I’ve been in that situation multiple times before, and it’s not a pleasant place to be in.
You excitedly begin your new startup adventure only to soon crash into the cruel reality: hiring is tough. You compete with perks, security, salary, and a whole bunch of things that other bigger, more established organizations can offer.
Apparently, you start from a position of inferiority. But is that all we can offer? Or is there anything we can do to get over other, more established companies?
When I saw Justin’s response, it deeply resonated with me. He explained what, from his perspective, helped them hire amazing folks at Transistor. And coincidentally, it closely matched my own view and philosophy around it.
Others Can’t Compete With You.
Perks, security, salary…are all material stuff. It’s usual to focus on instrumental incentives to attract talent. Obviously, this is a game you don’t want to play, especially when you’re early on your journey.
And I would argue that, even if you could, that wouldn’t be a wise choice on your part. Even if you encountered people willing to work with you, they may do it for reasons alien to you or your project and may not be the right fit.
Many incredible people out there are eager for other, more intrinsically motivating things. They want to work on a purposeful project with an exciting vision. And they want to do it together with inspiring people who share their philosophy, a philosophy that grows the business around their lives and values, not the other way around.
People love to work with folks they feel aligned with, living the kind of things they feel excited about —as long as their basic material needs are covered.
Of course, more established businesses also offer intrinsically motivating things —like working on an ambitious project or using novel technology. But they force people to compromise on many fronts.
Big companies can compete on one or a few intrinsically valuable things, but they can’t compete with you on being you. That’s your personal territory.
Hyper-Growth Is Not the Answer.
Now, how can you avoid losing “the you” along the way?
Growing too fast and/or reaching a certain scale just reinforces the problem. Among many other issues, it makes it hard to find and maintain a high level of foundational alignment and internal coherence.
As complexity in your organization grows, harmful deviations and other undesired effects can unfold silently over time and go unnoticed until it’s too late.
Scale and hyper-growth usually turn organizations into soulless monsters. And that’s precisely one of the diseases many established players suffer that you can take advantage of.
“But isn’t too much coherence something to avoid? Can’t that make us overly fall into standardization, where everyone thinks and acts the same? Shouldn’t we look for diversity instead?”—you may be thinking.
Sure, you don’t look for clones of yourself, but you need to be in tune with the people you work with. You look for shared, high-level boundaries while nourishing diversity within those boundaries. Internal variety within fundamental coherence.
Don’t go too big. And don’t go too fast. You risk losing “the you” along the process.
The Sustainable Path is Always Better.
Before hiring, among many other things, you have to find your genuine identity, you have to practice it, and you have to show it to people.
And concerning your vision? Consider it’s a giant with feet of clay. You’d do well in not confining your fate to your initial idea. If it has to change, what happens with the people who got on board because of it?
First, you have to find the fit between you, your business, and the outside world. And that’s a long-term game.
Hyper-growth won’t get you there. Getting people on board when you’re still not ready, when you stand on weak foundations and a wrong direction, will only get you off track sooner. And what’s even worse, it can trigger harmful side-effects further down the road you can’t anticipate beforehand.
That’s why, to me, everything starts earlier. Hiring amazing folks is the byproduct of a natural journey. Organic growth over doped growth. That’s the basis to cultivate thriving, harmonious teams —indeed, not a sufficient but a necessary condition.
To prevent painful obstacles later in your entrepreneurial journey, the right steps in the right sequence are vital. Finding people willing to work with you is just one example.
So, as a counter-measure, first:
- Find your sweet spot (purpose and values, passion, and profit).
- Hang out with like-minded people.
- Be open about what you do, how you do it, and why.
- Share everything you learn along the way and be honest about what and how you think.
- Always be reluctant to hire until your foundations are solid, and not hiring becomes unbearable.
Grow sustainably. Be honest and open. Don’t chase people. Let your tribe emerge. Act as a magnet and let people get eager to work with you instead.
That’s your unfair advantage.
PS: Beware that hiring people might become a headache and may not be your best option. Other alternative working relationships like contracting, establishing partnerships/collaborations, etc., might be a better fit. But, as always, that highly depends on your context and preferences.
Say it out loud. Is there anything you disagree with? Anything missing that you’d like to add? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts so, please, leave them in the comments.
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Have a creative time.