5 Tips for Hiring After Raising Series A Funding

5 Tips for Hiring After Raising Series A Funding

Hiring After Raising Series A

Hiring After raising series A funding is a problem you may have never had before: having more funding than employees. You probably settled on an expansion plan with your investors and now it’s time to start recruiting new staff.

But how can you overcome the difficulties caused by this growth-spike? How can you keep your standards and find the best talent within a more limited time frame?

Here are some tips that might help you in the process:

#1 Attract Talent with the Potential of Growth

Raising series A round doesn’t only give you financial benefits but also gives you a trump card: the promise of growth.

You probably can’t compete with industry giants in terms of perks and benefits, but you can promise them to be part of a growing team. This means they will be there with the company from the beginning, and they will have a vital role in shaping the business, something that huge corporations can’t offer for candidates.

You don’t need fancy swags and expensive perks to have something unique to offer for your employees. You already earned something that will differentiate you from most of your competitors so make sure to use this when hiring.

As Preeti Sriratana, founder of Sweeten told Business Insider:

“The prospect of being part of a scrappy but growing team was such powerful currency that almost half of our new hires willingly and enthusiastically walked away from secure (and better-paying) jobs at places like Google, Bank of New York, and the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations to join up. […] We talked to candidates a little bit like we talked to investors – focusing on the pervasiveness of the problem we were working to solve (very) and the size of the market we were taking on (giant).”

People love being part of building something new so make sure you play this card to your benefit.

#2 Embrace Diversity

A diverse workforce can be a game changer in many fields. Embracing gender and race diversity will help bring more perspectives to the table and you will be able to address a wider variety of customers (and businesses).

For instance, according to the Center for Talent Innovation’s report “The Power of ‘Out,’” the LGBT community’s buying power added up to $700 billion in the US alone, and many people in this group prefer to buy from gay-friendly businesses.

The report also revealed some of the internal costs to discriminatory policies: LGBT people working in unfriendly environments reported feeling depressed (34%), distracted (27%) and exhausted (23%), while those who reported feeling isolated at work were 73% more likely to say they were planning to leave their companies within three years.

Your company’s most valuable assets are people so make sure everyone feels equally appreciated and the best place to start is when hiring. Make sure your candidates are interviewed by both male and female employees and try to put an added emphasis on hiring candidates with diverse interests and backgrounds.

#3 Hire for Resilience

You can substantially increase your candidate pool if you start hiring for more diverse skills. There are certain roles that need some specific background knowledge, but most of these are learnable in a short period of time, so it might be a good strategy for you to test your candidates for their levels of resilience, adaptability, and grit and teach their role-specific skills when they are onboard.

A study conducted by employee stress management firm meQuilibrium, asked 2,000 employees to complete various assessments of their personal resilience, before being quizzed about their stress levels, job performance, and feelings about their employer. The results show that if you want happy, productive employees who stick around, you should probably pay way more attention to employees’ grit.

If your employees are happier under stressful environments their productivity will peak and your turnover rates will drop. This might be worth the extra resources put into training highly resilient candidates.

#3 Polished Hiring Processes

Having rock-solid hiring processes is one of the most effective ways to ramp up your hiring in a short period of time.
It is very important to make your recruitment strategies scalable before you actually need them. Make sure your processes are crystal clear and have structures that can be broken down to sub-processes – in case you want to outsource parts of your hiring in high-growth periods.

#4 Embrace Outbound Hiring

If you want to find top talent in competitive areas, you have to be ahead of your competitors. That means you have to be able to reach passive job seekers as well, not only active ones.

That’s why, in many cases, the traditional recruitment strategies will fail you. It’s not enough to post your ads online and wait for the resumes to come in, you need to be actively looking for talent in your niche.

This means regularly attending niche specific events, being present on platforms your candidates might hang out, following niche specific blogs and reaching out to people whenever you feel you found someone who might be a good fit for you.

You have to be able to engage, select and reach out to the best candidates and know them before doing so, in order to be able to address them with competitive offers.

