Landmines to Avoid When Staffing Your Startup

29 Landmines (Mistakes) To Avoid When Staffing Your Startup

Building a startup from the ground up is exciting. This is your opportunity to change the world.

Unfortunately, the reality is about 90% of startups fail —10% within the first 12 months and 70% in the next two to five years (according to Failory).

But don’t let that discourage you. Because with the right team in place, you can beat the odds.

The challenge, however, is figuring out who and when to hire.

Make a mistake and you could blow it all up.

Here are 29 mistakes to avoid:

1. Mistakes To Avoid When Trying To Find Talent

Finding the right talent who will lend their skills and expertise to getting your startup on its feet will be your first step to success.

Since you won’t be able to do everything yourself, you’ll need a helping hand or two who will help you realize your vision. More importantly, you’ll need to delegate the tasks in your startup to people more qualified to do the job than you.

When recruiting people for your startup, avoid the following:

❌ 1: Setting unclear expectations

If you don’t know the exact tasks to give that person, you’re setting your startup up to fail even before getting started.

❌ 2: Confusing charisma with culture fit

Just because the candidate has a winning personality doesn’t automatically make them the perfect fit for the job.

❌ 3: Hiring from within your network as a favor

You increase the risk of hiring unqualified candidates who could undo all the hard work you’ve put in thus far.

2. Mistakes To Avoid With Employee Contracts

Once you’ve found the right people for your startup, it’s time to offer them a contract for the position. It should contain everything they need to know about the job, from their responsibilities to their stock options.

At the same time, the contract must also protect your startup from any legal issues that may arise from your engagement with the candidate.

Below are the things you must avoid with your offer sheet:

❌ 4: Your offer letter doesn’t address critical items

Your letter must be as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible to avoid misunderstanding between both parties.

❌ 5: Not documenting their papers

Misplacing forms about a candidate’s employment will present problems if your startup gets involved in claims and litigation with the candidate.

❌ 6: Not having an employee handbook

Not establishing policies enacted on employees and those leaving your startup opens your startup to legal ramifications.

3. Mistakes To Avoid When Using Interns

Hiring interns to help out in your startup is a no-brainer. They help perform tasks that make things much easier for your employees. However, how you hire and use them becomes an issue.

To put the interns you hire to good use, below are things you must avoid:

❌ 7: Hiring generalists rather than specialists

Getting interns who are used as jacks of all trades but masters of none won’t help fill in the gaps your startup sorely needs.

❌ 8: Not using the internship as a learning opportunity

They may only be in your startup for coffee, but you should still give interns a chance to learn and perform tasks that contribute to your goals.

❌ 9: Not getting them to buy into your startup idea

Again, even if they’re not long-term fixtures in your startup, you should still orient them about your purpose and objectives.

4. Mistakes To Avoid During Employee Onboarding

To help new hires make an indelible impact in your startup, you must provide them with the information and tools to succeed. That’s what effective employee onboarding is all about.

However, onboarding becomes less effective if these mistakes are made:

❌ 10: Unclear communication

Not providing enough information or cramming in too much information about your startup makes it difficult for employees to work with anything.

❌ 11. Lack of feedback loop

No matter how skilled the new hires are, they will still need direction during their first few days in your startup. Who will constantly provide them with constructive criticism?

❌ 12: Not addressing generational and cultural differences

An onboarding process without considering the needs of people from different cultures and age groups alienates everyone else.

5. Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring Independent Contractors

You must hire independent contractors to lend their expertise in completing specific projects.

How you should work with them depends on the contract you offer them. However, below are the more common mistakes startups make with their contractors.

Here’s what you should avoid:

❌ 13: Treating them like employees

Independent contractors are not subject to the same rules as your full-time workers. Therefore, you can’t demand them to do work that’s outside the scope of your arrangement with them.

❌ 14: Forcing them to work on a schedule or in the office

You can’t expect hired guns to follow your work schedule. In this case, what’s important is whether or not they provide you with the deliverables.

❌ 15: Not monitoring them properly

Some contractors could go rogue and will be impossible to reach out to unless you have the proper communication channels and deadlines.

6. Mistakes To Avoid When Outsourcing To Freelancers

Similar to contractors, freelancers lend their hand to complete specific tasks for your startup. The difference is that freelancers are hired for irregular, non-recurring jobs.

Also, a startup has less control over freelancers compared to contractors.

Below are things you should not do when working with freelancers:

❌ 16: You watch over them like a hawk

Asking freelancers about the deliverables every hour is the easiest way to turn them off and prevent them from doing an excellent job for you.

❌ 17: You ask them to do more than they should

Being a scope creeper to freelancers won’t help you get more done. On the contrary, freelancers might not complete the agreed-upon work.

❌ 18: You don’t pay them the correct amount

Word spreads fast if you are in the freelancer community. If your startup is not paying freelancers the amount they are owed, your company might get a bad reputation. And that might prevent you from hiring top talent freelancers when you need them.

7. Mistakes To Avoid When Using Agencies

Hiring an agency to operate your startup allows you to leverage their skills and expertise. This enables you to achieve your business goals in the shortest amount of time.

However, you won’t be able to put agencies working for you to good use if you don’t avoid the following mistakes:

❌ 19: Not overseeing their work

You don’t just let the agency do everything for you. You must review their progress and see if what they’re doing is working, whether conversion rate optimization or anything else.

❌ 20: Not breaking down the results of their efforts  

You need to make agencies accountable for their strategy and campaign by asking questions about the results of their deliverables.

❌ Hiring a full-service agency

Unless the agency has a proven track record, hiring agencies that do a specific thing for your business is better than hiring one that does all.

8. What To Avoid When You’re Structuring Your Team

A clear organizational chart reflecting your startup’s vision will improve your business collaboration and communication among various teams.

To ensure that your structure will be able to sustain your startup objects, below are things you must avoid with it:

❌ 21: Not evolving with your business

You must move from the hub and spoke model to a more appropriate one once your startup grows and develops.

❌ 22: Lack of qualifications

There may be people in your organizational chart who don’t display the necessary authority for the position. In this case, your startup chose the wrong person for the job, or the structure that fosters people like them is faulty.

❌ 23: Structure does not align with your mission

The disconnect between your goals and your startup’s direction will confuse everybody in the organization.

9. Mistakes To Avoid With Employee Promotions

Eventually, you’ll have to choose whether to promote someone in your startup. A clear structure for promoting employees increases employee morale and gives them something to work on.

If you want to establish this promotion process, below are things you shouldn’t do.

❌ 24: Promoting for the wrong reasons

Giving an employee a raise because they’re your friend or will resign if they don’t get what they want won’t help your startup move forward.

❌ 25: Not getting input from others

Promoting an employee should never come from just one person in your organization.

❌ 26: Hiring new people instead of promoting

Conversely, it’s better to put a current employee who exceeds expectations and already knows the startup’s culture into a higher position.

10. Mistakes To Avoid When Shaping Company Culture

Your culture must first align with what your startup strives to achieve. Ideally, a culture with a flat hierarchy focusing on problem-solving should help get your startup off the ground.

Building this type of culture, however, requires you to avoid these mistakes:

❌ 27: You’re waiting for “culture” to happen

It’s not an accident that you’ll stumble upon your startup. You can put the pieces together to establish a culture you want your startup to be known for.

❌ 28: You make everything about work

The end product is just part of the startup process. It would help if you also celebrated the individuals working hard in realizing your collective vision together.

❌ 29: You fire people with whom you disagree with

A thriving culture is not an echo chamber. It would help if you had people with different and conflicting opinions to help challenge your views and, ultimately, create the best possible product for your target audience.

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