Words by Alison Coleman | Illustrations by Mr Jori Bolton

Building Momentum: Making the Move from founder to employer

The Frontline
Nov 21 · 3 min read

The transition from founding stage to actively growing your headcount is a pivotal moment for a founder. Your first hires will set the tone, direction, culture and potential of your business. Talented hires will propel you forward but it’s a case of high risk, high reward.

Poor hiring decisions cost the UK economy billions every year. It’s an expensive mistake for any sized business but especially for fledgling companies who have limited hiring experience and smaller cash buffers.

We spoke to founders to get their key takeaways when going from founder to employer.


Get outside your comfort zone

Founders can fall into the trap of hiring people who sound like them, work like them and who they get along with. Building a team of ‘clones’ can produce a seemingly conducive collective, however, you risk losing your dynamism. Diversity of thought is essential for creativity and innovation.

Your first hires should plug capability caps and bring in much-needed skillsets. To find them, you’ll need to;

Go beyond your inner circle

Founders typically look to their immediate network but this is often a narrow talent pool with limited access to the skills needed to take the business to the next level. “That pool of people is likely very small and may not have the competencies required to run a business” says Anne Diemer from online payment prover Stripe.

In an increasingly global talent market, you never know who you might be missing by sticking to friends of friends, and it’s even trickier if things go wrong later on.

Hire “General(ist)s”

At an early stage, having a number of generalists who have the potential to up-skill and become specialists, later on, is a way to increase capacity while bringing in hungry talent.

These generalists can wear many hats and increase the workload you can get through today but should have the potential to grow with your business.

Be purposeful about your culture

Your first hires will dictate the company (and culture) you are set to become. Considering the association of winning cultures with commercial outcomes (a 4x revenue growth according to one study), it’s important to be purposeful about the culture you’re creating instead of taking refuge in gut feel.

Ben Prouty, CEO of Shepper, told us how he instigated the ‘Shepper Culture Council’ who conduct first-round interviews to ensure their culture is “reinforced with each new hire.”

Ask yourself, who do you want forming the foundations of your culture?

Get them before your competition does

With millennials turning increasingly to job satisfaction over salary, more candidates are choosing start-ups over blue-chip careers. There’s more talent in the mix but the marketplace is changing and the competition heightening.

For start-ups, it often comes down to who’s articulating purpose better. “By nature, start-ups are purpose-driven groups of people who are coming together because they feel passionate about a particular issue,” says Jack Tang, Co-founder of high-growth start-up, Urban. “Attracting talent is all about communicating that effectively in a way that makes the right people want to be part of that journey.”

When someone chooses to join your company they’ve probably said no to other jobs and while embracing an incredible opportunity with you, they’ve no doubt taken a risk.

When you get your first hires right, you’ll start accelerating faster than you ever could on your own.

And whilst your business is bound to change and evolve, great talent will make you resilient and resourceful.

The Frontline

The Frontline

Written by

Editorial arm of leap9. “A companion to the grafting entrepreneur”

The Frontline

Editorial arm of leap9. “A companion to the grafting entreprenuer”.

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