You hear people talking about what makes a great startup founder all the time: A great sense of vision, clarity of purpose, relentless drive, a strange balance of over-confidence and insecurity.
There are whole books written about it.
But what makes a great startup team-member? The people who join and thrive in early start startup teams are an equally special breed. In fact, the best startup employees aren’t necessarily the best fit for working in more established businesses – some of the most brilliant startup people I’ve worked with find the traditional business work impossibly frustrating.
“It’s so SLOOOW!”
“I’m just doing the same thing every day – I want to be more in touch with the other stuff going on in the business!”
There are a whole range of attributes that are uniquely suited to these small, high-growth, high pressure companies, but it can be hard for founders who are hiring teams (and people hunting for jobs) to know what those are. So we’ve smooshed together our recruiting AND startup running experience and made a list of the top 8 attributes we’ve found to be the most valuable:
Passion, enthusiasm, motivation for what you’re doing – Must buy into your vision and your big “Why” – what it is you’re trying to do or create in the world. They’ve gotta care about the problem you’re trying to solve, otherwise it’ll be hard to stay motivated.
Curiosity – They’ve got to love the process of finding better ways to do things – especially when it comes to challenging assumptions about the only way to build products. Being curious about why you’re doing this, who it’s for and how they’re going to use it is vital across all roles in a startup too.
Pace – They’ve got to be great at making decisions and acting on them quickly. The old adage of succeed quickly or fail fast is the day to day life of a start up. You need people who thrive and are excited by this.
Fearless/Audacity – try the impossible, challenge more than just the status quo, be prepared to push the boundaries, limits of what we believe
Grit – /resilience – your resilience will be consistently tested and challenged in a startup. That thing you just spent a month working on? It’s not working, we need to abandon it and try something else. The reality is that it will not be a smooth ride. People who have made it through a few tough life experiences, who have demonstrated Grit, are more likely to survive.
Hunger and willingness to sacrifice – Founding a startup requires sacrifice. So does working in one. You’re going to get chucked in the deep end often. You’re going to be asked to work longer hours, more often. It’s a high pressure job so you’ve got to be hungry and prepared to make sacrifices.
Sense Of Humour – You’ve got to be able to laugh and realise that tomorrow is another day. The sun will set, the sun will rise. Late nights, too much pizza and endless bug squashing is only bearable if it’s also fun. You want to be able to laugh with the people you sit next to.
Flexibility – The only constant is change. Get ready to develop skills you don’t have. Although you may be employed for a specific role, the nature of start up means that everyone leans in the direction that the business needs to be focused on at that time. If its sales this month – then get ready to help out in that area. Anyone who defaults to “that’s not in my job description” isn’t suited to a startup life.
We reckon filtering for these attributes right at the beginning of your hiring process is smart. If you agree and want to give it a go yourself, try Weirdly. It’s free and only takes 30secs to set up.