If you are on the fence about taking a job at a startup or early in your career and wondering whether corporate life is for you, you’re in the right place. While the startup community is not for everyone, there are specific lessons you will learn much more quickly at a startup than anywhere else. In a fast-paced environment—frequently with limited structure or standardized processes—the right individual will not shy away from the ambiguity. Not only will you learn fast, but these lessons will stick with you wherever you go.
One of the fundamental lessons you’ll learn at a startup is the importance of agility. Startups thrive on the ability to adapt quickly to changing market dynamics and customer needs. Rigidity can be detrimental to success in such a fast-paced environment. By being open to change and embracing agility, you’ll discover the value of pivoting, iterating, and constantly improving products, services, and strategies. The best part is that you’ll more than likely directly impact how these things are developed at the ground level.
Startups often have limited resources and a lean team, so there is ample room to take ownership and initiative. You’ll quickly realize that your contributions matter significantly and that you’ll have the freedom to make an impact beyond your defined role. By taking ownership of tasks and projects, you’ll learn to be proactive, resourceful, and accountable for outcomes. There are few work environments where a sense of responsibility and an entrepreneurial mindset can be so quickly instilled.
Startups are synonymous with risk-taking, and failure is an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey. As you progress in your startup role, you will learn to see failures as learning opportunities rather than setbacks. In a startup environment, mistakes are often embraced as valuable feedback that helps refine strategies and products. This mindset shift will allow you to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth, iterate quickly, and continuously improve.
Startups thrive on collaboration and teamwork. With small teams and diverse responsibilities, you’ll learn the importance of fostering a collaborative spirit. Startups often require individuals to wear many hats and work across various domains. By working in a startup, you’ll have the opportunity to broaden your skill set and be exposed to different aspects of business operations. You’ll learn to appreciate the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, leveraging diverse perspectives to solve complex problems and drive innovation.
At the core of any successful startup is a deep understanding of the target customers and their pain points. As a result, communicating regularly with customers may become a necessity. By working closely with customers, you can develop a customer-centric mindset. You’ll learn to actively listen, empathize, and translate customer feedback into actionable insights. No matter what field you enter next, this lesson will reinforce the significance of building products and services that truly address customer needs, ensuring a sustainable and loyal customer base.
This blog was written by Viaduct’s Senior Talent Consultant & Executive Recruiter, John Jameson.
In the startup arena, limited resources combined with dwindling capital can make it challenging to gain a competitive edge. Startup founders must be strategic in their budgeting efforts because the tightening financial markets have made it increasingly difficult to obtain the funding needed to expand and scale business operations and staff. A part-time fractional C-suite executive can provide your startup with leadership, expertise, and strategy at a fraction of the cost of hiring the same executive as a full-time employee.
What is a fractional executive?
According to Forbes, fractional hiring is today what freelance work was 20 years ago. A fractional executive is a high-level professional who works part-time or on a project basis for a company, typically in C-suite roles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, or CTO.
Fractional executives are hired by startups, small businesses, and companies in transition or growth stages who need access to specialized expertise but don’t require or can’t afford a full-time executive. Fractional executives work remotely or on-site, providing strategic leadership, guidance, and implementation advisory support for a specific business area.
Startups should consider hiring fractional executives based on their specific needs and resources, but there are many factors to consider. We’ll dig into those here.
In the same vein as the value an experienced freelancer can provide to a startup without the commitment of a full-time salary, benefits, etc., a fractional executive can offer you the full scope of their expertise and industry relationships without the price tag of a full-time C-level executive. Several benefits come with this strategy.
While there is much to gain for early-stage startups hiring fractional executives, some things worth considering could make for a not-so-great outcome. The concept is still in its early stages, and you won’t find one strict way of introducing this role to your close nit startup team, so the following are some considerations to be aware of.
If you are on the fence about introducing a fractional executive into your startup environment, there are a few factors you can consider to help you make the decision:
Need help finding a fractional executive? Hiring a fractional executive can be a smart and strategic move for startups and small businesses that need access to specialized expertise and leadership but don’t require or can’t afford a full-time executive. Before deciding whether to hire a fractional executive, it’s important to consider your startup team’s specific needs and resources, the market conditions for that particular role, and the compatibility of the fractional executive with the company culture and team dynamics. Doing so will maximize the potential benefits of hiring a fractional executive and effectively achieve your long-term goals.
Are you looking to gain part-time, on-demand access to experienced leaders at a fraction of their full cost? Are you seeking specific help to strategically guide your leadership team’s key business decisions to minimize costly mistakes? Learn more about Viaduct’s services here.
This blog was authored by Carl Kutsmode.
So, you’re a leader at a startup. Let us start by saying this role is not for the faint of heart.
