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#gxmxp Series

Talent Acquisition

Congratulations for making to the final exercise of the #gxmxp Series: Talent Acquisition Framework and Roadmap. Time to develop a comprehensive recruitment marketing and employment brand strategy.

The goal of the Talent Acquisition Framework and Roadmap phase is to identify the skills and roles you’ll need before you need them to avoid making costly mistakes with your runway.

Look to the Future, But Don’t Forget the Present 

The majority of the MXP is designed to help you build a lean plan to achieve product market fit and grow revenue. However, we start and finish with people because you can’t succeed scaling your business without the right team. 

While we’ll focus here on the resources you’ll need in the future, you also need to keep track of your current team. Oftentimes, your most loyal employees agree to do a job that’s out of their comfort zone until you can bring someone else in.

The “can do, will do anything” attitude is one of the best traits of early startup employees. The startup hustle comes from a place of good intentions but if left unchecked can have negative consequences.

If you leave those people in those stretch positions for too long they will drift away from their passions and strengths. This will likely result in some of your most valuable assets deciding to walk away, do their job very poorly or create low morale. It’s crucial to keep these loyal people happy and thriving. 

In your strategic pipeline review meeting, it’s important to remain aware and vigilant regarding everyone’s utilization rate. What’s a reasonable workload expectation for someone to do their job well?

We’ve preached throughout the #gxmxp Series the importance of quality over quantity.

If you start seeing someone leaning more toward the quantity of work and less toward quality, that’s a sign that a seam is about to break.

If you notice an employee or yourself starting to struggle it’s important to separate the individual from the task before jumping to the conclusion that the individual is simply not doing their job. You may need to have some difficult conversations but before doing so you need to evaluate what their bandwidth and real world expectations are.

Ask people how they’re doing, how much longer they have in them and if they’re feeling good or bad about their work. 

All too often within startups, people put themselves in roles where they are essentially beginners for the sake of the company. The most common example of this is startup founders taking on sales and marketing responsibilities with no prior experience.

Just because someone takes on the responsibility does not mean they should be judged as if they are a professional at it. You need to manage people, their background and expectations. 

This Talent Acquisition Framework and Roadmap phase is about identifying what roles you will need to fill assuming you hit your market milestone.

What will the roles and responsibilities look like? How will that impact your bandwidth and company priorities? Where will this shift impact your current team and where will that shift impact the quality of execution?

As you look towards this future state where you have hit your market milestones you can also ask yourself what trigger events will occur that will tell you that it’s time to bring on new talent. 

More importantly you should be identifying the trigger events that would tell you to make a hire well before you need to bring someone on. If you wait until the bandwidth is already constrained you will likely be forced to make a hurried hiring decision.

Startups usually don’t hire until they’re already past the first signs of trouble. If you can project what your world will look like when the seams are broken and what metrics will lead to that, then you’ll have a head start that will likely save you precious runway.

Charting Your Talent Roadmap

Before reading any further, pull up the resource you filled out in the first section of the MXP, the Resource Review + Talent Roadmap spreadsheet. We’ll now be filling out the second tab (“Talent Roadmap”).

For the last time, here’s how to fill in each tab on this resource: 

