Your Ugly Baby
There is a term that some organizations use to describe the value individuals and their collective knowledge contribute to an organization — “human capital.” This term is usually accompanied by a laughably bad graphic of two people of different ethnicities high-fiving in mid-air (business!!!) or disembodied Weeble people connected through a series of meaningless arrows.
While the terrible graphics and soul crushing start-up buzzwords are cringeworthy, it’s true that early employees shape an organization long-term.
If they’re not shaping the organization, you’ve either hired the wrong people or you’re not listening. Organizations like ours — that create value through technology, innovation and community — have to ensure the team contributing to the value of the product have the freedom to experiment, the confidence to move on from failure and the ownership to feel pride in collective wins. The only way they get these things is if they are given to them.
Too often we’re presented with stories of start-up founders who, by virtue of their brilliance, have singlehandedly built the next billion dollar business without anyone’s help. The truth is the first 5, 10, 15 or 20 employees have as much to do with the success of that start-up as the founders themselves.
Any good idea starts out as a hypothesis that is either proven or disproven by your first attempt at a minimally viable product. If that MVP works out and people like your product the next step is usually to build a small team to help you rapidly improve upon the MVP. This stage is where many good ideas unravel and good people get frustrated. If founders hire the right people and then refuse to accept constructive, candid feedback they are setting themselves up for failure. You cannot expect your consumers to be as invested as your staff and if you’ve hired the right people, they’ll take your idea and make it markedly better.
The truth is it is hard to have someone call your baby ugly. But if your baby is ugly maybe you need to hear it from someone who cares as much about it as you do.
We were reminded of the importance of hiring the right people this week when the first employee of The Tylt celebrated his one year anniversary. Adrian, an incredibly talented, young guy living in San Francisco, could have probably had any number of jobs. He left a successful company to come and work for us when we didn’t even have a product to show him. He took a leap of faith to be the first person on a new venture created by a new group that didn’t even have an office yet! In light of his anniversary, we asked him why he decided to join The Tylt and what he expects for the future:
“I really enjoy being part of the launch of a new product — getting to tackle new problems, and hustling to get something to blow up. The Tylt sounded really exciting since there were few serious debate platforms out there, and this particular product didn’t require users to leave their usual social media habits — that’s why I took the job. Going forward, it feels like there are an infinite number of ways for The Tylt to continue to grow.”
Since Adrian started we’ve been fortunate to assemble an extremely talented team made up of people who not only believe in our product and mission, but people who also have the passion and determination to unapologetically shape it to best suit the needs of our community. In that year we’ve had 0% turnover in an industry known for high attrition. Building teams like this is not easy. We look for five things when bringing on new people:
- Intellectual curiosity
- Ability to learn new and foreign concepts
We don’t force people to take emotional intelligence quizzes. We don’t ask people what animal best represents their personality. We simply want to know if they have the skills to get the work done, the candor to speak up when they feel something isn’t right, the curiosity to learn from everyone around them and the determination to push through challenges. If you can do those things your team can trust you and so can the people who use your product.