Your startup team is the backbone of your organization. Their satisfaction with, and engagement in, your leadership can impact everything from new product features to customer satisfaction.
Your role as a startup leader will set the tone for the company’s culture and direction. A strong leader can inspire and motivate their team to achieve great things, while a weak leader can derail the entire operation.
Whether you’re a founder, a manager, or an employee who would like to advance someday, understanding the importance of leadership in a startup is essential for achieving your long-term goals.
We’ll walk through six leadership strategies to meet startup employee needs and expectations:
Your startup team will turn to you as a leader for reassurance about the company’s direction and motivation to keep pushing when they inevitably spread thin.
Not everyone is cut out to take on a leadership role at a startup. But, if it’s something you pursue, these six strategies should be part of your ongoing development.
Startup employees are notoriously scrappy and ambitious. It’s often implied that by joining a small team at the start, they are looking for a foundational experience that will lead to growth down the road. As a leader, it’s your job to foster more leaders.
Make sure you clarify your team’s growth goals at the start. You might find some of your team is happy to execute while others are motivated by the idea of promotion. Once you know what your team prefers, put structure in place to allow them their desired path.This can look like:
With day-to-day operations at the top of your mind, it can feel challenging to take a step back and focus on your employees’ development. However, when employees feel dissatisfied with their growth and direction, company morale will decrease, which can have ripple effects across the organization.
Your job as a startup leader is to encourage, provide tools for, and allow growth inside your startup.
If you’ve experienced it, you might agree: Going to work each day and fearing for your job is one of the worst feelings for a startup team. Even if their job is perfectly safe, they might be so worried about losing it that their performance suffers.
The best way to avoid your team feeling this way is to make it abundantly clear what the priorities are for the company and, in turn, what each employee’s specific outcomes should be.
In doing so, every employee will know exactly what is expected of them, and whether they are meeting those expectations.
This can be done weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the priority or key performance indicator. Whatever you decide, it should be a clearly defined expectation—”We need three new features per month.”—rather than a vague sentiment—”We need you to keep coming out with features.”
You will be amazed at how putting your employees at ease in this way increases their ability to focus and filter tasks.
Perhaps one of the worst things you can do as a leader is not practicing what you preach. If you require employees to be in the office, don’t work from home when you feel like it. If you need employees to stay late, don’t scoot out early. If you require employees to submit performance reviews, ensure you are doing the same.
You get the idea.
Whatever you and your fellow leadership team have decided are key behaviors to build and foster your culture, make sure you are embodying these.
It’s easy to get so caught up in your ongoing responsibilities that there is little room for much else. But startup employees often seek a deep, rich work experience that allows them abundant career growth.
Mentorship is an excellent way of providing this to your employees.
Offer them time out of their workday to seek out and meet with a mentor if they so choose. Even better, seek out and meet with a mentor yourself. Your employees will appreciate a top-down ethos that clearly states: I have room to grow and am open to being guided by someone who knows more than me.
Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson said, “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.”
You can talk about culture as much as you want, spend lots of time identifying core values, and update your brand guidelines to reflect what you want your culture to be. But at the end of the day, your culture is your team, and your team is your culture.
If you say your culture is open to feedback but consistently hire individuals who are not open to feedback, your employees will suffer. If you say your culture pursues growth, but the executives you hire are all ego, your employees will suffer. If you say your culture prioritizes work-life balance, but you hire managers who send emails at 11 p.m. and expect a reply, your employees will suffer.
Not only will your employees suffer, but they will also become completely disillusioned by your statements about culture, vision, and values.
Perhaps the most critical strategy we can suggest is hiring people who reflect your culture and values.
The final strategy for effective startup leadership is to trust who you hire.
Your employees are joining your organization because they want to be entrusted with building something from the ground up.
If you bring in eager employees and then micromanage them to death, you will most likely drive them right back out the door.
Understandably, as a leader, you feel significant ownership over the organization’s output. This mindset can make you prone to wanting the final say on everything that gets produced. Not only is this unsustainable for you, but it will also destroy the morale of your employees.
By trusting your employees to do the job you hired them for, you will empower them to take ownership of their work, and they will begin to develop a founder’s mindset.
As you grow in your startup leadership journey, remember that being a leader is not just about achieving personal success but empowering others to reach their full potential. By employing these six strategies, you authorize your team to recognize and pursue their strengths in your organization’s safe and supportive environment.
This blog was written by Roger Naglewski.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused economic disruptions that could lead to a recession in some industries. Chief Executive Officers in the United States and worldwide feel that slow growth and a recession are their top external worry for 2023. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. leaders don’t expect economies to revive until late 2023 or mid-2024. At the same time, the pandemic spurred changes in the way that people work and consume goods and services, which could lead to a resetting of the economy in the long term. Therefore, you may wonder if we are experiencing a recession or a resetting.
