I’m five full weeks in at Appature and have come to realize numerous things (some of which I laid out in a prior blog post here). In these five weeks one thing has become abundantly clear to me — you “win” the startup game based on people.
It’s all about people.
Yeah, it sounds very clique — but the truth is I am even more convinced after living inside of a fast-growing, big-dreaming startup company that Appature will succeed because of the people we currently have and the people we are hoping to hire. We’ll be successful if we convince people that are already successful, hardworking, and dedicated to join us and try and win. We can’t compete with an Oracle or a Microsoft in terms of financial resources, but our hope is that we can get enough people all fighting for the same thing to be able to build something great.
My “Current” Philosophy on People in a Startup…
With all that said, I’ve taken a few key lessons about hiring and people in a fast-growing startup. Here’s a few of those lessons:
(1) Get the right people on the bus. My good friend and the CEO/co-founder at Appature, Kabir Shahani, regularly makes the following statement: “Right now we are primarily focused on getting the right people on the bus. We’ll figure out along the way where is the best place for them to sit, but it’s more important about getting the right people on the bus.” Kabir is spot on. You need people that are aligned with the team — and maybe they will change roles during their first 12 months on the job or maybe they are in the right role for the foreseeable future. But the truth is that you need people that are willing to do whatever is needed to make things work.
(2) Don’t think that a new hire is going to “fix it.” While it is all about people, the truth is that adding a new person, a new position or a new title isn’t going to suddenly fix things. At Appature, we don’t have enough sales people on the ground yet. It’s the reality — there are some great opportunities, but we just don’t have enough bodies to get on the ground and sell our products. Well, the solution is that everyone else has to pitch in to “fix it.” So we all help — that may mean our CTO or product guy spend some time selling; that may mean your finance guy has to do some QA-ing. Truth is that adding a new body helps, but you can’t hold out hope that a new body will be dropped into the organization and fix it… the fixing starts now.
(3) You are always selling (to customers and hires). Because people are so darn important, it is crucial you treat them just like you’d treat a prospective customer. For those of you familiar with Salesforce.com, think about hiring just like a sales funnel. You need to keep getting leads in at the top and nurturing them through the funnel. I was one of the people that spent a lot of time at the top of the funnel before finally moving through and getting “closed” as a new hire. Getting the right people is not easy — nor should it be. I’ve been amazed at how many hours I’ve spent interviewing candidates, finding prospects, selling the company and negotiating offer letters. But when you get the right person, it all seems worthwhile.
(4) Hiring takes resources and time. When I joined Appature, Kabir asked me to really focus on recruiting. As I looked at the big (and I mean really big) list of things I was responsible for, I thought that recruiting would be time consuming… but not such a big responsibility. Truth is, recruiting and hiring has actually been the largest slice of time since I started. We are trying to bring on a half dozen people in the very near term and another half dozen shortly thereafter. And, then if all goes well, we’ll add another dozen. And the truth is to hire one great person, you have to talk to a dozen… so the math starts to get overwhelming (12 x 12 = 144!) That’s why getting us ramped up and focused on hiring has taken so much time — building the “hiring funnel” is a big challenge and something that is even more important with the earliest hires in the organization.
(5) You are never done hiring. Getting a new candidate to fill a position doesn’t mean you are done. In fact, I feel that we’ll always be looking for more of the “right” people. That’s a bit of an overwhelming feeling, but it also is reassuring to think that each new hire helps us grow the business to allow us to hire more. We all see what we are trying to build and each new person on our bus is really helping us upgrade to a bigger bus. That means we are constantly talking to people who may join us tomorrow, in a month, in six months or next year. Hiring is about matching timing — our timing and the candidate’s timing. When those two align, we find a seat and get them on the bus.
People & Appature…
So, with that in mind, I’ll also end with a bit of an “ask”. If you are interested in learning more about Appature, let me know. We’ve got a few jobs currently posted on our site: http://www.appatureinc.com/careers. But I’ll tell you what, we’ll find ways to get the right people on our bus, give them all the tools to succeed, and help us hit it out of the park.
It’s really a cool feeling to be a part of the company and have a stake in its future. That means I care more than ever about getting those people to join us. I’m critical of people that won’t fit our culture and don’t have the right skills to help us succeed. But at the same time, I’m also willing to talk with dozens and dozens of people to find those right people that can help us succeed.
These days I’m all about building our hiring funnel (just like our sales team focuses on building a robust sales funnel). At the end of the day, building a great organization does come down to people… and devoting the resources to get those people on the bus is crucial.
So let me know you you think is awesome (even if it is you) and would love to see if we’ve got a spot on the bus…