Expert Wisdom For Early Stage Hiring

Beau Bergman, Labs Manager of our Denver location recently hosted Colleen McGarity, VP of People Operations at CyberGRX. She has ten years of Human Resources and recruiting experience and has grown companies into the hundreds. Lucky for us, she's focused on tech startups and building teams from the ground up on the people side of things and has the following advice:

WeWork Labs: How do you source and find good people?
Colleen McGarity: You need to network and go to every possible event you can. You need to create those relationships as early as possible. Denver is a lifestyle city, you need to offer a flexible work environment. Hire smart people to let them get their shit done and don’t micromanage them and once they have their stuff done, let them do what they need to do. Offer up the ability to work from home and do what they want to do as long as they get their things done. What are the motivators in specific cities for employees? SF is much different than Denver and much different than D.C. - find those balances and motivators.

WL: How much emphasis do you put on job descriptions as an early stage company?
CM: These are still really important. You need to spell out that you are looking for someone entrepreneurial who can thrive in a startup environment. This can help weed out bad people early on and save you a lot of time.

WL: What about time off, how should we be thinking about that?
CM: If people are really good at what they do, they are getting their job done. They are also going to take the time that they need. Really dictate what the culture of the company is and share that with your employees. Lead by example and take some time off. Make it clear that they are good to take off and encourage people to take time off. People really like to be able to manage their own calendars.

WL: How do you find a culture balance for two different departments of the business?
CM: Sales vs. operations is a much different culture. Sales people have to grind. You just have to be transparent with people in sales that they can make a lot of money, but it is really a lot of work. Sales people are money motivated. Engineers are motivated by completely different things. Find what motivates each team and learn how you can work well together with a cohesive message.

WL: Hiring and scaling without capital, how do you do that effectively?
CM: Engage these employees in some bigger initiatives / tasks and keep open and honest conversations going with them regularly. Build as much trust with your team and employees as possible. Interpersonal connections and face to face time (if you can do it) is crucial.

WL: How do you compensate people when you’re not making a ton of money as a company?
CM: Equity can really come into play here. You need to find the right people with entrepreneurial spirit who are open to taking less money up front and see the big vision of the company for a potentially bigger payoff in the future.

WL: How do you put co-founders on performance plan? And how do you find the right way to communicate with co-founders to make sure they are pulling weight?
CM: You need to have a cohesive executive team. Keep as much transparency as possible here. Get feedback from everyone on the team. Start with the values initially and be open about it. If things do change, you need to bring the whole team into this decision making process.

And as hard as it is, you need to watch out for ego. You need coachable people, so keep an eye out for that; people that can take direction without a huge fight Personality tests can be super helpful when looking into leadership roles: Myers Briggs, CliftonStrengths, DISC, and Enneagram are a few.

WL: What if you hire someone that is not a good fit? Should we fire fast?
CM: If you are having regular conversations about their performance - daily and weekly - you need to have an early conversation with them so there are no surprises if you have to let them go fast. Founders often regret not letting go of someone earlier than they did. Make sure you document the conversations so you can protect yourself at the end of the day.

Figure out your hiring approach as a company. Finding what your company culture and values are is extremely important in hiring the right people for the team. Do not get desperate. Really take a step back and determine what are your team values and what are your core competencies are and that have made you successful today and determine how to add another person to the mix.  One of the biggest traits for hiring for a company less than 10 people, it is critical to hire someone who has a desire and ability to work and thrive in a startup environment. You need to find people who can handle a lot and be flexible. Sometimes there is a lack of process and you need to find people who are used to that.

WL: Any more words of wisdom in general?
CM: The first 10 hires are likely not going to be the people who will take you to a massive company. Once you get a good core, you will likely need to bring in specialized people to operate and scale the company. The really, really strong and specialized people are the ones that will grow with your company.

Finding those people is about being as open as possible with everyone. Ask people if they are bored, ask people how they are doing. People appreciate that and it allows them to be heard and appreciate the company and that is how you build trust with good people. You should not have to “deal” with really, really great employees.