Ask any successful startup founder for business advice and you'll likely hear, "Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you." Of course that advice makes sense, but how do you actually pull it off in practice?
If you're like me, finding people who are smarter is easy. The real key is convincing smart people they want to join your team.
To understand what talented people look for in a new job and company -- especially a growing startup -- I went straight to a source: Catherine Pike, the recently hired Senior Director of Retail for activewear brand Vuori. Prior to joining Vuori, Pike was an executive for Lululemon and an EVP for FIT4MOM. (And she's also a lawyer.)
When Vuori expressed an interest in having Pike join the team, she did what she calls her "first touch."
"Aligning with brands I personally connect with is what makes work rewarding," she says. "So that's the first touch: Is there a strong connection, a strong reaction, that attracts me to a brand? Then I talk to people I respect and admire, and spend time with my community, to see what they think about the brand. That's the second touch: Do people I spend time with feel the same way."
Only then was Pike interested in taking the conversation further: Meeting founder and CEO Joe Kudla, meeting with other members of the leadership team, meeting the people who are building the brand, that's the final test, Pike says.
Cultural fit also mattered. In a fast-growing startup -- especially one that has raised funding -- things change constantly. People who crave consistency and a steady-state environment naturally struggle. Those who like to constantly evolve, thrive.
So, want to surround yourself with people smarter than you? Want to attract talent in a way that Vuori did with Pike?
Think pull, not push. You can't sell them; they have to sell themselves on your business, your brand, and your people.
They need to see, not just be told, the potential for growth. To see, not just hear, the opportunity to find a sense of real meaning. To feel they will love what they do, and enjoy who they do it with.
For Pike, it was all about the challenge and knowing that she would have not just the responsibility, but the authority to meet that challenge.
As Steve Jobs said, "We don't hire smart people so we can tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
And really, that's the bottom line. To surround yourself with smarter people, you'll need to convince them that you not only appreciate their skills, experience, and talent, but that you will turn them loose to express their skills, experience, and talent.
That means doing what smart marketers do, thinking not about how your business will benefit from a hire, but about how the person you hire will benefit from becoming a part of your business.
Go short on describing the role and responsibilities and then go long on tasks and authorities.
Great employees care much less about a job title than they do about job duties or what they get to accomplish and which decisions they get to make. The latitude and freedom they have to imagine and implement change.
To hire someone smarter than you, you'll need to convince that person you will actually let them be smarter than you.
Because smart people don't just want to be smart. They want to do smart. Which is exactly what your business needs.