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In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the challenges that come with hiring that first full-time employee for your startup. They share their views regarding salary, equity, and giving out titles as well as the key attributes that make a GREAT first hire. Steli and Hiten also recommend reading stories from the perspective of the first employees—providing that alternative view that is different from the founders.

Time Stamped Show Notes:


00:06 – Today’s show is about how to make the first crucial hire for your startup

00:27 – The scenario is startups who have not hired any full-time employees

01:09 – Making the first full time hire is a very crucial and interesting transition

01:28 – What constitutes a good first hire versus a bad first hire?

01:49 – When is the right time to hire the first full-time person?

02:07 – In the early stages, those who started the company are responsible for everything

02:27 – In an ideal world, do not hire for something you do not know how to do


02:47 – There are caveats, like an software engineer—especially if you don’t know how to code


03:35 – The three options would be marketing, sales, and customer support for first hires

03:54 – Steli notices that for others, the usual first hire is for administrative work


04:12 – Usually admin tasks are needed if there are already a lot of employees


04:30 – Do not hire any of those roles if you have not done it


04:42 – You have to have an idea of what is needed before you make a hire

04:55 – The problem in hiring someone for a task you do not know how to do is in evaluating their work


06:43 – You do not want to make a mistake in making crucial hires


06:48 – If you are feeling tired and really want to hire someone, do not settle for the first person that comes along


07:04 – Small start-ups are not easy and watch out for your employee being too rigid


07:16 – First hires may be too rigid—sticking to the tasks they were first assigned

07:37 – You need an early team start-up member that can adjust to the work needed


07:45 – You are looking for someone who can think and work like a founder: one who is entrepreneurial, resourceful, and can stand up to other founders and have ownership over the whole business

08:27 – You are looking for a founder, but is working like a founder

08:51 – Who are these people?


08:57 – They are the ones who did not or are not able to take the risk

09:28 – Someone who has a lot of potential, like a junior

10:08 – Usually a friend of the founders


10:30 – They are somebody who just does not know they have entrepreneurial skills

11:23 – You can hire people to work during weekends with a promise of a future hire or partnership

11:57 – There are people, especially friends, who would be willing to work with you

12:49 – Ideally, the first hire you make is someone you already know and has worked with  you before


13:15 – Picking somebody you do not know is more risky


14:09 – A  problem with first hires is the expectation of salary, equity, and titles

15:02 – First hires would usually think that since they are working like a founder, they should have equity

16:30 – Feel free to give titles


16:43 – Titles are important because it influences how one does their job

17:16 – A title will influence behavior, and will influence everybody else’s behavior towards that person

17:43 – People who are too concerned with titles are suspicious


18:09 – Founders are those who are there from the inception of the business and have invested a lot of time and money

18:32 – It is deceiving for those who are hired to be called co-founders even if they were not there in the beginning just to appease their feelings

Key points in this episode

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