The "hire slow, fire fast" mantra doesn't necessarily mean you have to take months to bring someone on board, or that you fire team members based on knee-jerk reactions. But as an entrepreneur, the construction of your startup team is paramount and you have to be insanely careful about who you hire and who sticks around. Aside from the important chemistry component, the makeup of your team can drive funding discussions, help push product out the door in a timely manner, and take some of the load off of the CEO's plate in terms of daily business operations.
Making a bad hire can really blemish your startup dreams, which is why caution is urged. At my startup, QuotaDeck, we have to move fast to find the right people in order to hit our growth numbers, but I wrote this article because I have made the mistake too many times of hiring faster than necessary. That caused problems for the rest of the team later on. It's a shame there's not enough time in this startup life to take every prospective new hire on a road trip.
Here are my five reasons for hiring slow:
- By hiring too fast, you may end up hiring crazies, or a situation that former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki terms "the bozo explosion." According to Kawasaki, "When you're in a rush to fill openings to respond to growth, you make mistakes. Unfortunately, many companies adopt the attitude of, 'hire any intelligent body, or we'll lose business--we'll sort everything out later.'"
- It is critical to make sure people fit in with your other teammates. Be bold and strong on one side of the spectrum, so that people know clearly that they are either a perfect fit or a lousy fit for your culture.
- You may find a way to avoid filling that position altogether. For example, if you take the hiring process slow, your current team could evolve to take on the responsibilities you were looking to add.
- You can be more certain about making a legitimate offer if you have taken the time to vet the candidate completely. For example, maybe they really need a big title, but don't care as much about stock? Or perhaps they need a big salary, but don't care so much about title?
- Team is everything. If you have the right team in place everything clicks better, projects get completed more efficiently, life is happier, etc. You don't need to spend time dealing with drama.
And my five reasons for firing fast:
- The moment you think that person is not a good fit anymore, you are probably six weeks too late. Fire them NOW!
- Don't procrastinate, because everyone around you will begin to wonder why you are a softie and have no conviction.
- A bad actor can poison the rest of the team--the longer they stay around, the more their negativity affects others.
- Your clients and investors think you are building a world-class team. Don't disappoint them by holding onto someone who is a bad fit.
- Your team is only as strong as its weakest link. You have likely heard this before, but it is just as true now as it was then. Your weakest link is pulling the rest of the team down.
Firing fast is critical, even more so than hiring slow, but to avoid HR issues make sure you have set up very clear expectations with employees so they know what they have to do to be successful. If they can't achieve those goals then they need to be given a warning. In fact, every single time an employee is "talked to," you need to document it as the business owner, or manager. Then, when you give them their second warning, explain that if they cannot do what has been asked by XX date, then your only option is to terminate them. Document that conversation, and then when you fire them make sure you keep all documentation. If they come back at you with a legal claim after the fact, you will have some ammunition.
The bigger goal here is that you have set up a slow hiring practice that helps you avoid costly hiring errors. Yet, everyone makes mistakes. If you have taken the important step of setting the proper expectations with your new employees, the wrong people (the bad fits) ultimately end up quitting before you have to fire them. When this happens, make sure they write a resignation letter to protect the business from any future legal action. #CYA.