By Laura Johnson, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood.
Time and time again we hear that building a successful company is largely contingent upon building a strong team. As founders, we are uniquely positioned to hire our own bosses, people who are seasoned veterans and can bring a skill set and level of experience that we don't currently have.
When we started Salty Girl Seafood, my co-founder and I were both 26 years old, finishing up our master's degrees in coastal marine resource management. That said, we didn't have a whole lot of company-building or business experience. What we did have was a vision, a mission, and a whole lot of grit.
It was these traits that got us to the point where we had the resources, the traction and the savvy to attract some experienced talent to the company. We have been adding talent to our team in ways that complement our existing skill sets. This included hiring above ourselves for the CEO position so that we could focus on the pieces of the business that we excelled at.
Through that process, we've learned a lot about what it means to find the perfect fit for your team, including these five things to consider when hiring leadership at your company:
Belief in the Mission
If you're like us, your mission is the driving force behind your company. The person who you hire to lead your team has to believe wholeheartedly in the mission. If they don't, it will be too easy cut corners when things get rocky.
Listen to their response when asked them why they love the company. If they don't reference the mission, it's probably not that important all that to them.
This is probably the most important characteristic when hiring anyone (or in really any relationship in life for that matter). Is this someone you can trust to make the right decisions day in and day out? Do you trust that this person is totally focused on building the best business possible, and that they are a staunch protector of your brand?
Get to know them beyond the professional and gather a sense of their values on a personal level.
Fit for (Rather Than First Interest in) the Position
Is this applicant the best person for the job? Or is this person just the most convenient option at the moment? This can be tricky because startups are often limited on resources, and it might be easier to go with what you know or what is right in front of you.
Challenge the reflex to just hire the first person who is willing to step up to the plate. Consider who you would hire if your resources were unlimited. If the person you're considering doesn't make the list, you probably don't want to hire them now.
Ability to Give (and Receive) Feedback
Startups are all about growth: growth of the company, of course, but also personal and professional growth of everyone on the team. When hiring someone both yourself and your team will answer to, ensure that the candidate is receptive to feedback and willing to make adjustments to their management style.
Also, ensure that they are comfortable with providing you as a co-founder with constructive criticism. You don't want to hire someone who isn't going to push you to bring your A-game.
Startup teams spend a lot of time together. And I do mean a lot. When you are hiring someone to lead your company, make sure it's someone you genuinely enjoy spending time with.
Gauge the temperature of your entire team on a potential hire. If they're lukewarm now, imagine how they'll feel when you've all been at a trade show together for three days.
This article was co-authored by Norah Eddy, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood.
Laura Johnson is co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood, Inc., a sustainable seafood company founded in 2014 and headquartered in California.