This requires rigorous hiring processes and often the best way to do this is to outsource outbound hiring to a search firm.

#5 Hire a Search Firm

Periods of rapid growth means periods heavily focused on hiring new people and in-house recruiting lays a huge burden on existing staff. Finding the right candidates in this environment requires being constantly up-to-date on new recruitment tactics and the emergence of new trends.

Outsourcing recruiting to experienced search companies can assure that the staffing requirements of rapid growth patterns are addressed with the right expertise. Search firms have also accesses to passive job seekers as well, which will considerably increase your candidate pool.

If you have the resources make sure to allocate some for finding the top search firms in your niche and outsource at least part of your hiring processes.

Bottom Line

Hiring after raising series A funding can be quite a bit of challenge if you decide to handle it in-house. First of all, you will need rock-solid hiring processes and documentation in order to be able to scale or outsource parts of your hiring. To increase your candidate pool and still hire the best in your field, make sure you embrace gender and race diversity and start testing candidates for resilience and grit. If you still struggle with finding the best talent in your niche, hire niche specific search firms to help you with reaching not only active but passive job seekers, too.

Do you have any experience with hiring in periods of rapid company growth? How did you cope with the challenges it poses to existing staff? Tell us in comments!

9 Pro Employee Engagement Tips for Startups

9 Pro Employee Engagement Tips for Startups

employee engagement startups

Hiring HR managers and dealing with employee engagement is usually not among the top priorities for startups and small companies.

And still, every founder should keep in mind that the mere excitement of being part of the early phases of company formation does not keep everyone engaged on the same level.

Employee engagement is something that is frequently overlooked in favor of other, less abstract and more quantifiable growth metrics, even though it’s the basis of productivity. Engaged employees work hard, have more energy, sharper focus and they are more motivated to produce tangible results. As Quantum Workplace’s Employee Engagement Survey (pdf) states:

“In organizations where profits increased, 69 percent of employees were engaged, compared to 56 percent of employees at organizations where profits decreased. It is our philosophy that engagement and profit have a cyclical cause and effect. As engagement increases, the business becomes more successful, causing employees to become even more engaged, causing more increases in profits, causing higher levels of engagement, and so on.”

So let’s see the simplest and most powerful tactics for founders to boost employee engagement and increase productivity.

#1 Encourage Business Transparency

Share long and short term business plans with employees on a regular basis and show them exactly how is the company doing in terms of achieving specific milestones.

Regularly sharing short and long-term goals with employees helps them identify with company objectives and feel more involved in working for the greater good. If employees trust their managers and believe in the company plan they will feel more engaged and be more motivated to achieve goals.

Always communicate changes in the company plan and make every data accessible to employees.

If possible, involve employees in your planning and ask for their feedback– they will more likely feel involved and later be more motivated to work for those goals.

#2 Recognition

Recognition programs can have a huge impact on employee engagement.

As Forbes’s HR analyst found: companies that scored in the top 20% for building a recognition-rich culture actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates!

But make sure to plan your employee recognition programs carefully. Tenure-based recognition plans are pretty outdated and tend to reinforce the notion that work is something you have to ‘endure’ to get recognized.

This is definitely not something you want. Recognize and celebrate specific results and behaviors: set quantifiable goals and reward employees based on their individual outputs.

#3 Encourage Innovation

Incentives and evaluation-based compensation frequently fail to look at innovation as an evaluation metric.

Employees are usually evaluated based on their performance within a specific period of time or based on whether or not they have achieved some pre-set goals.

If the evaluation process does not take into account the innovation factor, employees might feel that their ideas are not valued. If the employees are not confident enough to explore uncharted territories in their areas of expertise, they won’t be engaged in their work and their productivity will drop.

For example, Google offers innovators a stake in the rewards of the ideas that are converted into products or services, so the individuals see a direct result of their efforts in their paychecks or stock awards.

#4 Let Go Of Control

Constant micromanagement is very time-consuming and might actually be quite counter-productive. Hiring rockstar employees is usually the number one objective of every startup founder, so give some space for those rockstars to shine.