Signs of a recession
Almost two-thirds of economists surveyed by the World Economic Forum predict a recession in 2023. A recession is typically defined as a period of economic decline characterized by a decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increased unemployment rates, and reduced economic activity lasting at least several months. The signs of a recession can vary, but some common indicators include:
1 – A decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP is the total value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. A decline in GDP for two consecutive quarters is generally considered a sign of a recession. The U.S. GDP has increased 34 percent year over year. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports the following GDP changes:
S&P Global expects “U.S. GDP to decline by 0.3 percentage points from its peak in the first quarter 2023 to its third-quarter trough. If correct, this will beat the 2001 recession as the softest recession in recent history since 1960.”
2 – Rising unemployment: During a recession, many businesses may cut jobs or close entirely, leading to higher levels of unemployment. In the first quarter of 2023, we have seen the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century, with layoffs up nearly fivefold. In the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate went as high as 7 percent and has steadily declined. In March 2023, the unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent—matching the first quarter 2020 pre-pandemic rate—and has fluctuated between 3.5 and 3.7 percent since March 2022.
In the first quarter of 2023, job cuts increased 396 percent from the same period a year ago. The tech industry laid off the most workers, but several other sectors have been affected, including e-commerce, media, and Wall Street. Historically, during recessionary times, we have seen some industries thrive and even grow, including healthcare, financial services, auto repair, stores—home maintenance, grocery, and discount—freight and logistics, utilities, and property management.
3 – Decreasing stock prices: As investors become more pessimistic about the economy, stock prices may decline, reducing consumer and business confidence and leading to further economic contraction. The S&P 500 is up around 7 percent for the year, and there is optimism that the worst may be over.
4 – Decreased consumer spending: As people become more uncertain about their financial situation, they may cut back on spending, which can further reduce economic activity. A February PWC Survey found:
5 – Declining business profits: As demand for goods and services decreases, businesses may see their profits decline, leading to further job cuts and reduced investment. Corporate profits in the U.S. fell 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, after a 0.8 percent gain in the previous period. The S&P 500 first-quarter 2023 earnings decline was -6.6 percent.
Based on the above common indicators, two out of five (decreased consumer spending and profits) point toward a recession. It’s important to note that these indicators are not always present in every recession, and some may be more pronounced than others. It’s also worth noting that economic indicators can be lagging, meaning that they may not fully reflect the current state of the economy until several months after the fact.
Signs of a resetting
A resetting can refer to a fundamental change in the economy’s structure or how people work and live, often driven by technological advancements or shifts in societal values. The pandemic has had far-reaching impacts beyond just health and safety concerns. Many people lost jobs or experienced financial hardship, significantly affecting the global economy. What we are experiencing may not be a recession but, a resetting back to an altered form of pre-pandemic life.
Change in how people work: The pandemic has caused significant changes in how people work and accelerated trends already underway.
The Great Resignation: The Great Resignation is a term used to describe the trend of employees leaving their jobs—a record 47.8 million in 2021 and 50.5 million in 2022—in large numbers. The pandemic caused many workers to re-evaluate their work-life balance and priorities and change their career paths. In return, employers have shifted their focus to increased workplace flexibility, upskilling, and corporate culture, significantly reshaping the labor market and how companies approach talent retention and recruitment.
Compensation adjustments: Companies increased salaries or offered other incentives during the Great Resignation in industries with worker shortages. Many employers stretched their salary guidelines to attract new workers or make counteroffers to employees threatening to quit creating inequity and pay gaps within teams. Employers in the retail (5.0 percent) and restaurant and bar (7.5 percent) industries are still increasing average hourly earnings to counteract labor shortages.
Lack of demand: We are now seeing the U.S. job market showing signs of softening as rising interest rates and slowing economic growth affect hiring. With decreasing consumer spending causing declining business profits, job cuts increased 396 percent from the same period a year ago. Organizations choosing not to enact hiring freezes and layoffs use quiet hiring to acquire new skills without hiring new full-time employees. In fact, 80 percent of workers have been quiet hired. According to Gartner, the three main components of quiet hiring include:
The bottom line
While a recession and a resetting can sometimes coincide, they are distinct phenomena, and the current economic situation may involve elements of both. The pandemic has significantly impacted the labor market, leading to job losses, business closures, and changes in work arrangements. While demonstrating signs of recovery, it is still uncertain how long-lasting the effects of the pandemic will be on employment and the economy as a whole. While economists can provide insights and predictions based on available data and research, the complexity and dynamism make it challenging to define in simple terms and predict with complete certainty.
This blog was written by Carl Kutsmode.
Accepting a job at a startup means you agree to shape and impact a company in its earliest stages. Many startups operate on tight budgets and lean operations, so every hire is critical, and there is little room for error.
