The A-team: attracting top talent to your start-up

Every entrepreneur needs to think about their ‘employer
brand’ to ensure they attract top talent as a good team is, in fact, often more
important than the idea itself, says Rajeeb Dey

I’m often asked to speak at enterprise events and usually I can pre-empt what I’ll be asked. However last week I was asked a question from the audience which caught me off-guard. A student asked me, “now that you’ve hired a team around you, how has it changed your life as an entrepreneur?” It was a silly answer but after a brief pause I replied “I drink a lot more tea!”

And indeed I do drink a lot more tea, mainly because now there is a place to do that. Having an office and a fulltime team means someone will be going to the kitchen every few minutes and it’s hard to say no when you’re asked ‘can I get you anything?’ But that’s only half the story. I also have a lot more fun and my business moves quicker and more efficiently because of the team around me.

Recruitment, especially for start-ups, is more of an art than a science. As a young entrepreneur, no one sat me down and told me about the rights and wrongs of recruitment, and it’s been a trial and error learning process. As and when the time has been right, I’ve added team members who have had the expertise that I was looking for and I’ve certainly never worked to a recruitment timetable. People that are excited by the mission of Enternships.com and want to be a part of it often approach me. In fact, all the people that currently work for me I either met at networking events or hired after they contacted me asking to do an internship – during which time they had made themselves indispensable.

Building a team to support your ideas, vision and passion is fun but time consuming and the sheer amount of paper work associated with taking on a member of staff makes hiring that bit more onerous. But hire you must, as even the most energetic entrepreneur has limits. Start-ups do not need big recruitment budgets or HR departments in order to attract top talent but it is important that you develop a brand to which people will be attracted. Make sure you convey your brand values; what does your company stand for, why are you doing something exciting and why would I want to work for you?

If you are currently thinking about taking on additional people, think about the skills you have and the skills you need while thinking about where it is you want to get to by making the hire. Does it make sense to take on a full-time staff member when outsourcing work might deliver quicker and more cost-effective results? Take your time to make sure the person you have in mind wants to work for you and shares your ethos rather than quickly hire someone who just wants a job.

I often tell aspiring entrepreneurs to hire staff who possess patience. I’ll often be struck with an idea before I go to sleep and by the time I’ve got to the office I’ve got a whole new concept that I eagerly want to get implemented that day and take to market that evening. This doesn’t often sit well with technology development schedules, as I’ve learned from the look in my developers’ eyes when I unveil my grand ‘new idea.’ Hire people with the strength of character to keep you focused on the overall vision (and at times have the courage to say no to you!) but also staff who can translate your ideas into action.

I want to take my business all over the world, into every territory possible and turn my company into a market leader, but I can’t do that by simply flying around the world, and it’s my team that will gradually edge us to success; whether it be the next development release or the next video for our blog, the responsibility of the entrepreneur is to set the framework, hire good people and then trust and support them to succeed. Every entrepreneur, no matter how early you are with your start-up should think about developing an employer brand which top talent aspire to be a part of.

Rajeeb Dey is CEO and Founder of enternships.com, a portal that provides internships for students in entrepreneurial businesses.

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