Got Talent?

Got Talent?

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Most start-ups are in a big bind when it comes to hiring. They don’t have enough money to lure top talent through salaries. Yet without that talent, entrepreneurs will be hard-pressed to develop a world-beating product that customers want to buy.

Fortunately, there is a way around this dilemma that can help you convince the most talented people to give up a bigger, steadier paycheque. Here are five strategies you can use to recruit and retain talent when you’re on a tight budget.

1. Grab potential hires emotionally

If you hope to lure the best employees, your start-up must have a compelling mission. I once interviewed the co-founder of a software company who had been one of Facebook’s first 100 employees.

Walking away from Facebook before its initial public offering was a big financial loss, but to him, the start-up – whose software decodes the genetic basis of cancer – offered a more compelling goal than increasing ad click-throughs.

If you can convey your company has a mission that’s more compelling than others in your industry, you will have an easier time hiring top employees.

2. Show them you only hire the finest

If you want to hire top talent, you absolutely must staff your executive ranks with leaders in the field. The reason for that is very clear – A-players want to work with other A-players.

The best way to hire A-players is to be one yourself. In my many interviews with Silicon Valley venture capitalists, I learnt that the best start-up CEOs have great reputations among the people they’ve worked with in the past.

 

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Make sure you can tell compelling stories that show you have superior industry knowledge and a strong vision for your company’s future.

3. Know your customer inside-out

You also want to give potential hires the confidence that you know your customer very well. Interview at least 50 potential customers. Based on those interviews, you should know the specific criteria that customers use when they buy products in your market and why your product beats the competition in the minds of those customers.

  • Letting potential employees know this gives them the confidence to come on board.
  • Recruiting top talent boosts your venture’s odds of success.

4. Be clear about the potential for growth

Prospective hires look at your start-up through a lens similar to that of a venture capitalist. The best hires in your field like a compelling mission and challenges, but they also have a mercenary side. So when you’re trying to bring those kingpins to your start-up, make it clear that they’re going after a big opportunity.

Conveying this message credibly is a challenge for entrepreneurs. Potential employees – not to mention investors – expect you to over-estimate the size of the potential opportunity. But you don’t want to over-promise. Be very specific in distinguishing the specific segment of the market that you are targeting.

5. Be clear about the potential for growth

Prospective hires look at your start-up through a lens similar to that of a venture capitalist. The best hires in your field like a compelling mission and challenges, but they also have a mercenary side. So when you’re trying to bring those kingpins to your start-up, make it clear that they’re going after a big opportunity.

Conveying this message credibly is a challenge for entrepreneurs. Potential employees – not to mention investors – expect you to over-estimate the size of the potential opportunity. But you don’t want to over-promise. Be very specific in distinguishing the specific segment of the market that you are targeting.

Hiring-New-Employees-Hire Staff

Peter S. Cohan
Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates a management consulting and venture capital firm. He is the author of Hungry Start-up Strategy: Creating New Ventures with Limited Resources and Unlimited Vision (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).