Startups Need to Communicate the Bigger Sense of Purpose

By April 14, 2016 Startups

If you believe hiring the right person or team for your organisation is tough business, then here’s a perspective that will broaden your mind.

The perspective is a simple one – but one that often goes unnoticed and, therefore, is undervalued. It is the perspective of, and for, the entrepreneur: i.e. the small enterprise and/or the startup owner. Unlike established corporates and large enterprises who rely on their company for brand name recognition, brand reputation, promising career paths and lucrative salaries to attract talent into their organisations, startups and small enterprises have very little to offer to attract people to join them, making hiring a difficult task.

In a recent article titled 5 key attributes to look for in the perfect startup hire in, Josh Tolan, CEO of SparkHire in the United States, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews, writes: “Hiring for a startup is much different than hiring for a large company or a well-established venture. Startup hiring can be the difference between the success or failure of your organization… Finding someone great who will stick around for the long haul can help you focus on growing your company, not employee turnover.”

This, we believe, is sound advice for startups as well as for corporates and large enterprises. To help us along, Mr Tolan lists 5 attributes which are key in hiring the right talent for startups which, we believe once again, hold true no matter what the size of the business is. These attributes are passion, specific skills, flexibility, intrapreneurship, and trustworthiness. Mr Tolan explains these attributes in his article and you can read it by clicking on the link provided at the bottom of this post.

In our own effort to understand the challenges in hiring for startups, we spoke to several Indian entrepreneurs and investors. One among them is Villgro, which “inspires, mentors, funds and incubates early-stage innovation-based social enterprises that impact the lives of India’s poor.” Villgro is based out of Chennai and primarily works for the prosperity of India’s rural population. P R Ganapathy, COO of Villgro, shared his insights in an interview with us:

YPP Advisors: How important is hiring quality talent for startups?

PR Ganapathy: Can’t be overemphasized – hiring mistakes will cost a startup like nothing else will, and good hiring decisions will prevent it from making mistakes and help it execute.

YPPA: What challenges do (owners of) startups face in hiring talent? Do these challenges differ in the beginning and later in the scale-up stage?

PRG: In the initial stages, the challenge is that very few people want to take the risk of working for a startup. So you go through many candidates, interviews, offers, and no-shows, before you find employees. This is very frustrating. You also find candidates who don’t exercise the flexibility to work in different roles – startups’ needs change rapidly and having people who are willing to do anything that it takes is very important.

At later stages, people come to work for you, but they are coming for greed at that time – so they demand huge salary increases to switch to work for you, and ask for options on top of that. Mission fit suffers as a result.

YPPA: When hiring talent for startups, do you look for any specific qualities or personality traits in the candidates?

PRG: I’ve always believed that you should hire for cultural fit; you can always help people acquire skills they need to do jobs effectively. All the hiring mistakes I’ve made have been where I emphasized skills first and papered over the cultural fit.

YPPA: There usually is some unpredictability with startups and, therefore, in careers with startups. How do you retain talent in startups?

PRG: You have to overinvest in communicating the bigger sense of purpose and in creating a positive and fun work environment. Make sure people are always being challenged, are learning, and are in the know about how things are going. Give them a chance to weigh in on everything that matters in the company. Those experiences, unique to a startup, will help retain talent.

YPPA: Is there a successful model for hiring and retaining talent for startups which you can recommend?

PRG: Do lots of research and homework on candidates and take your time. Being in a hurry is a recipe for disaster. If you take your time, carefully invest in building a relationship with, getting to know, and inspiring a candidate, it will pay off.

Josh Tolan sums up his article 5 key attributes to look for in the perfect startup hire with, “Finding the best talent for your startup isn’t easy — it certainly hasn’t been in my experience. The ingredients which make up the perfect startup hire aren’t always simple to discover.”  But then, both Mr Tolan’s 5 key attributes and Mr Ganapathy’s insights give us hope that hiring for startups is not an insurmountable problem.

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