Growing Your Startup Team: When and Who to Hire

This is part four of an eight-part series, exploring the ins and outs of growing your startup team. From attracting talent to developing an interview process, get ready for a complete crash-course in building your early-stage startup team.

Click to read all eight parts as a complete post, or download as a PDF.


Building a fantastic startup team is an ongoing act of prioritisation. You need to constantly make decisions about who your next hire should be, based on the ever-changing needs of your startup’s workload and your team’s skill set, and when you should be looking to hire, based on the fluctuations in your workload and the types of work required.


WHO TO HIRE

As your startup grows, your main priorities will expand: from product development, to reaching prospective customers, to acquiring paying customers, to retaining them. As a result, the type of roles you are most commonly hiring for will change over time.

When your focus is on product development, you’ll need more developers than customer support personnel. In contrast, by the time you’ve got a sizeable customer base, you’ll need to invest more in customer success in order to improve customer retention. Therefore, making decisions about who to hire will be closely linked to the stage your startup is at.

Additionally, your decisions about who to hire will be dependent on your startup’s existing skill set: have you identified particular skills or experience gaps within your team? To keep track, you may want to inventory your team’s skills, compared to the types of work your startup is doing. Then, as your team’s workload changes, you can identify where gaps are appearing, and bring on additional team members to fill the gaps before they become a major problem.


WHEN TO HIRE

Hiring too early can leave you stretched for cash, and hiring too late can leave your team struggling under an ever-mounting workload. Deciding when to hire is a delicate balancing act:

  • Can you afford to bring on a new hire?
  • Do you have the workload to support a new hire?
  • Do you have time to recruit and onboard a new hire, before your team’s workload becomes overwhelming?

You’re juggling time, money and workload, and in an early stage startup these three factors are constantly changing at a rapid pace.

When it comes to hiring your first few employees, your decision about when to hire will probably be mostly gut instinct: you’ll have a sense that your existing team is becoming stretched and that it’s necessary to expand your team.

However, with later hires it’s important to take a strategic approach: you might want to map out planned hires several months in advance, and identify key financial and workload indicators that will mean you’re on-track for needing to bring that additional team member on board.

A BRIEF NOTE ON INVESTMENT

Nick Marsh

Raising investment will have a significant impact on your hiring strategy and roadmap. On the one hand, it will provide you with the capital needed to hire top talent, but on the other you may find yourself under pressure from investors to grow your team more quickly than planned — and possibly more quickly than you need.