Recruit (future) A-players

I often hear successful founders and startup experts talking about the importance of employing only ‘A players’ at a startup.

“Make sure you’re hiring only A-players.” — Steve Jobs

Having a team of only A-players makes a lot of sense. Especially in the early days, when the core team will have a big say in whether or not your startup is going to succeed. If there are zero weak links in your team, you give yourself a much better chance of success, in an industry where the odds are stacked heavily against you.

The problem I see with this ‘recruit only A-player’ advice, is that unless you are a heavily funded startup, or a well-known founder with a previous breakout success, it’s very hard to only hire A-players.

A-players are great, but the problem is they often they know how good they are, and hence demand an A-player salary too. Most startups simply don’t have the budget for this. If I’d done this at Party with a Local, and only recruited the best of the best iOS Developer for example, then most of our seed funding would have gone to this 1 salary. As well as that A-players tend to be so experienced, they often have ‘been there done that’ mentality- they seem to know everything. I’ve found they will often have a solid argument about why not to do something instead of taking action and executing trying something. Moving fast and executing is what is needed in a Startup most of all IMO.

Instead I have recruited a whole team of ‘future A-players’.

What is a future A-player? A future A-player is someone who is obviously very smart, talented and bright, but someone who hasn’t yet reached their full potential career-wise for whatever reason — still studying or just finished, changed career paths, haven’t decided what they really want to do yet or often because they’ve just been doing something more fun and interesting than working, like traveling the world.

The good thing about a future A-player, apart from the fact you get a very high achiever who doesn’t demand a crazy-high salary yet, is that they are still improving and have a lot to prove. I don’t mean they need to prove themselves externally to friends and family, although that might be a factor too. I mean to themselves. Future A-players are in a phase in their lives where they are driven to over-achieve, to step up to become the A-players they know they can be. That’s exactly the sort of ‘high-growth’ mentality and type of people you want in a startup, which should be about high growth too.

I think I have an eye for finding talent and recruiting future A-players. Maybe it’s because I feel like one myself. I don’t think I’ve anywhere near reached my potential and have a lot to prove (to myself) still, and maybe I can spot these traits in others.

Whatever it is I’m often amazed by the talent that is unfolding before and I’m very happy and proud of the team I’ve put together. I’m hoping (betting on) that they will develop in to fully blown A-players while working at Party with a Local.

Then the next challenge will be retaining them :-)

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