Q: When starting up, how are you able to recruit and hire
talent with little or no money?
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In our experience at my VC firm Forerunner, we believe there are three key ingredients to attracting top talent to your organization.
1. Have a clear vision. The clearer you are about the company aspirations the easier it will be to draw appropriate and qualified people to your company. Identify a mission statement early on. Be specific about the opportunity you are addressing, how you plan to win and what the company will stand for. Obviously the more compelling these attributes are, the easier it will be to gain the confidence of top tier teammates. This kind of upfront effort stands to help you get the right conversations going as you start to interview (entice) people.
2. Adopt a disciplined approach. Having a disciplined approach to team building, as with most all other aspects of bringing a product to market and scaling, is critical. As a founder it is an advantage to be clear about the resources and skills you need from teammates to meet short-term goals.
One suggestion is to develop an organizational chart that maps to your year one and year two goals specifically. Think critically about what types of leaders you need in each spot to address the core objectives by department. From there it typically makes sense to rank the order of importance (assuming resources are lean) and prioritize securing talent to address those areas first. Having essential skills on board to manage the most important aspects of launching your company stands to instill greater comfort for your team, while setting you up for success.
3. Inspiring enthusiasm and confidence. The best ideas are only just ideas until you are able to build and empower a team to execute against those goals. For you mission, bringing authenticity to the table and passion for the pursuit is meaningful. In general, people want to be part of something that matters -- they want to feel connected to a mission and a purpose. The most ambitious people want to have leaders they can look up. Be that person. Respect others, be fair, listen to feedback, be inspirational and confident.
None of the above has to do with money. In fact, money will likely follow all of these attributes as well.
Having secured funding does help provide comfort to team members that are more sensitive to financial risks, in particular. It is possible, probably likely, that many of the people you identify in the above process will not be in a position to leave their current employment in favor of your venture until you do secure financial support. That's okay, you can have key people identified and let investors know that they plan to formally join the team once proper funding is secured.
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