Because the stakes are higher, the startup interview process is a key time to showcase your skills and stand out.
We’ll walk through how candidates can tailor their experience and accomplishments to set them up to shine through each stage of the startup interview process: The application, interview, and follow-up.
The worst thing you can do as an interested candidate is submit the same version of your cover letter and resume that you always use.
Unlike larger organizations where resumes are filtered through artificial intelligence (AI), startups typically have real people reviewing applications. These individuals are not just looking for a skill match. They are often looking for a culture fit, and a deep understanding of what their company does.
Here are a few tips to stand out during the application stage.
Whenever possible, network before you really want the job.
The great thing about the startup ecosystem is the plethora of corners of the internet it shows up in. LinkedIn, Slack channels, Facebook groups, and more are great places to familiarize yourself with startups that you really resonate with.
If you take the time to connect with founders and leaders who inspire you, you are more likely to have a leg up when your dream job becomes available. Follow the company’s events page or find out if there are any happy hours or networking opportunities where they will be in attendance, and you can introduce yourself.
Start forming those relationships early on, and your resume has a much better chance of rising to the top of the stack when the time comes to apply.
When in doubt, write a cover letter
Cover letters have become one of the most polarizing parts of the application process. Some hiring teams argue that they are thrown out or are often filled with fluff that simply regurgitates the same information they see on resumes.
Others argue it is a fantastic way to make your application more human, providing context to the web of experiences that led you to apply for the position.
In startups especially, a cover letter is not just a chance to weave together your experiences in a thoughtful way. It is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the startup where you want to work and explain why you’d be a good fit.
Hiring teams are often spread thin, and you can probably imagine how many stacks of resumes they look at for a coveted position. A well-constructed cover letter can jolt a hiring manager out of an over-stimulated stupor and draw more of their attention to your qualifications.
Use the STAR method
As early as the application phase, we recommend you use the STAR method to showcase your skills during the startup interview process.
If you are not familiar, the STAR method is a technique that helps you format your experiences:
While you don’t want your resume to be pages long, try to draw at least one specific outcome from each position you’ve held.
Startup hiring managers will not resonate with vague summations of your previous roles and responsibilities. What they will resonate with is outcomes.
Here is an example of the STAR method in writing:
“When our company needed a rebrand, I was responsible for getting media coverage. I leveraged my relationships in the media, and as a result, our press release was covered by 20 media outlets, and our website traffic increased by 400 percent.”
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you can be confident that you are qualified for the job, and the team wants to examine your qualifications further. This is a huge accomplishment and where the real work begins.
Sign up for the website, use the product, request a demo, etc.
If you are applying for a company that offers a service or built a product, a great way to prepare for the interview is to get as much firsthand knowledge as possible about it.
Is it an app? Download the app and poke around. Software company? Sign up for a free trial or create an account.
The initiative will demonstrate you are serious about adding value to the company. As a bonus, jot down some ideas and observations about the product or service.
Get to know your hiring team
When assigned an interviewer or a team of interviewers, ensure you get their full names and do your research. Walking into the interview, you should know their professional background and experience. This information will help you formulate your “sales” pitch and communicate how you culturally align with their organization and will fill any gaps.
With this knowledge, you can ask more relevant questions, find out what drew them to the company, and keep them there.
Don’t just ask questions – ask hard, smart ones
By now, every candidate knows that they must come into an interview with questions to ask at the end. As a result, the same few questions are beginning to regurgitate in interviews, and hiring managers have likely heard them all.
If you want to stand out, dig a little deeper into this step of the interview process and prepare four to five questions that wouldn’t necessarily apply to any other interview.
These questions should be based on:
Ultimately, your questions should demonstrate a genuine curiosity about what the operations and growth of the company look like.
The relief you feel at the end of the interview process might feel like your time to heave a sigh of relief and know that you’ve done all you can and “it’s out of your hands.”
On the contrary, there are still steps you can take to stand out, even after the in-person interactions have ended.
Ask for specifics while you have an audience
At the end of your in-person interview, get all the information you can about the decision process. Try and get a time frame/date, whether you will be contacted by phone or email, and if you will be notified in either scenario (offer or rejection.)
Master the art of the “thank you” note
The follow-up thank you note (or email) should be used to demonstrate excitement and gratitude for the time you spent being considered for the role.
If you left something glaringly open-ended in your interview, you could use the thank you note to clarify that item (i.e., start date.) By and large, you should avoid using the thank you note to add content to your qualifications.
Harvard Business Review recommends this template:
Follow up thoughtfully
If you were provided with a date for a decision, follow up a week after that date if you have not heard from the hiring team.
It’s possible that they made an offer to someone else that might be rejected, or other logistics are at play. Remember that human processes don’t always go smoothly.
