Hire the first 100 people yourself

Why you shouldn’t delegate the hiring of your first 100 employees.

Hiring great people is damn hard. Especially if you’re in the technology space, you’re competing with the goliaths of your industry who can throw stupid money and perks at them. Believe me, I know. I’ve competed dozens of times against companies like Facebook, Google, Paypal and eBay to hire incredible people. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. That’s the game.

What I learned building Bigcommerce as co-CEO to almost 500 employees is that YOU should personally make the final yes/no decision on at least the first 100 people that join your company.

It’s time intensive, takes a lot of brain cycles and can’t be delegated, but down the track when you’re hundreds or thousands of people, you’ll be glad you did. I am.

Why? Well it comes back to the type of culture you want to create in your company. And who knows that better than you do, especially in the early days? Most founders have a very specific viewpoint on the kind of culture they want to build. Words like smart, hustler, energetic, problem-solvers and ambitious come to mind for me.

And while your hiring managers might do a great job shortlisting candidates, I’d argue strongly that the best way to almost guarantee you end up with a great culture is to personally interview and have the final say on employees 1 to 100.

“How the hell can I hire 100 people when I’m busy building the business?” you might ask. Good question. The answer comes down to relying on your hiring managers to shortlist their best 2–3 candidates for each role and then doing 15 minute “mini interviews” with each of them, focused specifically on how well they align with your culture and values.

The key point here is that you’re relying on your hiring managers to vet for skill set AND culture. You’re just double-checking the culture fit based on your vision for where your company will go over the next few years. If none of the final candidates are a culture fit, you say no to all of them and your hiring manager goes back to square one, using your feedback as a guide for future candidates they interview and put in front of you.

When interviewing final candidates, I asked a series of questions that helped me understand them as people, not employees. Great cultures are built by people with great attitudes and great work ethic who feel like they’re never satisfied or content with where they are, so that’s what I’d look for.

I’d ask questions like: What do they do for fun? What drives them? What are they learning? What’s their favorite book? What’s important to them? What makes them tick? What do they teach their kids? Who are their role models? What would they want their tomb stone to say when they die? Etc.

Those kinds of questions tend to bring out someone’s personality and motivations quite quickly and quite easily. It’s then a fairly simple process to determine if they will be additive to your culture or not.

For your first 100 hires, aim to only hire people who will be additive to your culture. That means 1+1=5 in terms of cultural impact not 1+1=2. In a startup you need all the leverage you can get and great people who look after your customers and each other are the best form of leverage you can have.

Sure you won’t get all 100 new hires right. And no one expects you to. But you’ll get more right than your hiring managers would. And those 100 people will go on to become your future managers and leaders who will in-turn take over the hiring and recruiting on your behalf as you grow, so you’ll know things are in good hands — hands that you’ve personally selected to help grow your business, talk to your customers and hire more great people.

Always remember that A-players want to be around other A-players (top performers), so will build out their teams with other great people. B-players are intimidated by A-players and will build out their teams with C-players, or employees who “punch the clock” and leave. By you personally giving the final decision on the first 100 people, you can hold the bar high and make sure you only hire A-players as the foundational layer of your company.

It’s cliche now to give founders advice of doing things that don’t scale, but I 110% agree with it. And making the final decision on the first 100 people to join your company is easily the best use of your time because it will give you the most leverage and improve your odds of success a few years down the track more than almost anything else.

Get my new book “SANE: How To Build Your Business Rapidly Without Going Insane” at http://www.dontgoinsane.com 📚