Several studies showed that employees who have higher levels of freedom and autonomy in their roles outperform their over-managed colleagues. This doesn’t mean that you should completely let go of tracking employee productivity. Just make sure to allow your employees to work in their own pace, place and encourage them to have a say in the management of the areas they are responsible for.

#5 Team Building Activities

This is not a new idea, of course, but still, most of the startups get it wrong.

Startups usually try to come up with team building activities related to work, or organize team building events in the office, during work hours. This is the wrong way to approach team building.

Come up with an activity completely unrelated to work. Take the team out somewhere other than the office, let them get to know each other in an entirely new environment. This will boost the team spirit more than anything and everyone will be happier to work in an elevated milieu the next day.

#6 Have Themed Office Days

This can be a fun one! Make everyone wear a mustache for a day. Or a wig. Or a funny hat. It doesn’t have to be a full body costume to make the day memorable.

#7 Encourage Volunteering

This may come as a surprise, but providing an opportunity for your employees to volunteer and engage in altruistic activities might highly boost their engagement with your company.

This is what Deloitte survey found about employee involvement in social impact activities:

“A growing body of evidence points to the power of enabling employees – especially millennials – to give back to the community and support their favorite causes at work. According to The 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey of employed adults ages 21 – 35, millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career.“

Employees are always looking to get involved in causes, and if you provide them an opportunity to do this in-house, the psychological lift they get from altruistic activities will be associated with the work they do – and the company they work for. It’s a win-win for everyone!

#8 Resources

Managers are expected to make sure that employees have all the resources they need to efficiently do their jobs. This should come as natural, but it tends to be overlooked occasionally. Make sure your employees get everything before they ask for it and you will be rewarded with more commitment to work on their parts.

#9 Employee Satisfaction Questionnaires

Last but not least, make sure you can actually track employee engagement on some level and see if your efforts make a difference.

Employee engagement may come off as something vague and unquantifiable but if you approach it from the right perspective you might get the metrics you need.

The key is to do a short questionnaire on a regular basis and compare the results to each other, week by week. This way you can see if employee satisfaction changes with time and if your employee engagement tactics have an actual effect.

Some sample questions you might consider asking them to answer on a scale of 1 to 10:

I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.
My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.
I have the tools and resources to do my job well.
On my job, I have clearly defined quality goals.
The Company does an excellent job of keeping employees informed about matters affecting us.
I understand why it is so important for (Company name) to value diversity (to recognize and respect the value of differences in race, gender, age, etc.)
My job makes good use of my skills and abilities.
My supervisor’s manager visibly demonstrates a commitment to quality.
Senior managers visibly demonstrate a commitment to quality.
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what is going on in your division?
How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?
Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in the company?
How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in this company?

Bottom Line

Getting your employees invest emotionally in your business is a crucial part in the early stages of company growth. The benefits of employee engagement are countless and working on increasing it must be part of your long-term company plan.

Getting Your Docs in Order: Hiring Documents for Startups

 

Whether it’s your first hire or your hundredth, paperwork is a part of the ball game. This is nothing new for experienced entrepreneurs and HR professionals, but for the rest, getting acclimated to hiring docs will help you keep things in order and avoid potential legal, tax and other issues down the road. We’ve compiled a list of the most common hiring documents to complete when making a hire. Your needs will vary and may be additional from state to state, but in general this list will cover them in large part.

 

Employee Offer Letter/ Employment Agreements: This document informs your new hire about key employment details. It usually includes the position for which the candidate is being hired and an overview of the job description. The letter will state salary compensation as well as any equity being given along with details. Other items include references to non disclosures, invention assignments and I-9s (we cover those below). And in applicable areas, it may also cover the terms of “At-Will” employment.

Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): The NDA is an important document that should not be overlooked, especially for startups. It basically prevents employees from disclosing sensitive information about the company and the work, both during and after employment. Most NDAs will also include a Non-Solicit, which basically prevents employees from poaching customers and other resources, and (if legal in the state) a Non-Compete, which prevents them from seeking employment with your competitors for a period of time.