When the day comes, send a brief note to the hiring manager you dealt with, reiterating the content in your thank you note and requesting a status update.
So long as you approach this thoughtfully and humanly, you will avoid coming off as eager or aggressive.
Though it can be excruciating to wait for an answer from a team you want to be a part of, try to extend patience and understanding as you wait.
Continue to network, volunteer, apply to other jobs, and find outlets for your energy. Remember that finding the perfect match will take time.
This blog was written by Viaduct Director of Recruiting and Business Operations Tom Hausler.
You may think it’s easy to reverse course after a hiring mistake at your startup. Simply terminate the bad hire and move forward—no harm done.
Here’s the reality: A bad hire can have long-term, detrimental effects on your startup.
So, what’s the real cost of a bad hire?
When it comes to financials, the U.S. Department of Labor’s estimate is simple—a bad hire will cost you, on average, at least 30 percent of the individual’s first-year expected earnings.
The cost to your team’s morale, however, is harder to quantify.
Depending on the rank of the bad hire, your operations can take months to recover. Your data may be muddled as a result of mishandling, and their direct reports may be on the verge of leaving themselves, if they have not already. Trust in your leadership may be permanently damaged.
Needless to say, hiring is not something you should take lightly, especially at a startup. In fact, 14 percent of startups fail due to not having the right team.
We’ve compiled five common hiring mistakes that startups tend to make and how you can adjust your hiring practices to ensure your new hires are in it for the long haul:
If you bring intentionality into your hiring practices, your startup’s recruitment process will evolve into a well-oiled machine—no bait and switch necessary.
An emphasis on “culture” often leads startups to become a caricature of themselves.
Ping-pong tables, frequent happy hours, and pizza parties are all well and good. If you carry a “work hard, play hard” mentality to your operations, it’s not wrong to look for alignment in potential new hires.
You’re only human—of course, you will have an affinity toward individuals you generally “like.” But be cautious of hiring someone simply because you’re personally aligned with them, separate from whether or not they are qualified for the job you need to fill.
How to avoid this hiring mistake: Diversify your interviewing team. If you are the CEO, you can and should be as involved as you want, but make sure there are multiple touchpoints for new hires so that one individual’s personal bias does not overwhelm a candidate’s actual background and experience.
Stay with us here—we promise we’re not crazy.
As we said, culture fit should not be the only thing you consider as you hire. But, let’s say you do have a “work hard, play hard” value system deeply integrated into your culture. If you disregard culture fit and hire someone who is all business and more stringent in their workplace interactions, you will quickly see this person’s department suffer from severe culture misalignment.
Their team will likely get whiplash from the deviations, and it will severely impact morale. You may also see this person siloed, as their interactions with others on the team will be strained.
How to avoid this hiring mistake: Ask for references and try to dig for how their professional relationships tend to exist. Even if they list references who are sure to speak highly of their outcomes, you can still uncover truths about how a potential hire operates culturally.
One of the most common hiring mistakes at a startup is seeing a gap in skills internally and immediately rushing to fill that gap with a full-time hire.
Many founders suffer from “shiny object syndrome” (we say this with love). Wanting to fill your C-suite immediately, or hire for the latest trending position on LinkedIn, is tempting, and we get that.
But hiring on a whim puts you at risk for a sunk cost if you fail to think through whether that position will set you up for success in the long term.
How to avoid this hiring mistake: When you feel the pang of a skills gap, take some time to suss out whether this skill is only needed for the short term or is something you will need for multiple projects going forward. Bring your team into this thought process as well.
Just because other startups are making this same hire doesn’t mean you need it, too. You may have a different customer persona or audience or be B2B instead of B2C—there are so many components to a new position opening up. Identify your goals and evaluate what makes sense for you.
You might also consider outsourcing certain roles if the skills gap is for a single, short-term project. To put it simply, look before you leap! Not every skills gap should result in a full-time hire.
The words “recruitment,” “hiring,” and “onboarding” often go hand in hand and are used interchangeably. The truth is, these are three totally different practices.
If you have ironed out your hiring practices to make filling seats a seamless operation, that’s great. But that does not equate to a seamless onboarding experience for your new hire.
Too often, we hear stories about new startup hires who are handed a laptop, given a pat on the back, and expected to dive in headfirst to an entirely new culture and ecosystem.
Startup growth is enormously exciting, and the speed and efficiency of your hiring process should reflect that. But don’t discount what happens after the offer letter is signed—make sure your onboarding is just as optimized, intentional, and informative.
How to avoid this hiring mistake: Work with an expert to design an onboarding process that makes sense for your startup and culture.
Let’s take marketing as an example. When you decide to make your first marketing hire, there are two different frames of mind you can have.
Mindframe A: Most startups have marketing, so we need marketing. Let’s hire someone to “do marketing.”
