- Hiring from the top is smart, then expanding your team when your resources allow.
- Strengthening your business’s internal and external relationships should be a major focus when you’re hiring for startup roles.
- Keep your company culture in mind when filling startup positions.
- This article is for new business owners who are looking to expand their team.
You created a product or service, you started your business, and you finally began making a little money – now it’s time to hire employees. However, figuring out who those people should be is easier said than done.
While you might be chomping at the bit to get more talent on your team, hiring costs time and money: The average U.S. employer spends about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new worker, according to Glassdoor. Since money is typically tight for startups, do not rush the process. Hire slowly and vet your candidates thoroughly.
The people you hire will depend on your business’s specific needs, but any employee you hire should have a few key qualities: flexibility, passion and trustworthiness. Hire people who are able to take on diverse responsibilities until you can expand further.
8 startup roles to hire
There are certain startup roles you’ll want to fill immediately. Here are eight important ones to consider:
1. Chief executive officer (CEO) and chief operations officer (COO)
Two of the most essential players in your business will be the CEO and COO. The CEO is typically the big-picture person who controls the company’s direction, vision, and culture, whereas the COO primarily focuses on the day-to-day operations that keep your business running.
You can hire externally for these positions, but the founders of the company usually assume these responsibilities. Tierra Wilson, co-founder and CMO of Lovely Impact, recommends starting as the CEO of your business before hiring out. If you and your co-founder(s) already plan to take on these titles and responsibilities, hire the following seven positions next.
2. Product manager
The product manager will be your go-to on all things related to your products. This team member manages the product strategy, vision and development. They typically work closely with the engineering and marketing teams to create and market your products.
Vince Repaci, senior coach at LOVR Atlantic, said that bringing on a product manager can be difficult for founders, as they are typically the initial default product manager and heavily invested in their own products or services.
“When you [can] afford to bring on a project manager, though, it forces you to change the way you think about the project by documenting and training someone else in it,” Repaci told Business News Daily. “This move allows founders to start working on the business rather than in the business.”
3. Chief technology officer (CTO) and VP of engineering hybrid
A team member who specializes in technology and development is crucial to your business’s success, especially for tech startups. Although you can hire freelance front-end and back-end engineers, having someone on your internal team take charge of this sector is useful. You can split this role into two separate positions as your team grows.
“Having someone with the skills to decide what will work best for your business, as well as overseeing the integration and management of various systems, is key,” said Sue Andrews, business and HR consultant at KIS Finance. “They’ll need to consider everything from hardware to software and mobile technology.”
Andrews said this team member can also take the lead in building your online presence. They can split that responsibility with your marketing manager as well.
4. Chief marketing officer (CMO) and community manager hybrid
This team member will focus on your customers and how they view your product or service. Andrews said that hiring an expert with excellent marketing and promotional skills is essential to make sure your vision reaches a wide audience.
“Find a marketing manager that is a jack-of-all-trades,” Wilson said. “Until you can scale, they should be able to write copy, design collateral, code landing pages, run ad campaigns and handle social media marketing.”
They should also interact with your customers and act as an interim community manager to maintain positive relationships between your business and consumers. This team member can work with the product manager to incorporate customer feedback into product development.
5. Sales manager
This team member will focus on generating new leads and bringing in money for your company. Wilson said startups and small business owners who master sales first last longer.
“Hire an amazing sales rep or manager, and then use the money they bring in to hire more people,” she said. “This is probably the hardest position to hire for, but [it is] worth the time and effort to get the right person.”
Repaci said that a skilled sales manager with experience in your industry typically won’t require a lot of training to generate leads and close deals.
6. Chief financial officer (CFO)
Experts recommend that startups outsource their accounting and finance roles, but if you have the capability to hire a CFO, it can be extremely helpful for your business.
“It’s essential that you have someone on the team who is responsible for the money and has an eye for detail to manage all aspects of the company’s finances,” Andrews said. “In the early stages, this will range from major issues, such as securing bank lending and leasing premises, to everyday necessities, such as paying suppliers and managing the petty cash.” [Read related article: Startup Costs: How Much Cash Will You Need?]