  • Priority – Where does this rank among all the jobs your team will need to grow? Anything that’s going to unblock your pipeline or path to revenue is a higher priority.
  • Role – Put the name of the role but be careful of mislabeling the role when you publish it. Avoid calling it something similar to a standard job you might find on LinkedIn for a large company. For most startups, there are so many hats for every role to wear that using a hyper-specialized title might communicate the wrong expectations to the talent market.
  • Responsibilities – Get into the minutiae of what this person will do. What will they be responsible for? Where will they fit into the strategic pipeline review meeting? What jobs will they take over? If you’re doing this correctly and evaluating where the seams are going to break, you should have a comprehensive list of specific duties this person will do. It’s not extremely important if the name of the role is clear, but the responsibilities absolutely have to be. Know exactly which problems these new hires are going to solve for you.
  • Product/Market – What side of the business is this role on?
  • # Needed – How many of these people do you need? Are you hiring a whole team or just one person?
  • Link to Job Description – Link to the job description that you are going to post here so it’s easily accessible. Similar to the job title, it’s important here that you think outside the box and avoid the language, structure and behavior of larger companies. Your job description should focus on the roles and responsibilities listed above. You want to treat your ideal candidate profile just like your ICP. You only need to market to the people who share your worldview and will be attracted to your stage and risk profile. If you see an opportunity when you’re talking to investors, advisors, potential customers, etc, share this job description early and often.
  • Estimated Hiring Date – This can be loosely aspirational for roles you don’t need right now. As the seams start to break, this should turn into a real deadline. However, don’t force it. Take the time to hire the right person (more on that below!).
  • Triggers for Hiring – What’s going right or wrong in your world that will cause you to make hiring this role a priority? Maybe you have too many or too few leads. Maybe another employee left. Be as specific as possible about what that looks like, and try to avoid just saying “more funding.” Hires should be made based on business needs. When you’ve decided you need someone, you’ll figure out a way to hire them regardless of funding.
  • Ideal Location – Where will this person work from and what location would provide the most value back to the business?
  • Estimated Salary – What will this person’s salary be? Think about what you have the budget for. Don’t forget about equity considerations. Glassdoor, Linkedin, and AngelList can all give you information about the market rates for the positions you’re hiring for.
  • Candidate(s) – The best practice here is to build a pipeline or a bench of people you like well before you need them. Ideally, you’re filling out this column for every role as soon as you decide it’s a role you’ll need. If you’re looking at roles in this document for the first time in six months, and you have some that have no candidates listed, that’s a problem. Spend about 5-10% of your time having casual conversations and letting people know what roles you’ll eventually need filled. Creating this word of mouth will get you in front of the right candidates.

Hire Slow, and Fire Fast

Once you have the whole system running well, two of the biggest mistakes to be mindful of are: 

  1. Getting too far ahead without having the right people; and
  2. Disrupting the entire system by bringing on the wrong person. 

There will most likely be a time in the future where your pipeline might be in danger of falling apart because of a resource bottleneck. Some companies may have a knee-jerk reaction to that and just hire someone to help.

One of our favorite things to say at GrowthX is “Hire slow and fire fast.” Unfortunately, startups tend to do the exact opposite. They’ll identify the need for a head of sales, whip together a job description, interview candidates and hire someone within 30 days. That’s not a long time when you think about the hiring process or how valuable and impactful a role you are hiring for.

You have to write a job description, share it with people, review resumes, schedule interviews and make a decision. Even sixty days is not a lot of time to do that.

At the early stages of your business, it’s extremely important to find the right person who can run with your plan, fit in with your team and add value.

You may get lucky but more often than not it takes a while to find them. 

Hiring is just like selling. Market to a smaller audience, not a bigger one (think about an Ideal Hiring Profile). Get out of that traditional hiring template you have in your head.

If you use the typical cut-and-paste job description, you’re going to attract the wrong people. Once you’ve hired someone, you won’t 100% know if you have the right person until they start doing the job.

Hiring is all gut instinct, so it’s better to provide as much information as possible up front in the job description. Don’t be afraid to write things that would disqualify people from your job post.

The more general you are, the more of a general audience you’re going to attract and that will dilute the quality of candidates that jump into your pool making weaker candidates appear stronger than they really are.

Building a community of people and a bench of talent is what’s going to keep you out of trouble. The more you can be honest with people about where your company is, where the gaps are and where you need help, the more you’re going to get helpful feedback instead of people just looking for the next job. 

Don’t sell; seek fit. Equally true when selling and hiring! Click to Tweet

Full-Time, Part-Time, or Outsourced

We’ve also found that hiring comes in all shapes and sizes in today’s economy. As you build out your roles, it’s important to seriously evaluate if you’re hiring a full-time role, a part-time role or something that can be outsourced altogether.

There are amazing tools and agencies out there for almost every single role, from lead generation to cold calling to web development. Sometimes it makes no sense from a financial and time perspective to hire for roles like this.

Outsourcing at first can help you validate if there’s enough pull from the market for you to hire a full-time employee. It can also be a cost effective way for you to build out processes before paying an FTE to do the learning for you. This might be a higher cost in the short term, but it can save you from much more expensive, long-term and mentally painful mistakes.

And that’s it! In the next and final post, we’ll review everything from the #gxmxp Series and share closing insights that we’ve learned from helping hundreds of companies successfully navigate through the MXP on their journey towards the truth.


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