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#1 Thing Startup Founders Need to Do for Success

I know...I know you've read so many articles on Medium, on Angelist, or on Y Combinator.  As a startup founder, you probably have some downtime to read on what you should do or not do and just execute, execute and execute.

You're working on your product, getting that new partnership, writing your company mission statement, flying to meet clients or close new deals with prospects and squeezing in some time to go do that keynote speech at a conference because it helps get your company out there.

There's an unlimited amount of things you can do as a startup founder and at some point one of them is a hire a good product lead or product manager to help you execute the vision you and your cofounder had recently created.

We all as Founders know that in the growth phase, you can use all the leverage you can get.  As Naval Ravikant of Angelist says, there are three kinds of business leverage:

  1. Capital
  2. Labor
  3. Products

Product managers are at the intersection of two of these leverage types, which is that product managers are both employees and the catalyst of building great products and services for your startup.

But the key thing is this, not just product managers, but every employee that you hire, bring into your culture -- your employees are you greatest assets and the best ones are the ones will make (or break) your growth, your startup.

Don't take it from me.  Let's hear from the startup founders whose done it before, in not just one but serial entrepreneurs.

Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator

Sam is very successful in his own right and he's most renown for being Y Combinator's president.  As part of the Startup School series of free video and educational materials for startup founders, he's been one of the most well known luminaries in Silicon Valley that has invested in and built many startups from the ground up.

Here's what he said in the video "How and Why to Start a Startup":

"The team you build, is the company you build."

People are messy, employees come will also sorts of baggage.  We are human after-all and we have all our idiosynracies.  Especially at a startup, ambitious people often have egos, have bad experiences and we bring with us a mix of good traits and some not-so-good attributes.  That's why hiring is still, amongst all the chatter in recent years about the coming age of automation and the downfall of "work", we still continue to need people to create, imagine, inform, sell and buy products.

Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder of Facebook/Asana

In the same video from the Y Combinator Startup School, Sam Altman asked his fellow speaker Dustin Moskovitz how much time he spends on hiring, human resource or people operations (as Alphabet likes to call it).  Here's how Dustin responded.

"I spend 40- 50% of my time [recruiting and retaining employees]."

Sam then says that most startup founders he talks to relegates hiring to be 5-10% of their overall time to which Sam suggests we increases it because it's leverage.  If you find the right person, the superstar person for your product role or sales role, the person is going to be the catalyst that helps drive forward the vision you have set out.

Emma Harris, CEO of Healthy Pets

We have deadlines and people leave the company abruptly to pursue their hopes and dreams elsewhere.  You have a new line of business you want to start and you need people ASAP.  You got another round and you just got funding where you need to show progress to your investors on a monthly basis to keep them happy.  All these scenarios can happen and lead you to feel an urgency to just fill a seat whenever you need it.

The thing is with the labor markets is that not everyone is free.  Likely the good product people or the stellar salesperson is already at a high-growth startup that they have equity in with a 4-year vesting period.  So their locked-in.

As you know and like Tinder, it's all about timing, fit, if that person is currently occupied.  If their not "on the market" then these people cannot easily be found to fill the position that would make them love working for your startup and also greatly benefit them.

So there's a lot of unknowns when hiring and sometimes it is frankly about luck too.  But if we do spend most of our lives, more than sleeping or being with our families (on weekdays anyway) at work, doing work or being engaged about work, then it is vitally important to find someone that can add to and fit with the culture of the startup you are creating.

Here's what Emma Harris from Healthy Pets had to say about her experience and what she learned from one of her mentors.

 "Don't fill a seat just to fill a seat." 

Enough said. 

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet

There are few great quotes from Alphabet and Google.  Probably the most famous and well-read one (and one slidedeck that refer to almost every year, it's that good) is Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg's book on "How Google Works".

This deck helps people better understand how Google works -- the "secret sauce" process of them building the great company and though it is not presented like it is about hiring, it inevitably talks about Google's success not being achievable without their approach to hiring great people.

Values often define a company and it's clear that one of Google or Alphabet's greatest inventions was make their hiring process THE most important part of their work.  That's how Google works!

On slide 35 or 54, Eric Schmidt writes this:

"Lots of people say this (hiring is most important), but then they delegate hiring to recruiters.  Everyone -- EVERYONE! -- should invest time in hiring."

As we all know the infamous Google hiring process involves 4 to 5 progressively long hiring process where the entire team meets with the job candidate.  It's important that everyone is involved and that everyone that the person is in contact with gets a chance to meet, ask questions and provide answers to ensure there is a good fit on intellect, personality, ambition or whatever it may be.

Eric and Jonathan writes that there is a common characteristic of people who they look for that are a good fit for Google.  I would say that startups should also find similar people like this.

They call them "Smart Creatives".

Here's what they say on how to spot Smart Creatives:

"The people that can have the biggest impact [at a company] of all are the ones we call Smart Creatives."

"These are the product folks who combine technical knowledge, business expertise, and creativity.  When you put today's technology tools in their hands and give them lots of freedom they can do amazing things, amazingly fast."

These definitions of Smart Creatives sounds like the superstar Product Managers we continue to represent here at ProductManagerJobs. The keywords here are smart, product, people that is both technically savvy but also is and can talk in business terms.

We harkin back to the venn diagram of what the root of all product managers are: those that are adept in business, technology and design.

This is why hiring and also hiring product roles are you company are so important and as Eric Schmidt says, it's the #1 things you as a startup founder can do to build your dream company.

Any other quotes or experiences as a startup founder on hiring?  Any wisdom to share, please write in the comments below and we'll add it to the article!