7. Business development manager
While similar to the sales manager, a business development manager finds ways to grow your business from both a marketing and sales standpoint. For example, this professional might focus on developing relationships with other businesses to increase revenue and potential for growth.
A good business development manager identifies new business opportunities within your organization and with other companies. In doing so, they’ll consider new markets, areas where you might expand, new partnerships, ways to reach other existing markets, and ways to appeal to your target customers.
For example, a competitor may offer a product or service you haven’t yet considered. Your business development manager will look for ways to keep up with their offerings and set you apart from them to attract more attention to your brand.
8. Customer service representative
Customer service is a critical task every business should master. Building positive relationships with your customers and clients is the cornerstone of your brand.
It doesn’t matter how great your products or services are if your business isn’t effectively communicating with its customers and clients. Without a professional handling customer question, calls or concerns, your reputation will inevitably suffer. You’ll want to fill this role as soon as possible.
How to find the right people for your startup
Since every new employee can hugely impact a startup, it is important to hire people you trust. Andrews said the best way to find your initial team members is by word of mouth and personal recommendations. Connect with old colleagues, friends and people from your alma mater to find those first candidates.
“If that doesn’t give you the right results, then a specialist recruitment agency is a good choice to make sure you find people with the exact skills and experience that you need,” Andrews said. “Good agencies will have contacts in the relevant market area and should be able to help you find appropriately qualified and suitable staff.”
Tip: When interviewing candidates, pose questions that probe the person’s drive and reveal how well they might fit your company’s culture. In addition, use hands-on simulations to get a sense of how the candidate will act in common work situations.
Importance of hiring the right startup roles
A major focus in startup roles is strengthening your internal relationships (between employees) as well as external ones (between other companies and customers or clients).
Without filling these roles, your company will lack direction and strong leadership. In fact, 65% of business failures are due to management issues. That’s why starting at the top is crucial, then expanding your team when your resources allow.
When filling these roles, consider your business’s goals and values. Defining these allows you to find better matches and narrow down the skills and qualities you’re looking for in workers.
Employees wearing multiple hats
Working for a startup is different from working for an established business. Startups are often strapped for resources, and they tend to grow and change at a rapid rate. Because of this, the day-to-day responsibilities for their employees often evolve in tandem.
Startups should hire multitalented employees who are flexible and ready to take on new projects as needed. Startups can be unpredictable, so their employees should thrive in changing environments instead of seeking repetition and stability.
Since startups are in the “growing” phase of business and don’t yet have an employee for every role, startup employees typically end up filling more than one role. This common occurrence comes with its own set of benefits and limitations.
These are some of the benefits of having an employee fill multiple roles:
- You keep your staffing costs down.
- Your employees understand multiple facets of your business.
- Your employees can problem-solve in various areas of the business.
On the other hand, these are some limitations of an employee filling multiple roles:
- Employees can become overworked and burned out.
- Employees may be doing tasks they don’t want to do (or weren’t trained to do), reducing employee engagement and job satisfaction.
- Employees may be less productive if they frequently switch roles or learn new tasks.
Positions to outsource
Some roles can be outsourced to freelancers and external services. Repaci said business owners should outsource anything they aren’t great at as soon as their returns justify the investment.
Here are a few common roles many experts suggest outsourcing:
- Accountants and financial advisors
- Administrative workers
- Attorneys and legal advisors
- Content writers and digital marketing freelancers
- Human resources and payroll specialists
- Web developers, designers and programmers
As a rule of thumb, any occupation that is essential to your core business should be filled internally, while anything nonessential can be outsourced. As your team grows, Andrews said, you may bring these additional services in-house.
Key takeaway: Only outsource roles that are not essential to your core business.
When hiring staff, ensure that your employees embody your company mission and vision statement as well as your company culture. Andrews said hiring staff members with the right values is just as important as finding the right skill set, since they will influence the organization’s culture for the future.
“If you get this wrong at the beginning, it’s really hard to correct further down the line,” she said. “Diversity brings strength to any organization, but it’s important to make sure the team has shared values and are able to work well together.”
As your team grows, Repaci said, you must set aside time to discuss, agree on and align with the type of company you want. Your team and culture will be the basis for your continued success.
Sammi Caramela contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.