to you, but by being complementary: they do/think/act/feel in ways that are often different than you, and they’re able to work with you to get the mission accomplished. You’ll need to be clear on roles and responsibilities so you don’t step on each other all the time and so you can build trust as you each focus on your areas of responsibility. But beware of large founding teams: too many founders can make it hard to make decisions and can blur lines of authority and responsibility.

One other note: as you’re looking for a co-founder, think hard about what skills and mindsets you really need. An example I see all the time is a team that’s doing a web-enabled business really going after a technical co-founder. While a technical co-founder in a venture that’s reliant on technology as a differentiating point might be important, it’s a lot less important if the technology needs is “just programming” that anyone can do: why have a technical co-founder just because you need a website built? You can hire programmers/web developers to do that (assuming you have some funding). So think hard about what parts of the business model are most critical to success, and orient your co-founding team in those directions!


#5

This is a great answer, and helps a lot, thanks.

A few follow-up questions:

  • Does it make any sense to bring on a co-founder before you have an idea?
  • Should you delineate your roles in advance? For example, how do I know I need a technical co-founder or not if I don’t have an idea yet? Should I find someone that just complements my skills and go from there?
  • Should I find a co-founder that I know personally?

#6

I’ve never been asked these questions before, so my quick response/reaction is…

  1. doesn’t make much sense to bring on a co-founder before you have an idea, unless you at least have an idea for a process for coming up with an idea. Example: I once partnered with someone to go search for opportunities - I knew him and trusted him (we had worked together before) and we were both at a point in our lives where we wanted something to work on but weren’t sure what it was. We agreed to partner during the search process to leverage each other’s strengths, and we planned to go into business together one we found “it” - but that’s an unusual set-up. Most first-time co-founding teams form around the idea as both want/need to be committed and passionate to the idea. The example from my own experience was possible because neither of us was first-time, so we knew what the process would likely look like. And our first step was figuring out a way to determine what a good opportunity looked like - and that’s a whole other topic!

  2. Yes, definitely delineate roles in advance! You need to be clear on roles and responsibilities from the start, and it’s important that you respect the guidelines and boundaries that you establish. One main reason co-founding teams fall apart is that they’re not able to stay out of each other’s areas of responsibility - and when everyone own everything, it turns out that no one own anything.

  3. Yes - the relationship is critical and there has to be a high level of trust and respect, common values, common work ethic. Think of this very much like a marriage - you’re going to be spending a ton of time together (perhaps more than you spend with a spouse), especially in the early days - so it had better be someone you know you can work with and go through very very stressful times with!