10 Essential Characteristics of Your First Employee

Firsts are always special. You will never forget your first car or your first kiss. It’s no different for a startup. Your first client or your first pitch deck will always remain in your memory. But your first hire is even more special. Because this employee can either make your life miserable, or help out you and your firm tremendously. A screwup at an early stage of a startup can set you back months, or worse, drive you out of business. However, a reliable hire that is not too proud to do grunt work is extremely valuable. That said, hiring is never easy. Still, there are a few characteristics you should look for in your first hire.

Here are some of the characteristics we actively seek at Taledo for our hires (in no particular order):

  • Hands-On – unlike corporations, there often is no one else you can hand over your work too, you have to do it yourself. This work includes jobs you generally would not like to do, such as data cleaning or cold-calling. Procrastination will sadly not help you out there; the work will not go away by itself.
  • Good Social Fit – this person will be around you for a long time. You must be sure that the new employee will get along with everyone in the team. You cannot afford communication issues or squabbles when you are on the brink of bankruptcy. A good social fit is absolutely essential for team harmony.
  • Entrepreneurial – no-brainer. A corporate type will not be able to do well in a startup. Additionally, having another entrepreneurial person around helps you come up with new ideas or possibilities for your business.
  • Creative – not necessarily creative in the arts, but creativity which can be applied to a business setting. Creativity can be applied to Growth Hacking, for example. Creative ideas know no boundaries. We raised a bit of awareness in our headquarters in the beginning with a nice idea one of us at Taledo had. He wanted to hang a huge Advertising Banner below our window. Our office is close to a large train station, and this banner could be seen by all trains passing by. Although originally meant as a gimmick, we saw an increase in traffic on or website. Until our tenant asked us to take it down, of course. Still, it was worth it.
  • Flexible – just like a lean startup is meant to be flexible enough to be able to pivot according to new developments, a startup employee should be able to handle change well too. Change in startups can obviously take many forms, such as new teams, new strategies or new geographical orientation. Coping with such rapid change is not always easy, but this flexibility is one of the basic requirements for a new hire at a startup.
  • Low-Maintenance – in the early stages of a new business, everyone is very busy. Failure is realistic, so no time is to be wasted. New hires do not tend to get a long “settling-in” period, since their help is needed from day 1. That’s why independence is a great characteristic to have as an employee. Asking too many questions or delivering bad quality work that needs to be redone takes your superior out of his/her flow and wastes a lot of time. Sure, it is better to ask questions than to go ahead and do your work badly. Nonetheless, Google can help you for basic questions too.
  • Results-Oriented – setting yourself milestones at the beginning helps to stay on track. If your new hire is able to keep deadlines and deliver satisfying results, you are able to plan much better and you can rely on your employee (which is also very valuable). If your employee is seriously motivated by achieving his/her results, you can safely assume that the results will be achieved and direct your attention to other pressing issues.
  • Willing to Develop and Learn – ideally, you do not hire and fire your employees regularly. It is disruptive to the team spirit and creates a lot of negative energy in the office. A long term relationship is more beneficial for all parties, under the premise that the employee is able to develop and learn along the way. Rigidity and resistance to development is probably why the public sector is so slow to innovate and change and riddled with inefficiencies.
  • Skilled at Communication – another possible source of inefficiencies. Failure to communicate important information can be not only inefficient, but absolutely detrimental to the health of the startup. If the IT team has a product deploy to live at the same time when the marketing department shoots out an important press release, your website might crash due to the server load.
  • Hard-Working – again, very straight-forward. Slackers and procrastinators have no place in a fast-paced environment.

It definitely depends for what position you are hiring, but especially at the beginning, your first hire should have many of these characteristics. If you are not 100% convinced that your applicant fits the bill, you could always opt for a trial period. But do not commit if you are unsure of the applicant, the downsides are just not worth it.

Featured Image: Flazingo.com

 

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