Startups are very much in-vogue, and the chance to work for a small but growing company disrupting a traditional space is a hugely enticing prospect for some individuals. But the first few hires that a startup makes are often critical to the success of the business, so what does a Founder look for in an early-stage employee?
In this piece, I’m going to talk in the context of small startup teams of less than 15 people, however, you can loosely translate the below into any startup employee.
Founders, if they could, would replace themselves. They hire people that not only have the functional skillset that they don’t have, but also come with the right attitude, work ethic and insight. This all really boils down to three traits which in my experience are i) resourcefulness, ii) execution and iii) obsession.
Resourcefulness is the ability to deal skilfully and promptly with new situations and difficulties. Business (and life) is full of challenges, it’s how you deal with them that matters.
Resourceful people can thrive in a startup, it is truly an environment where they come into their own and enjoy flexing several different muscles (often all at once).
A resourceful person might know:
- The latest tools on Product Hunt and understands what Zapier is
- How to acquire information you don’t have
- Knows a little about a lot and a lot about a little
- Read a blog that XYZ person wrote and can apply that in context to a conversation 6 months later
- Demonstrated emotional intelligence
They also demonstrate the desire and ability to learn, whether that is reading up on python to figure out how to manipulate a dataset or doing a 10min crash course in SEO basics to find out how to change the robots.txt file.
To stand out to a Founder, show how you can find anything you don’t have and make the best use of those resources that you do.
Aim to learn something new every day
Can you execute? In a startup being part of a small team means you have to be able to follow through and get stuff done. There are few decisions that can’t be undone.
Executors don’t waste time. In a startup things happen fast. “Stop staring at Pipedrive and pick up the phone!” I heard one guy say rather eloquently at a co-working space recently to his colleague.
Avoid procrastination. When you put a task off, consciously ask yourself how your time is best spent.
In my opinion this profile contributes significantly to the culture of a startup. To be the best early-stage startup employee you should be demonstrating a level of competency in these three areas. If you can illustrate all this to a Founder and how you’ll bring real value to the business whilst remaining humble and coachable, you’ll quite easily find yourself in a role with an amazing problem to solve.