How can I convince people to join my start-up? – StartupSmart

This article first appeared on October 7th, 2010.


I have left a fairly senior position in the finance industry to set up my own consultancy.


I have tried to convince several of my more talented former colleagues to join me, without success.


What can I do to convince these people to move to a start-up?


Your talented colleagues are probably right to stay, and you should probably give up trying to persuade them. Start-ups are not for the faint-hearted – where entrepreneurs see opportunity, everyone else sees risk.


In the early days of a new business it’s vital that you have like-minded people around you; people who share your vision, are willing to ‘muck in’, have no concern for hierarchy – and are not worried by setbacks or problems.


They’ll need to be agile and nimble; prepared to make quick decisions and then change them if they aren’t working. And they won’t spend any time complaining about how life isn’t fair, or about the fact that you don’t have nice offices.


Often the successful ‘big company’ employee is the exact opposite of this. They thrive on order and stability. Even though they might dream about starting a business, the reality of what it involves would terrify them. As a result they are the worst people you could hire.


So, while it’s impossible to generalise, I’d say that good corporate employees rarely make great entrepreneurs, or even members of great start-up teams.


The people you want don’t like the big corporates and you should look for clear evidence of this. They’ll be hungry, passionate, determined and decisive. And they’ll be willing to take financial risk to join you, in return for a share in the financial upside when you’re successful.


This isn’t to say there are no big company people who would make the cut, just not many.


You are more likely to find your team in small growth businesses – ‘challenger’ brands that have to displace an incumbent in order to succeed.


Although you’re going to feel like you’re in a tearing hurry to get going, you need to take your time assembling your team.


It’s no exaggeration to say that the best start-ups are the ones who put the right team together at the start.


Getting this wrong means you spend far too much time – and possibly money – undoing your mistakes when you should be focused on scaling quickly through great execution.

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