Assignment of Invention: This establishes the employer’s ownership of intellectual property created by the employee while in the stead of the company. It should detail any carve-outs for the employee prior to working for the company, as well as provisions, if any, for its use afterwards.

Stock Options Grant: If part of your employee’s compensation includes equity, you need to include a stock options grant along with their employment offer letter. It should detail the number of shares, exercise price, expiration date and vesting schedule. It should also detail what happens to the options if they leave the company, as well as how the employee can exercise the options.

USCIS Form I-9: This form is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of employees in the United States. It is a required document for each and every employee a company hires, regardless of citizenship. You can learn more at http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf.

IRS Form W-4: This form is used to withhold federal taxes from an employee’s compensation. This form is used for employees of the company, and not for contractors. You can find Form W-4 here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

IRS Form W-9: This form is for use with independent contractors. It does not need to be filed with the IRS, but should be kept in your hiring file to be available when filling out 1099s. You can find Form W-9 here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf

 

So there you go. A fun, sexy blog about hiring documents, right? Ok, maybe not, but make no mistake, getting these docs taken care of promptly and correctly can save you many a headache down the road.

3 Great Apps to Help Startup Employees Get Focused

3 Great Apps to Help Startup Employees Get Focused

Startup Employees

Startup Employees

Startup life requires the management of multiple projects and roles at once, but many necessary tasks require complete and undisturbed focus. Anyone who works for an early stage company should know this going in, but it’s not always easy to turn off the rest of the world while hammering through the work. Luckily, startups can turn to their own industry for help. There are a lot of great applications and technologies available to help professionals become more productive and stay focused. Here are three great ones for blocking out the rest of the world, err the internet, and getting things done.

Focus Booster

http://www.focusboosterapp.com/

Focus Booster is a time tracking tool that helps to improve focus as well. Using the Pomodoro technique, Focus Booster allows you to plan intervals of both work and rest, resulting in more complete focus on the work at hand. Although difficult to implement in high distraction environments, the app can be a great tool to keep you working at high efficiency when needed, and may even help to train better focus. Both a web app and download are available, so using Focus Booster does not require an internet connection. And best of all, it’s free to try!

StayFocused

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmg…

Even the best of us get sucked into Facebook news feed updates, Buzzfeed’s infinite gif reels and CNN news headlines (ok, maybe that last one is just me). Enter StayFocused, a Google Chrome extension that lets you limit the time you can spend on the sites that waste your time the most. The extension is highly customizable, allowing you to pick and choose the sites you want to block, as well as the amount of time you will allow yourself to visit them. There is even a nuclear option that will block sites permanently for a set period, should those kitten pictures be just unbearably cute that day. You can create recurring settings based on day and time, and can set a challenge that users must complete before being allowed to edit the settings. There is so much more, but you will have to check it out to see.

RescueTime

https://www.rescuetime.com/

Some bad habits are obvious time wasters, but there may be things you read, places you visit and people you talk to that waste way more time that you thought before. Rescue time brings the data on you, to you. While it touts other features like website blocking, the true value lies in the ability to visualize and analyze how you spend your time. It also allows you to log highlights throughout your day to better track what you accomplish. The program runs fairly light in the background while you work, causing minimal issues, and then follows up with reports.

Building Your Early Stage Mobile Startup Team

Building Your Early Stage Mobile Startup Team

Early Stage Mobile Startup Team

Early Stage Mobile Startup Team

Mobile first products follow the trend of ever increasing and dominating smart devices like smart phones, tablets and now, even smart watches. Consumers can quickly turn to their mobile devices for the eternal array of web information, as well as an ever increasing number of applications, games, tools and content. With so many uses for mobile devices, the opportunities to enter the space are numerous, as are the number of directions mobile startups can take.

