Tips for hiring the initial team for a corporate-backed startup

31 August 2021

Picture the scene, you’ve had an excellent idea for a tech product or a service, and your startup is about to take off. You’ve managed to raise venture capital and get corporate backing for your business, meaning that soon your vision could become a reality. So, it’s time to hire a team, people that will make your idea a reality and push your product, service or business to the next level. After all, no entrepreneur can do it alone.

You need to hire a team who can work on the daily running of your business, taking it from vision and initial concept to a working and profitable enterprise. Just because the startup was your idea, it doesn’t mean you’re the right person to manage it on a daily basis.

Hiring the initial team members is one of the most crucial moves that a startup can make; these people come with a lot of influence and power over the future of your business. Therefore, you must get it right. However, you may not have experience recruiting. Entrepreneurs are ideas people, and innovators, so hiring may not be something you’ve thought about or had experience with.

Therefore, we’ve put together a guide for hiring your initial team and mastering those crucial first stages of turning your newly funded startup into a fully functioning enterprise. Here are our tips:

Start at the C-Level 

At the beginning of the hiring process, it’s all about your leadership team. Starting with senior hires makes sense, and getting these people right will set the tone for the rest of your business.

In the early stages of startup growth, when you have minimal numbers of people in your team, don’t be fooled into thinking these roles don’t have the same status. They play a fundamental role in the running of your corporate-funded startup. It can be argued that they have as much influence over the future of the business as the product or service you offer. CEOs, CPOs and CMOs, set the vision and ensure everything is in place but most crucially, they take the lead when it comes to hiring the rest of the team.

Just because the product or service was your idea, it doesn’t mean you should automatically become CEO. You need to look for people with experience growing and managing businesses, a practical mindset, and dedication to your brand. Then, you can innovate and let someone else ensure that the company is successful.

Look outside of your corporate innovation team

Corporate innovation teams identify growth opportunities, turn ideas into ventures and are pivotal in getting different stakeholders on board with a startup. They have innovation, resourcefulness and creativity, as well as understanding the corporate world. So, therefore, many startup leaders think that they’d be the best people to take the lead and fill vital c-level positions. After all, these are the people who understand your long-term goals and mission. They know how to deal with stakeholders and know all about the potential of your business. However, these individuals have suited to the corporate world and not the agile, unstructured startup environment. As a result, they may be lost when it comes to the business’s day-to-day running.

Hiring a startup leadership team from external sources means you’re hiring someone who knows how to thrive in that environment. Their focus is on making the business profitable and successful rather than always looking ahead for the next big opportunity.

Test your candidates

For any startup and scaleup, your leadership team and c-level executives are the most critical hires you will ever make. Ultimately, the future success of your business is in their hands. Therefore, it’s only fair that the candidate experience is a little more complex than submitting a CV, as you need to know they’re the right person for the job in attitude, vision and passion. Once you’ve shortlisted candidates, they will not be shocked if you ask them to complete a task or challenge to prove why they’re the right person to take your startup to the next level.

You should try to assess their long-term vision and plan for your business, the strategies they believe will get them there, and even a rough timeline and milestones for success. This will help you to assess the experience and understanding of your business as well as the candidate’s attitude and enthusiasm.

Envision the company culture you want to have

In a new business, the initial hires will set the tone for the company culture. Your executives will be responsible for future hires and, as the first hires in the business, will create the atmosphere and working environment. Plus, they’ll be critical in forming the EVP, which will inform future employee relationships, so you need someone who understands your vision, values and expected company culture. Therefore, before you hire, you need to have an idea of the type of business you wish to run. There’s no point in hiring someone who has a background in corporate banking if you want a relaxed and fun culture unless their personality can convince you otherwise, of course.  

Timing is everything

Startups can often fall victim to hiring teams before they’re ready and having unnecessary costs, but leaving it too long can also be detrimental to your growth plans. A startup must be agile enough to grow when demand is there, which means hiring at exactly the right time and often at speed. Experts advise hiring your team after you validate your minimum viable product (MVP), but not too early in the discovery phase. By that time, you should have a clear product offering and an idea of where you want to take your business, including the skills you’ll need, which will help to shape the job descriptions. Hire too soon, and you could be making unnecessary hires who don’t fit your business model, creating a situation for yourself later down the line.

Outsource if necessary

When trying to get a startup off the ground, internal resources can only go so far, and in the initial stages, your team could be busy trying to find funding or develop the product. So how can you dedicate the time to finding an appropriate CEO? This is where outsourcing can come in handy. Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing is not just for big established names; it’s becoming more agile and suitable for scaling businesses or startups looking to make their first few crucial hires. Forming a recruitment partnership in the early stages give you the flexibility you need to hire quickly, but they will also offer strategic advice if you need to change direction and adapt quickly. RPO providers can be used for executive search functions and fill urgent demand as you scale. So, in the early stages of hiring a team for your corporate-backed startup, enlisting one could be an intelligent strategic decision for long-term hiring success.

Work on your onboarding process

Whether you’re enlisting a new CEO or are starting to recruit a wider team, the onboarding process is essential. It’s in these first few weeks that they’ll develop a true understanding of your business and how their ideas and strategies can work alongside your vision. The onboarding process is vital to ensure a smooth transition between the initial corporate team and any new hires. You need to ensure that all knowledge and leadership goals are transferred to the new parties to ensure the long-term success of a venture. Onboard your leadership team successfully, and the process will become easier when you recruit in the future. If you fail to do so, there won’t be a shared vision for the business, and growth could become much more difficult.

Talent Works help startups to scale by surrounding them with talent. Our recruitment services include executive search and a more flexible alternative to RPO, which can be scaled up or down, making it perfect for the agile nature of startups. As a result, we’re trusted by some of the world’s most exciting startups to find crucial hires to help them grow their business successfully, and we take pride in finding people who share their vision and values.

Our team becomes an extension of yours, helping to build employer brands, run digital attraction campaigns, and directly recruit vital hires. We want your business to succeed as much as you do.

Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help your business, even if it’s in the early stages. 

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