I accepted a job at a startup early in my career. From a financial point of view, it was the worst offer I received: low pay, no benefits, no promise of regular increases in the future. Terrible decision, right?
Not for me. I can still remember thinking, "Right now, this is exactly where I should be." I saw the impact of what I was doing. I got to help build something. I felt a powerful sense of ownership. I got to see, on a daily basis, how much my hard work and creativity mattered. I loved that sense of progress and accomplishment.
Could I have found by all of that by working for a big corporation? Absolutely not. While it might seem contradictory, the best way to feel you are truly a part of something bigger than yourself -- and to find real meaning in what you do -- is to be a part of a small group.
And that's why finding great employees for your startup -- especially if you're bootstrapping and can't afford to be the employer of choice, much less offer competitive pay rates -- is to find people who are looking for more than "just" money. Or perks. Or free this and free that.
Instead, you just need to find people like I was: someone who loved the idea of building a company from the ground up.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who:
Prefer action to planning.
Every startup starts with a plan, even if that plan is just a string of bullet points on a legal pad. But like Mike Tyson says, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." That's why most entrepreneurs don't make it much farther than the first few items on their list before adapting to the realities of the market, customer tastes, technology, funding, etc.
Ask successful entrepreneurs how closely their company resembles their initial business plan and I guarantee the answer will be, "Almost not at all." Once you get going, plans change. That's the nature of startups (and the mark of a successful entrepreneur).
The employees who want to work for your startup love change -- and love being a part of making those changes happen. They don't want to always be told what to do. They want to help decide what to do.
Which is perfect for you, because you'll need all the ideas -- and the initiative -- that you can get.
Don't care about amenities.
A classic startup recruiting stereotype is that employees expect lots of perks: foosball tables, video game lounges, bean bag chairs, free lunches and snacks, to name a few.
Granted, like many stereotypes, that one is at times accurate.
Some people -- the people you want to attract -- don't care about the perks. They embrace the idea of bootstrapping. They love the idea of bootstrapping, of finding ways to do a lot more with a lot less. They get a kick out of working for a lean operation and coming up with ideas that can make your business even more efficient.
But they aren't martyrs. They instinctively understand that the path to business success lies in only spending money where it matters to the customer. They instinctively understand that without customers, the business dies.
And they know that opportunities to grow are based on the company's growth -- and profits.
Don't fret over job descriptions.
In a startup it's incredibly important that employees are willing to do whatever it takes, regardless of their title or job description, to get things done. A shipment is late? Everyone needs to pitch in. A mistake causes a high volume of customer support requests? Everyone needs to pitch in. The office is messy and a potential customer is about to visit? Everyone needs to pitch in.
And most importantly, they realize it's every employee's job to help sell, because sales are the lifeblood of every startup.
Great startup employees think on their feet, adapt quickly to changing priorities and jump in without being asked. Some people love that kind of environment. They love that sense of teamwork, camaraderie and esprit de corps. They love that sense of engagement and mission.
Your job is to find those people.
They're out there.
You just have to tell the story of your startup in such a way that they realize your business is the perfect company -- for them.