Take Standard Startup Advice with a Huge Grain of Salt


When you begin the journey as a startup, everyone wants to give you advice. Your parents, your friends, your former teachers, and random strangers on a plane all believe that their two cents could make you a million bucks or save you from making the biggest mistake.

Much of the time, this advice is generic and, even more often, this advice is just plain bad. Here are just a few of the pieces of advice you should ignore when it comes to recruiting new employees.

1. Only Have A-Players

One of the most common pieces of startup culture advice that every founder and CEO will get is that they need to hire the best. And the sentiment of this statement is true. You need to have a strong workforce. Unfortunately, most of the time the phrasing can be wrong. People will tell you that you must have A-players. But what is an A-Player?

Is it someone with years of industry experience?

Is it someone with a lot of degrees behind their name?

There is no strong definition of this term anywhere online. In every industry and region of the world, it is defined differently. But beyond just the basic lack of clarity in the term, the likelihood that you could hire a team of all A-players as a startup is unrealistic. You simply can not afford the cost that comes with it. During your recruitment process, you should not get too caught up in the school that someone went to or the companies that they have worked for. You need to instead concentrate on finding people who are passionate, who have a strong work ethic, and who have a willingness to learn and grow.

2. Embrace Failure

Failure has never been looked upon kindly, but recently there has been a trend of embracing failure in every company. It is a nice idea and there is some truth to it. Not all failures are horrible. Lessons can be learned. But for the most part, failure should be avoided in startups. Startups are fragile businesses. A little bit of turbulence can cause major damage the kind of damage that will shut down the startup faster than it opened its doors.

While the company culture should allow failure, they should not give employees the idea that failure is perfectly fine. When employees shrug off a failure as a learning lesson and not that big of a deal, they are not fully valuing the limited resources that the startup has. When it comes down to it, the company culture of a startup should be willing to take calculated risks but should also have safety precautions in place.

3. Long Hours Are A Must

A long-standing assumption with startups is that it requires long hours from everyone. There will be no nine-to-five standard and a full weekend off is a rare gift. The assumption is fairly understandable because of how much work is required to really get a startup off the ground. But it is not a wise routine to get into. The workforce will become overworked. They will lose passion. They will become less productive.

Everyone needs a break to refresh and rejuvenate. Boundaries need to be set, even if it is just a rule that no one works after ten at night.

4. Hiring For Personality

In recent years, a lot of emphasis has been put on hiring people with great personalities, people who everyone can get along with, and people whose disposition aligns with the company culture. And this is somewhat true. It is important to consider whether a potential hire will mesh well with the organization. Their passion and good nature can inspire others in the workforce to be their best. But this is far from the most important consideration. If it is, you may end up with a lot of 'cool' people who get others excited but do not individually advance the business goals of the startup.

A potential hire who is a little more quirky than everyone else or a little more straight-laced than everyone else might be the best pick. Look for someone with a strong work ethic and the right skillset.For more tips for startup founders and business owners, be sure to subscribe to our Numbersowl blog.