In last week’s “Nuts & Bolts” talk at Stanford GSB, Lecturer Robert Siegel (MBA ‘94) shared insights on hiring and compensating employees at a startup. Read three key takeaways below, and view the slides from his talk here.
1. Hire a star executive team
“Your executive team will be the single most important hire that you’ll make,” says Siegel. “Your ability to scale is directly related to the capability of your direct reports.” Think about skill sets when building this team; you want a group of people who are smarter and better than you.
Some of the common roles to fill on the executive team include vice presidents of marketing, sales, engineering/CTO, and product. There will also be “outlier leaders,” or executives who come later with more years of experience. In any case, the founding team should think about bringing on people who are going to help change the game. Hire people with long “runways,” and consider how they could grow into different roles as the company scales.
2. Hire technical talent who can get your product out the door
Looking for a technical cofounder? You have to be aggressive in going out and finding someone, says Siegel. Look for local meet-ups and talks where you can cross paths with engineers. Ask all potential candidates: “Have you ever delivered and shipped a product?” You want to hire people who can get your product out the door and working to spec because in the end what matters is that the product functions correctly and shows up on time.
3. Pay your team what is fair
Don’t overpay and don’t underpay. All that most people who believe in your product and company want is to be paid fairly, believes Siegel. Make the compensation conversation data-driven versus emotional.
Also remember that not all founders are created equal; sometimes when you start a company, one person has more experience or a broader skill set. You need to talk upfront about divvying up the compensation. It’s never an easy discussion, but if you don’t deal with the financial issues at the start, they’ll come back to haunt you later. (View the slides for more on compensation best practices.)
Follow Lecturer Siegel on Twitter: @RobSiegel
Fast Company Senior Editor Chris Dannen shares 4 tips for developing your brand:
BE ACTIVE ON MANY PLATFORMS
Your startup needs to have a presence across multiple social media platforms. Don’t forget that each community attracts people with different interests; your job is to tailor the message and content to the medium.
Dannen thinks about the social media landscape as a network of nodes. You want to produce content that is specific to each channel, but also interlink them so people can bounce between platforms until they find the one that really resonates with them.
HIRE INTERNS TO CAPTURE BEHIND-THE-SCENES STORIES
No one ever wants to hear you talk about something you’re not an expert in. What are you an expert in? Your own story. Don’t give away your secret sauce, but do share struggles and breakthroughs to offer others a peek into your world.
Give interns cameras and have them capture your story on a daily basis. You never know when the magic moments will occur. Later, someone on the marketing or social media team can centralize the content, filter it, shine it up and push it out through your distribution channels. “There’s no better way to get publicity than through curious interns with smartphones and apps,” says Dannen.
In turn, the interns will get to know everyone on staff and learn how your business really works since they are essentially interviewing the whole team.
PACKAGE CONTENT WITH A “SERVICE” ANGLE
People are always looking for a better way to process their world, and if you can give them an edge with practical advice or knowledge, they’ll keep coming back for your expertise. Provide value to your readers and they’ll eventually return the favor.
HONE YOUR TWITTER PRESENCE
Test different “headlines” in your tweets, but don’t actually capitalize your words like a headline. Use different phrases as a litmus test to understand what people are interested in reading or sharing. The more capital letters and tagged handles you include in a tweet, the less often people tend to click the link. People want something conversational. Every single person on your team should be blogging and tweeting, from the founder to the engineers.
At a recent talk at the Stanford GSB, Fast Company Tech Editor Chris Dannen shared tips on how to get press for your startup:
1. Never email a word document to a journalist. Journalists often check emails on their phones, so make it as easy as possible for them to read your message via mobile. If you’re pitching something, include screenshots as links and hyperlink keywords in the body of your email.
2. Keep your pitch to 3-4 sentences max. Make your pitch easy to understand and compelling to the journalist. Journalists don’t want to dig the story out of you.
3. Your pitch shouldn’t be product-centric. Pitch person-to-person, not thing-to-person, says Dannen. Share your story, not the product specs.
4. Get to the “why”. Just come out and say why you are trying to solve this problem. Why are you even bothering to do this? If you can make the journalist care about the “why”, then he or she will definitely be interested in the “what” and “how” of your story.
5. Be constantly active and interesting, everywhere. Google yourself. An active blogging presence or posting on Twitter or LinkedIn shows Dannen that you’re going to contribute ongoing value to his readers beyond the story.
Check back tomorrow for more media insights from Dannen.
This post is from Anthony Yu, who is a social entrepreneur with Urban Light, a 501c3 providing direct services for sexually exploited boys and teenagers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is interested in applying Steve Blank’s principles of customer development in the social field. You can follow him at @baconstarvation.
All credit for the concepts below should be given to Steve Blank - for developing these ideas - and to Stanford’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Andy Rachleff, for hosting and being an awesome interviewer, respectively.
For those angry with the tenets of customer development, please immediately direct all apples, oranges, and sasquatch meat stick projectiles at Steve Blank. His wonder-beard will subsequently consume these items and fire a comically large cannon ball at you, for we know these customer development tenets to be honorable and true.
Technological startups are not smaller versions of larger companies. (Here are Steve Blank’s slides on this subject matter.)
Entrepreneurship is a calling, not a job.
Customer development cannot be outsourced.
MBAs are not necessarily suited to be sole founders of a technological startup.
In many situations, second-mover advantage provides more benefit than first-mover advantage in a new market.
The venture capitalist secret memo for founders:
Other key points:
Twitter highlights with #seprov: