Entrepreneurs and business owners claim to be hunting for more “entrepreneurial” talent these days – critical thinkers who are willing to take risks, wear multiple hats and most of all, lead. But are startup founders really hiring entrepreneurs, or just ambitious team players? What’s the difference, anyway?
To find out, we asked eight successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share what they really look for in an executive team member – and how to nurture those “entrepreneurial” team members on day one.
1. Striking The Balance
When building your executive team, choosing a fellow entrepreneur can work out well. However, the issue is more complex than just that. I recommend the following two questions to know if you have the right person in mind: One, is the person just like you? That’s not always a good thing. A risk taker may need someone who is more cautious to balance them out. An analytical person may need someone with great creativity. A technical person may need a charismatic figurehead. It’s all about striking the balance. Two, do you share trust and values? You must respect each other to grow side-by-side. If you can be open and honest, you will make a great team and no hurdle will make you fall on your face. You may not always have the same vision, but open conversations will help you come together. - Spencer Gerrol, SPARK Experience Design
2. Mix And Match For The Best Fit
When hiring for the executive team it is important to find people with personalities and skills that complement the strengths of those who are already on the team. People often gravitate to hiring individuals who have the same strengths and weaknesses as the hiring manager or team. The result is a team of like-minded people who may work well together, but it also means that the weak areas will not be addressed by any team member. It is important to consider who is already on the team, what are those people’s strengths and weaknesses, and what type of additions would benefit the group. If the team already has an entrepreneurial mind on board, selecting an individual with complementary skills will complete the team best. - Alexandra Mayzler, Thinking Caps Tutoring
3. Yes, But Beware Their Appetite
The entrepreneurial spirit is valuable in almost every line of work these days. “Problem-solver with a sense of personal responsibility” fits into nearly every job description there is. However, this mentality often comes with an insatiable appetite for growth. This is, of course, great when it comes to education, reaching goals, working long hours and more. But the same is often true when it comes to compensation. I’ve worked with several entrepreneurs who were never satisfied with what they earned and it was personally draining and obnoxiously distracting. Here are my two suggestions for a successful outcome: One, tie their pay to personal performance. Two, have a very candid conversation about compensation throughout the hiring process so expectations are forged realistically. - Kent Healy, The Uncommon Life
4. Partner, Don’t Hire
Those with the entrepreneurial spirit work best when they have a sense of ownership in what they’re working on. If you try to “hire” a person like this in the traditional sense, chances are they won’t bust their butts for you like they would if you partnered with them and gave them either equity, or at the very least, profit sharing. - Travis Steffen, WorkoutBOX
5. Founder Or Employee?
Founders absolutely need to be entrepreneurial. Your co-founder needs to believe in the vision, work hard during nights and weekends, and need to feel personally invested into the company. On the other hand, an executive does not necessarily need to be entrepreneurial. A professional that steps into an established company with systems and operations must only steer the ship in the right direction. An established company does not have as many bumps and turns as a startup, which means the executives you bring on board does not have to be entrepreneur – they need to be able to execute well on the work that they were brought in to do. At the beginning, bring on board an entrepreneur; for an established company, bring on board an experienced professional that loves stability. - Jay Wu, Best Drug Rehabilitation
6. Accept The Challenge
Hiring someone with an entrepreneurial mindset (other actual entrepreneurs are undoubtedly creating their own firms) is a great way to gain a new perspective on your business, as well as welcome competing ideas, inventive brainstorming sessions and new connections. Those who fear competition on their own executive team are missing the larger point of being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurialism is not about ego – in fact, to be successful, entrepreneurs must check their ego at the door. The wisest investment a young company can make is in its talent – so don’t be afraid to hire a bold, inquiring and inventive mind to your team. If this person challenges you, accept the challenge. You and your company will be better for it. - Zach Cutler, Cutler Group
7. Stabilizers vs. Entrepreneurs
Hire people who will complement you. I am fortunate to have executive team members with entrepreneurial spirits, who thrive while wearing multiple hats and are driven by the challenge of building something new. At the same time, however, the members of my executive team would not necessarily consider themselves “entrepreneurs.” Instead, they are stabilizers. Their strengths lie in building the systems and structures needed to sustain a growing organization, and they maintain a strong sense of realism when vision and ambition get out of hand. Their contributions have been crucial in helping our nonprofit transition from untested startup to established partner. - Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring
8. Establish An Exit Path
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword; you hire the entrepreneur because they’re innovative and can take an idea and run. On the other hand, they’re innovative and can take an idea and run, so they’re more than capable of taking your idea and running it themselves. It’s best to hire an entrepreneur to build in the beginning stages, but make sure that the expectations and roles are clear. Establish a clear exit plan for the people you hire. If they’re a true entrepreneur, they will get burned out on your idea, anyway, and want to do something themselves – you can never make an employee out of an entrepreneur. - Jordan Guernsey, Molding Box
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
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