Whilst some founders believe that human beings are endlessly fascinating creatures whose spiritual development must be fostered through a workplace culture that verges on the cultish, others prefer the “ambitious self-starter”, with balls of steel, whilst still others favour the remote approach – only ever liaising with their employees via skype from a distance of 4,000 miles away.
Which approach is correct? It depends on a lot of factors; type of business, size of business, scope of business; B2B or B2C (or P2P), annual turnover, social footprint – the list goes on and on.
But there are a few constants that founders should pay attention to when choosing their ‘crack’ founding teams. There are some personality traits that, quite simply, we all prefer to see in the people we are about to entrust with core aspects of our fledgling business, at a critical stage in its development.
Before all else, businesses are about people, so in that spirit we present you with our list of the 5 most important qualities you want to see in a potential employee, before you make that person your first hire.
1/ Social skills – this isn’t about how many friends a person has, how funny they are, or whether they can make you laugh. This is about one thing, and one thing only – are they the “office psychopath”?
The office psychopath is rarely who you think it will be – many are outwardly friendly and charming, but underneath that light-hearted, outgoing exterior beats the heart of a committed sociopath; somebody who was born to bring new businesses to their knees via a toxic cocktail of misbehaviour, sabotage and really not giving much of a cr*p about how things pan out for the business.
The office psychopath can be weeded out at the interview stage – persistent, to-the-point questioning will eventually trigger the wildly inappropriate reaction that tells you not to make the hire.
2/ Consistency – not a glamorous one, but essential. For months’ you may wonder why on earth you hired this person; they seem to do little, say little, their ideas don’t get you excited…but one day, when you arrive for that crucial meeting and realise you have forgotten the laptop with the killer presentation in it, it will be the consistent employee, back at HQ, who will answer the call and ping you the file. You might have to ask them a couple of times, mind!
3/ Self-preservation – is this potential new hire a survivor? It might seem strange to hand someone the keys to the office on the strength of their ability to look after themselves, but the alternative is infinitely worse. Neediness is not something a busy founder will be able to deal with. The troops must be able to stand up for themselves – you are not a shoulder to cry on, or an outlet for somebody’s angst – you’re a busy startup founder. Beware of pity!
4/ Compassion / emotional intelligence – now it sounds like we’re back-tracking, but it’s about how you define a “caring” person. Some people have the knack of just being on everyone’s level, of being able to interact with any kind of personality, and these people can drive a company forward by providing the spiritual guidance every business needs. This is the person you are always pleased to see – and so is everybody else.
5/ Brilliance – needs little explanation; they are brilliant, they instinctively understand what you are trying to achieve, and they help you solve problems and overcome barriers by concocting genius plans. Provided you can deal with the occasional “why didn’t I think of that” moment that makes you wonder why this person isn’t running their own global corporate, a brilliant employee is manna from heaven!
We hope you’ve appreciated our light-hearted look at building out your team – of course every single person brings a different set of skills and a unique way of seeing your business, and that is what makes running a startup such a joy. A founder needs to be a people person, whatever line of business they are in – that is probably the most important pre-requisite to running a successful startup.
Let us know what qualities you value in the comments section below?