How To Hire For Your Deficiencies In The Early Stages

Forbes Publication

Photo by Tim Gouw on

Hiring for your deficiencies is one of those “it depends” questions.

Who you hire first depends on your team’s current deficiencies, and your deficiencies are defined by what you are trying to accomplish. If you’re a typical startup creating a software product (apps, website, etc.), there are typically a few standard roles and capabilities you’re going to need to fill: product, sales and engineering. These are not the only capabilities and roles you’ll need to fill to make a company work, but they’re capabilities that are 100% necessary.

Who you need to hire depends on what you can do. You already have one or more founders. What can those founders do? While you’re searching for product market fit, do you need sales? Maybe that’s covered by one or more founders, for now. Maybe it’s not, and you are at a point where you need to build and scale a sales team. Can one of your founders code or lead external engineers? Perhaps not, and you need to hire someone to do one or the other.

In general, the main things you should make sure your team can do are the three capabilities I listed, plus one:

1. Product

2. Sales

3. Engineering

4. Vision

Let’s dive into these four capabilities, and who will be responsible for each one:


Vision is what’s left over, and is almost always the main responsibility of the CEO. Vision is the mental understanding of what your business will be, as well as what it is now. It’s the understanding both of what you think the market will grow to and how you can take your business, as it is today and build it into what it will be tomorrow. Vision has ramifications in all three other areas. It’s what ties them all together and becomes your means of communicating a future view of the world with your employees and your customers.


Product is the job of the person who takes vision and translates it into the different products and services your company provides. They maintain the mental image of what those products and services are now and how they can be modified in the future to help guide the company toward a realization of the vision. A good product person will have the ability to inform engineering on how they should build product, and they should do so in a way that asks for metrics to be collected on the functionality created. Product teams should use these metrics to provide feedback to vision, which will guide which product direction should be continued in the future.


Engineering is the technical implementation of products. To build them well, you need to hire quality people who have the capability to implement the products and services you want to create. This means someone on the team has to have the ability to either create quality engineering outputs or to judge them and guide others to create them. This is either a CTO, VP of engineering, lead engineer or manager in the case that they are not technical but can lead.


Sales is a different animal than the above, but it’s arguably more important. A sales organization is both a sole means for achieving revenue for a company, as well as a feedback mechanism for product and engineering. A good sales lead will have the ability to set up an organization so that it is driven by incentives and judged by concrete metrics. Sales organizations are almost always internally competitive.

So, you’ll need to figure out what capabilities you need and how each person involved is differentiated. You’ll also need to figure out how to distribute equity amongst them. Are they essential to running the business? Perhaps they’re essential enough that you consider them a founder.

If not, think of what percentage of ownership feels motivating but is larger than what a future standard employee will get. An engineer on your already built-out team will likely get one-tenth of one percent of the employee equity pool. A good rule of thumb for equity is to give between that and what you give to yourself — somewhere in that range is what your first hires should get.

Will a New Hire Work Out? 6 Signs to Watch For

Recruiter Publication

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Today’s Question: After 90 days, you should have a good idea whether a new employee will work out. What is the top trait you look for in new hires when evaluating whether to keep them on board? Why is that trait particularly important?

The answers below are provided by members of YEC Next, an invitation-only community for the world’s most promising early-stage entrepreneurs.

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1. Passion and Motivation

Passion is about believing in your idea. Passion creates a drive to persevere when you are tired, commitment when things look bleak, and conviction to make an idea a reality. Motivation is key to us. We want to know what motivates employees. That way, I can get to know their aspirations better and understand what they are bringing to the business.

Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs


2. A Proactive Nature

Is this person doing the minimum to get by, or are they doing their job and then one thing above that? It’s the people who are proactive who help you get your business to the next level. You can see this in their words. Do they actually care and ask questions that go deeper than simply doing a task?

Jim Huffman, Growthhit


3. Commitment to the Mission

We’re a small startup, so it’s incredibly important that every core member of our team is completely committed to the mission, vision, and values of our company. We’ve seen that this level of commitment can determine whether or not someone is willing to stay late or work on the weekend in order to complete a necessary task or solve a crucial problem. Beyond ability, complete buy-in is crucial.

Kyle Wiggins, Keteka


4. Having ‘GWC’

I’d have to use ideas from How to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman. There really have to be three things, not one. They have to “GWC”: Get it, want it, and have capacity. They need to understand the job they have to do, they have to want to do it, and they need the mental/physical capacity to do it. If any of those three are missing after the first 90 days, they are likely not the one for the job.

Ryan Meghdies, Tastic Marketing, Inc.


5. Impressing Others

The top trait I look for is if this person continues to impress others with their behavior. Good people will continue to impress you by going the extra mile, reminding you of top priorities, and getting things done faster and better than you expected. If the new employee is simply getting things done at expectation, that’s likely not good enough.

James Hu, Jobscan

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6. Attitude and Aptitude

It all comes down to attitude and aptitude, two traits that are paramount for a successful workforce. The attitude speaks for itself; no client or customer wants to deal with a disgruntled person, and neither do coworkers. As for aptitude, the ones constantly pushing themselves to learn new areas of your business are the ones who will help you scale quicker and smoother.

Ron Lieback, ContentMender