We all have filters for the people we hire. Google used to give esoteric tests that only the most " Googley" could pass. The FBI goes way back to know you've mostly followed the straight and narrow. Some companies hire from certain schools, others just hire their friends (mistake).

I look for characters. I look for unique personalities. I look for people who are "living the dream." People who embody the ethos of the brand we are building.

A great lifestyle brand is a beacon for a way of living that is supported through it products and services. Think Clif Bar, Patagonia, Lululemon, even Harley Davidson (and yes, I have a hog). To build that kind of company, you need passionate lifestylers at every level, and at every position in the company. People who live, eat, breathe, and even sleep the ethos of the brand.

They aren't like most other people, they are your people. What I am talking about is culture fit.

Culture fit is a necessity for us at Habit because we aren't doing something that has been done before. We are pioneering a new business and rethinking how personal health and well-being is achieved. To do that requires independent thinking, creativity, confidence, boldness, and a non-traditional approach to just about everything.

It also requires a shared belief in what we are doing so that we pull in the same direction when it matters most. That is why culture fit is so important, especially in lifestyle brands.

Here's how I go about having the best shot at achieving it with each person who comes into our company.

1. Find Type A Lifestylers

You know these people. They already inhabit the lifestyle your company embodies without compromise. They are hardcore. At Habit that means we have people who are intensely committed to a health and wellness lifestyle every waking moment of the day--even as they track their sleep. They are those people with bunches of kale and the Om symbol tattooed on their ankles (I kid, sort of).

That kind of commitment and passion is infectious. It imbues the products we make, the marketing we create, and the culture we rally around.

Find those people who live the lifestyle of your company. Gear heads, data heads, fashion obsessed, whatever it is that is at the heart of what you do, find the people who live it. These Type A Lifestylers are the kind of people who can take whatever hills are in front of them with ease, and that is because they have an army of people happy to join them.

They are able to get that assist from others because of their capabilities, passion, enthusiasm, and uncompromising commitment. With that combination not only do amazing thing get accomplished, but amazing teams come together, and it is those tight knit groups of people that are the key to succeeding in whatever industry your startup is a part of.

2. Test for culture fit over talent

Talent matters, culture fit matters just as much, if not more at a lifestyle startup.[AS1] To paraphrase a famous football coach, talent sets the floor. Culture sets the ceiling.

You will be working together night and day at a startup. It gets intense, and if you toss into that volatile mix, volatile personalities, or people who just can't pull together, things can go south fast.

Of course, you need to know people can handle the job they are going after, but you should be testing for more than just ability. Where I've gotten into trouble in the past, and where I see others fall down, is over-indexing on talent and going light on cultural fit. We tend to focus on the amazing resume, and gloss over the things that are negative on the culture side - subtle or otherwise.

We do that because it is easy to quantify someone's functional impact, but it's sometimes very hard to quantify the negative cultural impact they may have. But in a startup you simply can't afford that corrosive personality in the mix. No matter how brilliant someone may be, if there are signs they won't work well with the team, move on. Fast!

3. Give candidates the time to get to know you

You've grilled potential employees, and plumbed their every aspiration and fear. You know what drives them to get up in the morning and what keeps them awake at night. Now you need to make sure they have a good bead on you and your company.

I like to give about half of my time with candidates to their questions about the company, our vision, strategy, and what we are like as a team. The goal isn't just to get to know the candidate, but also the reverse.

At the end of the process, the candidate should know exactly what company they're joining and whether or not they fit.

4. Hire slow, fire fast

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a startup CEO is engaging in a mad rush to put butts in seats. You must hire slowly.

This probably defies all the natural instincts you have as a leader, it sure does mine. We're always racing to get people into new companies, and once they're in, even if they're not working, we hesitate to let anyone go because they're doing something. Right?


Hiring the right people requires discipline. Make sure you have a refined hiring process that can get to the core of both the talent and culture fit effectively without rushing. We have candidates meet up to 10 people before they come into Habit, and with rare exceptions, I meet everybody looking to work here. That's part of my job as CEO, and the steward of culture.

If it becomes clear this isn't a good match between an employee and the company, don't drag it out. Get them out as quickly and as professionally as you can. Neither you nor the employee benefits from a suboptimal / negative / bad experience.

5. Carve out time for everyone to live the dream

These people are the heartbeat of your company, and the eyes and the ears of your current and future consumers. If you and your team lose connection with the lifestyle you are supporting, your company will lose its connection too. Find ways to foster that ongoing connection. That might be strapping on the sneakers and doing a running meeting, scheduling a dawn patrol surf, or firing up the Harleys. The point is to stoke the passions of everyone who works in your company and keep them burning.