Summary: Hire for judgement in your startup – eventually you’ll run out of bandwidth, and the early hires make the decisions and set the DNA of the company.
As startup founders embark on their entrepreneurial journeys, one critical aspect often overlooked is the significance of hiring for judgment in the early stages of the company. It’s a common misstep to prioritize domain expertise or individuals who align closely with the founder’s vision but lack the ability to exercise independent, sound judgment. At first glance, this might seem like an unnecessary hurdle to impose on potential team members, given the limited talent pool available, especially in the nascent stages of a startup. After all, as the founder, you’re steering the ship, right?
In the initial stages, with just a handful of team members, things may seem smooth. As a founder, you possess a deep understanding of your company’s core, and you make all the crucial decisions. All that appears necessary is a team that works diligently, comprehends their respective domains, and effectively carries out their responsibilities. But, inevitably, there comes a pivotal moment when the founder realizes, perhaps with a tinge of shock, that they no longer grasp the entirety of their company’s operations. The product, financial intricacies, and legal complexities may have evolved beyond their personal comprehension.
This is when the problem becomes too vast for one individual to manage single-handedly. Even if the founder could retain all the details in their mind, the sheer volume of tasks and consequential decisions overwhelms them. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to oversee every aspect of the growing enterprise.
At this juncture, founders recognize that they have effectively delegated the development and judgment of their company to the first 10 or 20 employees they brought on board. Why limit it to the first 10 or 20? Because these initial hires will be responsible for subsequent recruitment decisions. While the founder may have the final say in the hiring process, the DNA of the company has already been set in motion by the earliest team members. Their judgment permeates through the organization, influencing every new addition to the team. Their decisions resonate through the codebase, product development, and all customer interactions.
In this context, the wisdom of Vinod Khosla rings particularly true: “The team you build is the company you build.” The early team you assemble lays the foundation for the great company you aspire to create. Thus, it becomes paramount that every member of your initial team possesses the capacity for independent, sound judgment, ensuring that none are mere cogs in the corporate machine.
In conclusion, as a startup founder, don’t underestimate the long-term impact of your early hiring decisions. Prioritize individuals who bring not only expertise but also critical judgment to the table. Their influence will ripple through your company’s culture, decisions, and ultimately, its success. Building a team with strong judgment is an investment that pays off as your startup evolves and grows.