Almost every day I speak to Founders about their teams. Because I like people, I like thinking about how to bring groups of them together over a period of time to achieve something amazing – it’s a conversation that comes up alot. Plus I believe that building the team is one of the most important things in a start-up.
All things being equal, people-planning is probably not only the most important thing you can do as a Founder but it is also one of the most difficult. In each of our investee companies we try and have org charts mapped for (at least) the next 12 months and split into quarterly maps.
In a start-up the Founder is essentially wearing every hat of responsibility and overtime they need to work toward getting rid of hats until they are left with the ones that suits their skills, passions, experience and value. At a high level, hats may include sales, marketing, customer service, product design, technology etc.
As early as possible, Founders need to decide which hat/s suits them long term and start people planning for the rest.
The most common mistake I see Founders make is not really thinking through what they need right now and what they will need over the next period of time. They make hires on the fly and often make mistakes. Unfortunately they then compound the hiring mistake by keeping the person for too long.
A hiring mistake isn’t always easy to identify. I mean, of course it is easy to let someone go if they are obviously not doing their job well, the real challenge is when you have someone that is on the border and you’re not sure if you should persist for longer or move them on and take the punt on someone new.
When I am approached to help in this situation the first thing I do is try and judge whether the Founders expectation of what they want from the Role is reasonable because sometimes the Role can actually be just too big for any one person.
Assuming the Role isn’t too big, the next question is if the expectation is reasonable given the amount of money they’re paying this person… Sometimes you’ll see champagne expectations on a beer budget. In that case, do we infact either up our budget and find a more expensive (and presumably better) person or do we reduce our expectation and the Founder (or other team members) shoulder the margin?
As Founder or Manager, if you’re comfortable that you’re expectations are reasonable for what you’re paying, then I think you need to give the person some chances to improve and prove they’re the right candidate. However, there are only so many chances and you can’t compound your hiring error because you don’t want to admit you made one. Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and move someone on.