Robert Ochtel’s Blog

An Experienced Approach to Venture Funding

Entrepreneurs, Finding Key Personnel Takes Time and Effort

Finding the right personnel is one of the keys to a successful start-up company.  With everything on the line each day, as the CEO of your start-up company, you need to find individuals that not only will add value to your start-up company, but are dependable, and at the same time are willing to walk through walls to get things done, all with little to no supervision.  These individuals are hard to come by. You will find individuals that tell you that they can do job.  Or you can find individuals that want to be involved in a start-up.  Or you can find individuals with strong resumes that most likely will not pan out in a start-up environment. So, the game begins. Out of all of these individuals and others you need to determine which candidate will be successful in a start-up environment, contribute beyond expectations, and survive the ups and downs, when things are both good and bad.  In what follows is a short discussion on some of the things that need to be addressed when you are looking to find the right key personnel for your start-up company.

Clearly Define Your Needs

One of the success factors in finding key personnel for your start-up company is to first clearly define your needs.  This includes not only defining the “job” requirements, but defining the individual’s background, experience level, and personality traits. First, defining the job requirements is the easiest. This includes defining the responsibilities and functions that this individual will required to execute on a day-to-day basis.  Next you need to look for individuals with the right background.  Have they worked in a start-up environment in the past, or have they tried to start their own early-stage company?  Individuals that have only worked in a large corporate environment are probably not the correct individuals for your start-up company, as they generally have not had the requirement of getting things done on their own.  That is, they are used to a support staff to take care of them and their job responsibilities.  This is not true for those who have worked in start-up companies.  Experience level is next.  Does this individual need to be a seasoned veteran or do they need to be a less experienced individual with a leading edge technology focus?  In some cases, it is better to get a younger person with less experience, but understands the technology and the associated trends. More often than not, you will not get this from a season veteran.  Why, because technology changes rapidly and generational shifts in technology are happening faster and faster, so make sure you find a person with the appropriate experience level and technology focus. Finally, you need to look at the individual’s personality traits. Are they are self-starter or will they require lots of support and supervision? Can they accept responsibility and run with it or do they need to be coddled to get things done? In the start-up environment you need individuals that require little to no supervision and at the same time have the ability to add significant personal value during the process.  This often comes down to their basic personality traits. So make sure you take the time to look at this, and the other characteristics and requirements outlined here, as they will make the difference between and successful and unsuccessful employee in a start-up environment.                            

Cast a Wide Net

Finding the right individuals for your start-up company and various key positions is not an easy task. In addition, the individuals you need may not be in your backyard.  In today’s environment, many start-up companies are “virtual” corporations. That is, they operate as a group of individuals that are networked via the Internet from various geographic locations across the country, or across the world.  So, when you are looking for an individual with a particular set of skills you need not necessarily stick to your immediate geographic area. You should cast a wide net to find the “best-in-class” individual with the right skill set for the job.  At a future point in time, if there is a need to have these same individuals to move to a given geographic location, this can be done. Until then, operating virtually in today’s environment is both cost effective and efficient for almost all start-up companies.

One of the best ways to find the appropriate individuals for the job and to cast a wide net at the same time is to use Linkedin, a professional social networking site.  If you are looking for a skill set in a given industry or area of expertise, all you need to do is join the appropriate “group” that focuses on the industry or area you are interested in, and post a brief job listing.  This approach to finding individuals with the right skill set is not only efficient and effective, but it is free. So, take the time to cast a wide net, it will provide you with the best set of candidates for your start-up company’s key positions. 

Do Your Diligence

Finally, do your diligence on any potential key personnel. This includes obtaining at least three references and calling all of them.  But before you do this, take the time to create a question list covering both professional and personal background questions. This list is key to making sure you ask all of the appropriate questions to all of the references during your due diligence process. Asking some questions to some references and other questions to other references will not give you a complete picture of an individual candidate.  You need to necessarily go through all of the questions with each reference, including tough questions. This can include asking what you do not like about that candidate or what personalities of this same individual are tough to deal with in a work environment.  By doing your diligence you will get a good picture the individual in question, in order to make an informed decision.

 Finding the right individuals that will fill key positions in your start-up company is a task that takes time and effort.  To do this you need to clearly define your needs, cast a wide net and do your diligence. This is not always a fun task, but in the end, you will find the best candidates for the key positions to help propel your start-up company forward and ensure both near term and long term success.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Venture Capital | , , , , | Leave a comment