Mindframe B: We need to increase our visibility and inbound leads. Let’s hire someone who knows how to operate within a set budget to bring more awareness to our brand and product and who can help sales generate more leads.
See the difference?
Your job descriptions shouldn’t be arbitrary. It’s likely that the roles of your early hires will evolve over time, but that doesn’t mean you should bring people in without having a set expectation of what they will accomplish.
It’s a waste of time because you will drive yourself crazy trying to measure their performance. It’s also a waste of their time because they will have no idea where to start when they are brought in, where they stand, or what their path for growth looks like.
How to avoid this hiring mistake: Outline exactly what you expect the new position to accomplish in their first 30, 60, and 90 days. You might even ask candidates this during the interview process. When you discuss these timelines, the outcomes discussed should be measurable—i.e.,talk to three customers, bring followers up to 1,000, or increase website traffic by 20 percent.
No matter how robust your screening process is, one or two misalignments might still work their way into your organization. The important thing is not to let their impact fester and to remove the “wound” before the infection spreads.
Startup founders are experiencing many things for the first time, including hiring; this will be a continual process of learning.
In the meantime, if you want to offload the recruiting and hiring process, Viaduct can help. Whether you are looking for full-time or contingent staff, Viaduct specializes in the placement of startup professionals that can bring your vision to life. Learn more about working with our team of recruiting experts here.
This blog was authored by Talent Consultant Sarah Garcia.
Founders and early startup employees know the feeling all too well.
An exciting project or campaign begins to take shape. Action items build, and then, suddenly, your task list is a mile long. You put your head down and your blinders up to get through the list. All of a sudden, the creative energy you’d normally apply to work on the business is being spent working in the business.
This is where outsourcing comes in.
No one knows or understands your product or service better than you and your team, and outsourcing can be met with understandable wariness.
But if you are reading this blog, it means you and your team are spread thin, you know you need help, but are not quite ready to bring on full-time help. It’s a critical place to be.
By outsourcing, you can rid yourself of repetitive or administrative tasks, keep your work model lean, reduce mistakes, free up your creative energy, and ultimately, scale properly.
Outsourcing is an extremely valuable tool accessible to founders and early startups. But just like most things, outsourcing has benefits and downsides to consider as you build your strategy.
Here are some upsides of outsourcing to consider:
Like any business investment, there are risks associated with outsourcing. Keep the following downsides in mind:
Tasks like payroll, accounting, and financial modeling and reporting should be outsourced to a firm or individual until your growth makes your financial structure more complex. At the start, your finances should be relatively straightforward to outsource.
In addition to taking this task off your plate, an additional benefit is the expertise a knowledgeable financial organizer can provide. They can take an objective approach to your financials, giving you accurate predictions for your growth and best practices for how to proceed.
As your product or service scales, you’ll experience a sharp increase in your customer service requests. Think refunds, exchanges, questions, concerns… you know how it goes. At the same time, customers have increasingly high expectations for how reachable their vendors and sellers should be.
The risk you run by attending to all customer service requests yourself is a bad Google review, poor word of mouth spreading, and your reputation destroyed by one small request left unchecked.
In fact, 94 percent of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business.
Outsourcing your customer service to a trusted team can free you up to improve the product or service and keep your customers happy.
Even if you are not ready to hire full-time employees at a steady pace, you should still consider a long-term, established partnership with a recruiting agency with a deep understanding of your culture and a large pool of qualified candidates.
The process of finding, vetting, interviewing, and onboarding candidates is a huge commitment that few founders or HR teams can dedicate enough time to. Whether the positions you are looking to fill are full-time, part-time, fractional, or contingent, the right recruiting agency can bring you qualified candidates quickly, and familiarize them with your product or service and culture.
Viaduct works with nationwide venture capital firms to design and integrate recruiting strategies for young, high-growth companies. They can help you build a qualified team that aligns with your organization’s mission.
This blog was authored by Viaduct Senior Talent Consultant and Executive Recruiter Roger Naglewski.
If you’re reading this blog, you have probably reached the point in your founder journey when you’re ready to start hiring.
First of all – congratulations! It’s an amazing milestone, and you should be proud. At the same time, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be delegated, and where to start.
Expanding your team beyond just you is an exciting place to be, but it’s important to make strategic hires that will set you and your company up for success.
You’re in the right place. We’ll cover the two main pieces of your recruiting process:
Three key first hires for a startup
A systems person
The first key hire you should consider is a systems person. This individual will build out the systems to make your startup scalable, developing your standard operations procedures (SOPs,) key performance indicators (KPIs,) and more. Some titles you might consider for this individual:
In a nutshell, this person should be focused on the design and implementation of policies that promote growth and oversee operations to keep businesses on track.
