Why an entrepreneur has to be the chief recruiter

Ask any entrepreneur, and she’ll probably tell you that her most important job is getting the right people on board.*

* It’s not; the most important job is to not run out of money. But people is a close second.

Yet despite his fact, many entrepreneurs offload hiring to others as quickly as possible. This is a big mistake.

Consider the following: Why would the best people want to work for your company?

Perhaps they think the company will make them rich.  What happens when times get tough, and that IPO seems like a remote possibility?

Perhaps they like working for a hot company. What happens when, inevitably, you stop being the new shiny thing and the trendies move on? Remember Friendster? Not many do.

Perhaps you’re willing to pay them big bucks, or provide killer benefits. What happens when someone outbids you? Google paid one employee $100 million to reject another job offer.

Perhaps you’re working on the coolest new technologies? What happens when Hacker News stops covering you? Java was the coolest kid on the block at one point.  Someday, node.js will be the new Perl.

The only sustainable, reliable way to convince people to join your startup is to make them love the work itself, and that means building a culture that people want to be a part of.

Culture isn’t a slogan on a wall, or a bunch of TED Talks. It’s how people interact with each other day by day.

The two biggest determinants of culture are how you act, and whom you hire. That’s why the entrepreneur has to be the chief recruiter. You have to be the spearhead so that candidates understand how people treat each other at your startup, and to make sure you don’t hire anyone with incompatible habits.

A CEO who models the company culture and strictly enforces it has a massive advantage when it comes to recruiting a compatible candidate, even if other companies can offer more money, hype, or technology coolness.

Don’t think you have time to do this? That’s short term thinking. Think about how much less time you’ll need to spend resolving conflicts and arguing about priorities if you build a compatible team that loves working together.

Teams that are compatible give each other the benefit of the doubt and each issue they resolve together increases their confidence in and bonds with each other, resulting in a virtuous feedback loop.

In contrast, teams that aren’t compatible hold grudges and grow increasingly irritated with each other; every conflict spirals out of control as it dredges up old scores and scars. Ultimately, the team falls apart.

The ultimate reward isn’t just a better performing, more productive team. The ultimate reward is getting to work at a company you love, with a team you love. When you have that, financial rewards are unimportant (though still very nice to have!)

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