In building a early stage mobile startup team, most  require a similar foundation of talent. However, when building out your team, it is critical to not only find high-quality talent, but also talent that lines up with your company’s direction, vision and culture. The following breaks down what we see as the ideal early stage mobile startup team.

1. The Founders

There are two critical needs that a startup must meet with its founding team, each with equal importance. The first is a technical need. Yes, startups can attempt to outsource, contract out or even hire technical employees, but the most successful startups tend to have a technical cofounder. This person works to lead and craft the company’s vision, leading with a technical foundation at the top and instilling within it the roots of the organization. Moreover, since every technology company must continue to innovate even over the short term, a technical cofounder can shape the direction more effectively. Factor in a technology company’s inherent need to employ technical people, having one as a co-founder allows a company to begin building the product, even when funding is low or nonexistent.

The other side of the founder equation is the business side. Throughout the early stages, every startup, whether in the mobile space or not, needs a founder to champion the organization, product, team and direction. Every startup needs a public face to carry the organization to the masses and promote. Early on, this role is focused on pitching, presenting and fundraising, as well as acquiring early beta users and creating partnerships to garner early revenue. This function at an early startup is imperative. These functions must be carried out at the top by a personality that believes in the idea, the product and the company.

It is rare but not unheard of that these two needs are met by a single individual. In most cases, founder teams are met by two or three individuals. Whoever makes up the founding team will shape the culture and direction of the company throughout its lifetime, which is why potential investors dig so deep into the founding team. They look at who they are, what they’ve done, what others say about them and where they as individuals could go. The potential of the founders is the potential of the company.

2. The Advisors

The number of advisors your startup secures is not as important as the skills, experience, expertise and network that each brings. Ideally, you want an advisor for each area of your company which lacks experience, skills, or confidence, in an effort to steer your efforts in the right direction. These areas include fundraising, product development, sales, marketing and recruiting. Alongside those skills and levels of expertise, find advisors with the following:

Industry Experience- Even if your team has industry experience within your target market, having advisors with similar expertise will be an added benefit to your organization. An advisor with both the know how in a specific arena and experience within your industry will be a powerhouse resource for your startup.

Powerful Networks- Early on, one of the most valuable assets you can acquire is network access. Be it access to investors and angels, VCs, media outlets, industry experts, former founders or potential customers, the success of your startup will be largely dependant on building your network.

History of Participation- Advisors with the right experience, expertise, network and other assets are only as valuable to you as their willingness to connect with you. Many founders will tell you about advisors they have brought on that had great credentials, but put little to no time into their company. Check the references of potential advisors just as much as you would a potential employee, and make sure they have a history of actively adding value.

Availability- Because they are advisors and not employees, most will not be immediately available to you. That being said, they do need to give you their attention when you need it, and within a reasonable time frame. If a potential advisor already has several roles, consider whether they can give you the time you really need from them

3. The Focused Hires

Startups run as lean as they can for as long as they can. They keep teams small in the beginning, with founders fulfilling as many roles as possible. At some point, the founders end up with too much on their plates to handle effectively, and need to begin hiring. Furthermore, a single individual can only excel at so many things, and hiring professionals to focus on specific things will improve efficiency and allow the founders to devote themselves to tasks with the biggest impact.

Marketing and Growth- Most mobile startups are very much dependent on viral growth, word of mouth, network creation and intense user acquisition to get exposure, users and customers. Sure, founders should brush up on digital marketing techniques and growth hacking skills and ideas, and be able to execute these in the beginning, even with only minimal time. Eventually, mobile startups need to acquire a professional to tackle this aspect of the business. Effective marketing, growth hacking and user acquisition is more than a full-time job, and the amount of knowledge and experience needed is vast. Investing in top talent for this role will yield huge dividends.

Technical Compliments- For mobile startups, finding technical compliments usually means finding programmers proficient in either iOS or Android specific development, and sometimes those focused on web applications. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a single person who both knows and excels in these environments. That does not necessarily mean you need both at once though. Many mobile companies launch first with a version for a single platform. Other technical compliments include professionals focused on technologies specific to the industry or the product itself. As with many things, a startup’s technical hires depend on the company and product itself.

