Its hard to build a team of smart creatives
By Twama Nambili
Entrepreneur and Strategist.
No one talks about this, but it is genuinely very hard to build a team of talented employees…especially when you are building a startup.
Let me simplify it, it’s extremely hard to build a quality team for any company, and even more so as a startup. Startups have a hard time finding top talents because they often don’t have a lot of capital to compete with big firms, they don’t have the reputation as being a stable company to work for, and they don’t often have many perks offered by top firms.
Even startups with higher salaries struggle due to a lack of reputation and uncertainty. All these and more reduce the incentives for top talents to consider working for a startup. I mean, what would appeal to you more? A product manager role at Google that pays $150k or a product manager role at a startup of 3 employees that pays $160k which you don’t know if it will be in business 1 year from now? Most of you will pick the former because of the company’s reputation, benefits, and perceived stability.
I should mention that even large firms with a lot of money find it hard to find great talent; many applicants lie on their resumes and the recruiters comb through the weeds to get the quality crop. They spend months in the recruitment and training process. So you can only imagine how hard this can be for startups. Finding top talent is hard, and when you finally find them, it’s hard to incentivize them to leave the stability and safety of the existing jobs.
But this is not impossible. I would suggest that as a startup found, you still spend time recruiting for top talent. Incentivize this talent with a competitive salary, mixed with equity in your startup. I think any good startup should allocate 10% of its stock towards employees, and for each new employee you add, they get 10%-15% equity of the stock pool. Employee one gets 10%, then when employee 2 comes on, they get 1% and employee 1’s equity dissolves to 9%. However, if your initial employees are more than 1, then divide the 10% equally amongst them. Then make sure that the equity vests for 4 years, with a 1-year cliff. This means that the employee will only get the equity evenly across 4 years of working for your company, but the cliff is protection that ensures that if they leave within 1 year…they won’t get anything.
So how do you find great employees? I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Unless you are super lucky, it can take up to 1 year. You first need to have a good idea of the type of skills you need in each employee, then get to work. If you have money, hire a reputable agency. If you don’t have the money, spend time looking and talking to various talents. You need to develop the “recruit anywhere mentality”. Talk to random people on the plane, at restaurants, at cafes, on campus, on LinkedIn, or in any other location. You will be amazed at the random spaces you can find top talent. See if people you meet have the qualities you are looking for.
LinkedIn is a great resource I highly recommend. But remember that people lie on LinkedIn too, so it’s up to you to interview and do the background check needed to verify the credibility of a potential recruit.