Our CEO reflects on the hiring process in a startup

03.08.2017 Adrian Walker

I often ask myself if hiring in a startup is an easy process and how to attract and retain talent. While I believe that having a strong founding team is a prerequisite to gain momentum and attract the attention of the market, the ability to hire talent from the outside will strongly determine the success rate of any startup. Have I always got it right? No, absolutely not.


“I hire for attitude.”

How do I look out for key talents that could join our boutique boating platform? First and most importantly, I call on my personal network. I find that friends and colleagues are one of the most valuable assets an entrepreneur can tap into. Before posting a job ad I talk to my friends and try to find a team member through my personal network. Nothing says more about a person than a recommendation that comes from someone you trust – a well written CV can’t replace this. 
Also, I try to ‘always be recruiting’. I do this by telling my network that I am always looking for people in specific areas – word of mouth will take care of the message. Of course, the risk here is that you have to get used to being introduced to top talent, even if they are currently not available.

What do I look out for? I hire for attitude and for doers. I want to work with somebody who believes in our idea and our goals and has a can-do attitude. There is nothing worse than having someone in your team that develops a negative attitude and starts to doubt your strategy. Doubt has the potential to have a negative impact on the others in the team and frankly, I do not have the energy and the time to deal with that negativism. Don’t get me wrong – constructive feedback is more than welcome and two sets of eyes see more than just one pair. Notorious nay-sayers, however, should probably not work in a startup. 
Having said all this, I firmly believe that the right attitude will by far outweigh lack of technical knowledge and skills required in my specific industry. Technical skills can be taught, attitude can’t. 

“You can come to Boataffair and develop the Greek market for us. That gets people excited.”

Tasks, not titles. This is another paramount believe I have. I don’t really care what a team member calls themselves. Rather, we have to be clear what tasks have to be accomplished and how. Setting targets to be achieved in a certain time frame can be highly motivating for new hires. And here we also touch upon the topic of work satisfaction and retention. Obviously, as an early-stage startup we can’t compete on salary. The trick is to figure out why a talented individual would want to come on board with us and then we have exploit that. You can come to Boataffair and develop the Greek market for us. That gets people excited. We have to enable people to leave a legacy and to build something of their own. Everybody loves to look back to be able to say ‘wow, I have built this’.

Above sounds all too easy and, for some of the readers it may be a matter of fact. So, did I always get it right in the past? The answer is no, not always. I have not always got it right and I have had to react fast upon realizing that a team member is not up for the rollercoaster a startup has to offer. But when we got it right, it was a dream match right from the start. This is exactly a point I keep referring to. In a startup the pace is fast and some decisions have to be made quickly. You have to take chances sometimes. The key is to be fair towards the team member and towards your startup. Building an open and transparent communication culture can help to bring both parties to the roundtable more easily and I always make it clear to all team members that they can tell me anything at any time. 

What are your thoughts around this topic and what is your experience? I would love to hear from you and I would be thrilled to receive your news – drop me a line on my personal email awalker@boataffair.com and I will be happy to get in touch. At Boataffair, we are an open bunch, so feel free to head to www.boataffair.com & get in touch with us! 

Our CEO reflects on the hiring process in a startup
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