What they’ll do
The next key hire you should make is your evangelist: your business development extraordinaire. The kind of one-in-a-million magnetic individual who could sell water to the ocean. This individual will be dedicated to spreading the word about your product or service, getting your name and solution into all the right rooms and in front of all the right people.
Some examples of titles might be:
In other words, this person will shift your vision from a singular product or service to an established organization.
WeWork describes it this way: “By helping to fund the continued existence of the business, business development at early-stage startups is fundamentally about creating long-term value for the organization.”
What they’ll do
A product (or service) person
Your final key hire should be your product person—the individual who will dedicate themselves to knowing your product, service, or solution inside and out.
Here are some examples of titles for this individual:
This person should not only inherit your vision for the product, but they should also begin to build their own vision based on customer use and feedback. They should know your customers better than anyone at the company, ensuring the product evolves to meet customer demand and needs. Their day-to-day responsibilities might look like:
Where to find hires for your startup
So, you know who you’re going to be looking for. Where do you find these candidates?
Working at a startup is not for the faint of heart, and you can’t just hire anyone. Where are some potential “watering holes” to find the right candidates?
Related: How Startups Can Hire Talent Quickly
Slack communities are growing in popularity, especially in the startup community, as a way to share ideas, innovations, best practices, and most importantly, recruit and job search.
Taskable listed the first 10 Slack communities you should consider joining as a startup founder here.
Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is a wonderful way to attract talent to your organization. You don’t even need to set up a dedicated business page before you, as a founder, can post to your personal account regarding your product, vision, and growth. This will build a community organically of people who will already have an understanding of who you are and what you do when you’re ready to hire.
Work with a talent acquisition and advisory firm
Building a qualified team that aligns with your organization’s mission and culture is essential for growth and success. Working with an agency can help speed up the hiring process and their market knowledge can help find higher-quality, specialized candidates who have the specific skills you need.
Viaduct is a one-stop talent solution that gives your most important resource—people—the attention they deserve. Viaduct offers contingent staffing, direct placement, and executive recruiting for whatever commitment or stage you’re at with your hiring. Contact our team today to learn more.
Hiring is an extraordinarily exciting marker to reach in your progress as a founder, so it’s important to take this step seriously. The team you assemble at the start will truly pave the way for your company’s direction and success.
This blog was written by Viaduct’s Roger Naglewski.
Economists put the chance of a recession in 2023 at 63 percent. In response, 72 percent of leaders are starting to prepare and look for ways to safeguard their business, reprioritize how they make decisions, and lead through disruption. It’s been found that cutting jobs and operating costs alone makes it more difficult for a business to survive a recession. Resilient companies invest and grow, and one of the primary ways to invest during times of economic uncertainty is through talent management and having a strategic approach to hiring, retaining, and utilizing talent. However, developing and implementing a strategy that effectively uses your organization’s talent resources while navigating change and evolving goals is not an easy task.
72 percent of HR leaders are somewhat or extremely concerned about losing talent over the next 12 months. Retaining talent at a startup is especially critical because every employee makes essential contributions. Given current talent shortages, startup leaders know the value of top talent and are focused on retaining their best people. Here’s how:
Offer flexible work options: 70 percent of CEOs strongly or somewhat agree that flexible work—including remote—is increasingly critical to reducing employee turnover during an economic downturn. Half of Americans want to work from home in 2023. The happiest people have a healthy work-life balance and can split their focus between work and personal and get value and satisfaction from both. Employee happiness plays a significant role in employee turnover. 75 percent of unsatisfied workers are looking to leave their current positions, so offering flexible work is a successful solution to increase retention.
Focus on employee well-being: Since the pandemic’s start, employees have been dealing with uncertainty. 59 percent of CEOs strongly or somewhat agree that during an economic downturn, there’s an even greater need for firms to focus on well-being—including childcare and mental health. Fear of a recession is now contributing to lay-off anxiety, financial stress, and disappointment over hiring and raise freezes. During times of uncertainty, it’s essential to keep the lines of communication open and foster a culture of recognition. Initiatives like expanding caregiver benefits for children and elder care and providing access to a 24/7 mental health support line are ways to prioritize your workers’ well-being.
Invest in learning: In times of uncertainty, it’s important to connect learning initiatives to organizational goals and use them to generate high performance. In addition to 30-50 percent higher engagement and retention rates,Deloitte research has found that organizations with a strong learning culture are:
Attract laid-off or unhappy talent: 57 percent of CEOs strongly or somewhat agree that with other companies reducing their headcount, an economic downturn presents an opportunity to attract and retain talent. Your more established competitors may lay off workers or become lax and lose talent when employee engagement and morale drop. A recession can be the best time to procure talent your startup could not previously attract.
