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How do I hire leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves?

In his weekly advice column, Maynard Webb advises a founder on how to hire the right talent for a fast-growing startup.

How do I hire leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves?
[Image: Olga Nefedova/iStock]

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. How do you bring on experienced talent who also are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty?

—Founder of an early-stage, venture-backed startup

Dear Founder,

I think it makes the most sense to look at this as a bigger picture of what’s going on at your company and tackle it as a math problem. Let’s say you have 10 people in your company and you hope to have 100 people in two years. That means you are going to have to make hiring a priority and you are going to have to get creative in how you recruit and onboard your talent.

Also, you can’t overlook the people you already have on the team. Throughout my career I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results I’ve gotten by promoting from within. You have to assess how equipped the 10 people on your team are to deal with the upcoming changes. Are they able to scale? Can you recruit junior talent and put them underneath your current stars? Are they ready to manage? Or do you have to insert talent with more experience and have them lead some of the people you already have in place? I ask these questions because in order to scale you will likely have to do some combination of both.

You will find that some of the people you have can scale way beyond what you imagined. You will also find that not everyone has the aptitude or the willingness to evolve as your company grows. Curiously, oftentimes, people want things to stay the same way, the old way, and they resist change. But in a startup, change is the only constant.

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The best thing to do to get the kind of talent that can be with you today and stay with you tomorrow is to look for someone who is ready to be very hands-on. I had not pulled all-nighters for years when I took the head of technology job at eBay. A lot of seasoned execs didn’t want the job because they knew it came with the cost of personal inconvenience and nastiness. Why did I take it? I thought it was an amazing opportunity and it would be fun. Also, I had a chip on my shoulder; I felt I had something to prove.

Make sure your recruits know this is a big job that requires rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. Give them a sense of how challenging it will be. Look for folks who are willing to do nontraditional things. Value candidates who like to jump out of their comfort zone. Search for patterns where they did turnarounds or created something from scratch, people who are energized by building, rather than enjoying the fruits of their labors once things are more established.

Finally, remember that you’re not done when you have one person stepping into a role. In order to scale you need to have two to three options as “ready now” successors. Your job is to grow your company, and you will only be successful if you know who to bring in from the outside and who to promote from within for every position on your radar. This is probably the most important thing you can do to scale your company with experienced people.

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