Going from being your own boss to being someone else's can be one of best parts of entrepreneurship -- it can also be one of the hardest. Yesterday you were 100 percent of the team, and today you're only 50 percent.
It's not a marriage, but it can definitely feel like one. You're introducing a huge new variable into your start-up, and you're probably doing it at a critical moment when execution matters most, so it's important to proceed thoughtfully.
Here are eight things to look for to ensure a successful first hire:
People who don't need to be asked twice to do something are great. People who don't even need to be asked once are awesome!
Self-motivation is the fuel that powers a start-up. Sure, it's important to check in to make sure you're not charging ahead in opposite directions, but your first hire should be someone who works hard because they're driven by their own passion and curiosity.
An employee who doesn't need micromanaging means you're free to focus on the bigger picture.
2. Desire to Learn
Entrepreneurs don't have everything figured out -- trust me! But we're always looking for ways to get better at what we do.
You want someone who devotes time and energy to expanding and refining their skills, because that person will continue to be an asset as your company grows. If you find someone willing to go beyond their comfort zone in the pursuit of knowledge, whether it's learning Photoshop, French or finance, you've hit the hiring jackpot.
"Fearlessness," says Arianna Huffington, "is not the absence of fear. It's the mastery of fear. It's about getting up one more time than we fall down." Launching a business in today's hypercompetitive environment isn't for the faint of heart, because there's uncertainty at every turn.
There's no time for hand-holding in a fast-moving start-up -- you need someone who doesn't shy away from setting ambitious goals and doing what it takes to achieve them.
4. A Cool Head
The ability to manage stress is invaluable when you're hustling to get a business off the ground. You're going to be working side by side with this person, so you need to know that he or she won't go to pieces when times get tough.
And times will almost certainly get tough. There'll be nobody else for you to lean on, so your first hire should be someone who knows how to stay sane when it seems like the world is ending.
In business, failure in some shape or form is almost inevitable. Richard Branson is famous for his resolve in the face of challenges and his attitude is worth emulating: "Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again."
They should do more than just roll with the punches; they should be able to transform failures into opportunities and to quickly change gears and try something new.
6. Project Management
At this critical early stage, you need a project manager extraordinaire who will work to bring plans to fruition. As Guy Kawasaki, founder of Alltop, said, "Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard."
A creative thinker is fantastic. But is he or she able to take concrete steps to turn ideas into reality? Your first hire needs to be able to share the workload, especially while you're still a company of two.
Your best bet is a tenacious, get-it-done type of individual who has experience leading projects from conception to completion. Start-ups need thinkers, but they also need doers.
7. Commitment to Your Mission
Do you want to hire a person with a passion for your mission and values, or someone just looking for a paycheck? The choice is obvious, right?
Think of it this way: your start-up is your baby, and your very first employee needs to be a good co-parent, as deeply invested in your company's growth and success as you are. This person will also care enough to give you honest feedback (even criticism) to help you plan your next move.
Markets shift, ideas fail, and strategies change, but an employee who's committed to the future of the company at this early phase is worth their weight in gold.
8. Cultural Fit
Tony Hsieh of Zappos is a huge advocate of building a good company culture, and you should be, too. "To make customers happy," he says, "we have to make sure our employees are happy first."
Before you officially welcome your first hire, ask yourself whether this person will make a positive contribution to the culture you envisioned for your company. Remember, they'll play an integral role in creating a work environment for their future colleagues, so you want someone who embodies both happiness and productivity.
By starting with the right person, you'll not only set a high standard for your next hires, but also plant the seed for a culture that rewards initiative and teamwork, and, hopefully, encourages people to have fun.