With a low unemployment rate and strong labor market making it easier for workers to find a job quickly, bringing laid-off workers back could be more challenging than the last recession in 2008. To minimize the effects on your startup, focus on employee retention. For every leadership decision made, weigh all cost management options in relation to the impact on talent.
This blog was written by Senior Talent Management and Organizational Transformation Consultant Andrew Nash.
Burnout has become something of a buzzword over the course of the last few years. The term is used most often in the context of the workplace, characterized by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced efficacy.
Workers everywhere have cited increased tendencies towards burnout: An Indeed survey showed 52 percent of workers feeling burned out, and 67 percent saying the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic.
These tendencies, however, tend to get worse in a startup environment. This is usually because in a startup, the amount of effort workers put in directly translates to the overall output of the business.
The pressures of a startup do not discriminate, affecting the young, old, c-level, and individual contributors. Although burnout is not a medical condition, its repercussions can manifest in the physical body: Think headaches, stomachaches/intestinal issues, fatigue, frequent illness, and changes in appetite/sleep.
Needless to say, burnout is serious, and it’s important for leadership to be able to recognize, address, and prevent burnout as part of their integrated day-to-day operation.
How to recognize burnout: What does burnout look like?
Your team might not always feel comfortable admitting that burnout has crept up on them. Startup employees are notoriously tough, and their dedication to their output might make it hard to decipher between “normal” work stress and something more serious.
The Brink, a publication by Boston University, says that burnout usually manifests in three ways:
Energy depletion might look like one of your most lively employees not speaking up as much, showing up late or constantly tired, and citing trouble getting out of bed in the morning or dreading the week ahead on a Sunday night. It’s also an exhaustion that doesn’t go away after a vacation, no matter how long.
Depersonalization usually looks like a drastic shift of interest in their workload, totally detached from a pile-up of projects, and doubt that any of it will ever get done to their normal standard due to the sheer size of it.
Finally, reduced efficacy often looks like a lack of focus and a significant change in their normal output. Tasks they may have enjoyed may begin to seem like a source of fatigue and frustration, taking much more concentration than they used to.
In summary, when your high performers begin to disassociate from their workload for no apparent reason and struggle to engage with the rest of the team, this is often the first sign of burnout.
How to address burnout: What can leadership do about burnout?
Unfortunately, the nature of a startup often requires your team to wear many hats, and as much as you might want to reduce the workload, it’s simply not realistic. Offering more vacation time is not a solution either—employees might feel even more stressed coming back to a larger workload, or spend their vacation working because there is simply no stopping the startup train and it’s easier to stay caught up.
So, what can you do to address your burned-out team?
First, recognize that the acknowledgement of burnout is a top-down initiative. Leadership must be willing to accept that burnout is real, and needs to be addressed.
Next, make prioritization your number one priority. Often, at a startup, everything can feel like a priority, and your team might not know where to even begin. Make it your mission to lay out exactly what the top priorities are, structuring their workload so they know exactly what is critical, and what can be backlogged. The ability to structure a workload can restore a great deal of control in your team’s mind and day.
Finally, examine how your culture supports your team’s well-being. Does your benefit package actually address what’s most important to your team, or do you assume that the weekly pizza parties and happy hours are covering your bases? Does your team really thrive fully remote, or would the option of a more collaborative space increase their potency? This should be an ongoing examination, with feedback from your team driving the majority of your decision-making.
How to prevent burnout before it happens
In a perfect world, we would all be able to recognize and attend to our own exhaustion, and it would never have the chance to manifest. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to have that level of self-awareness. Here are ways to prevent burnout.
Encourage workers to take regular breaks and vacations: It’s important to take time away from work to rest and recharge. This can include taking a lunch break, going for a walk, or taking a vacation. Studies have shown that employees who take regular vacations are more productive and less likely to burn out.
Check-in with your employees: In addition to making sure your policies surrounding vacation time and work-life balance fit the needs of your individual team, the best thing you can do to prevent burnout is to engage in regular, meaningful 1:1s with your employees.
In these meetings, whether weekly, bi-weekly, or whatever works best for your team, don’t just check in on their projects and ask for status updates. Ask questions that speak to:
When these insights are shared with you, the key is to really listen and respond.
Set realistic goals and expectations: Startups often have a lot of ideas and projects in the works, but it’s important to prioritize and focus on the most important tasks. Employees should also be aware of their limitations and not take on more than they can handle.
Lead by example: It is also important for the management team to lead by example and promote a healthy work-life balance. You should ensure that employees have the support and resources they need to manage their stress and overall wellness. This can include providing mental health resources, flexible working hours, and encouraging employees to take time off when they need it.
This way, your employees will be supported in their workload, and you will be able to prevent burnout before it starts.
This blog was written by Viaduct’s Director of Recruiting and Business Operations Tom Hausler.