Product Management- Eventually, mobile startups will find a product manager extremely valuable. Top talent with this focus can take over the business side of the product itself, and allow the founders to focus on the overall business itself, which in this stage is fundraising and hiring. Not only will it take product focus off of the founders’ plates, but it will give the product itself the focus needed in a startup company.

This list is in no way all-encompassing for all mobile companies. The spectrum of differences across organizations, as well as the funds available, and dynamics of the industry are what define the needs for each company. Strong advisors, former founders, and startup-focused recruiters can go a long way in helping you figure out how to build your startup team by telling you who you need and when you need them. Hiring decisions will have the most profound impact of any others you make on the lifetime of your company, its culture and its success. Plan, execute and hire with great care, and you will build a great company.

Startup Conferences To Attend in 2014: Q1

Startup Conferences To Attend in 2014: Q1

Startup Conferences To Attend

Startup Conferences To Attend

It’s conference time, people! As the new year kicks into high gear (not that it ever slowed down in the startup world), we have our sights set on some exciting events happening in Q1. Whether you are in the early stages of product planning and development, searching for angel investors or venture capital backing, launching the next iteration of your product or looking to start hiring top talent for your initiatives, these events hold something for every company. So get your pitch decks ready, your alley booths in shape, your elevator speeches fine tuned and your conference swag bags emptied because it’s conference time! 2014 promises to hold some very exciting innovations, entrances and exits. These are the startup conferences where you’ll be sure to see them first hand!

Startup Grind 2014

When: February 3rd – 5th
Where: The Computer History Museum
http://www.computerhistory.org/
1401 N Shoreline Blvd
Mountain View, CA CA 94043
Conference Website: http://startupgrind.com/2014/
Why: Attracting today’s top startups, investors, educators and advisors, Startup Grind 2014 positions itself as an educational and networking experience, with no pitching and no panels. The conference is hosting a top notch list of speakers, including Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners, George Zachary of Charles River Ventures, David Cohen of Techstars, and even MC Hammer from… well, you know. The event boasts a great opportunity to make new connections with successful founders and entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, advisors, and mentors from across the technology landscape.

The 7th Annual Crunchies

When: February 10th
Where: Davies Symphony Hall
http://daviessymphonyhall.org/
201 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102
Conference Website: http://techcrunch.com/events/7th-annual-crunchies-awards/
Why: Ahh, the glories of startup battle. As the competition and awards ceremony for technology startups and innovators, this TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Gigaom sponsored event presents awards based on the most favorited tech stars as voted upon by the internet community. Hosted by The Daily Show’s John Oliver, The Crunchies promises to deliver a night of inspiring technologies, great music, and maybe even a laugh or two. Voting ends January 26th, so get to the website soon!

LAUNCH Festival

When: February 24th – 26th
Where: The San Francisco Design Center Concourse
http://www.sfdesigncenter.com/
635 8th Street @ Brannan
San Francisco, CA 94103
Conference Website: http://events.launch.co/festival/
Why: The self proclaimed “Best place to launch your startup, raise money and learn about starting a company,” LAUNCH Festival provides the premier platform for today’s startups to unveil their creations to angel investors and venture capital firms, providing an unparalleled opportunity for networking and education. And with keynote speakers Mark Cuban and Paul Graham taking the stage, this year’s event promises to attract top investors and entrepreneurs from around the globe.

SXSW 2014

When: March 7th – 16th
Where: The Austin Convention Center
http://www.austinconventioncenter.com/
500 E. Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Conference Website: http://sxsw.com/
Why: Few events even come close to the magnitude of SXSW, and this year’s happenings don’t look to be slowing down. More than just a conference for entrepreneurs, SXSW is three conferences wrapped into one; SXSW Interactive, SXSW Music and SXSW Film. Boasting speakers such as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Julian Assange, as well as the trade show, accelerator, startup alleys, competitions… you should probably just check out the website.

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