Recruiting is one of the most important jobs an entrepreneur has in the early stages of setting up his or her company for success. After all, people are the most valuable resource at any company, and when you bring in a co-founder, you’re starting a new relationship that requires nurturing and mutual support. It’s very important to approach this task with enthusiasm and transparency.
Bootstrapping a startup is an excellent way to validate your assumptions about the company you plan to start. Researching and learning about the market you’re addressing without spending a lot of money helps pinpoint where your product is going to have the most impact and gives you a better understanding of what you will need to make it a success. At a certain point, you’ll know if it’s the right time to knock on investors’ doors or go at it with no investment. Regardless, you should have an understanding of what you need for success.
Here are 5 things you shouldn’t do when you start bootstrapped recruiting that will help point you in the right direction.
1. Don’t ask anyone to sign an NDA to hear your idea
NDA might as well stand for “Not Doing Anything.” There are certain cases where NDAs are absolutely necessary. For instance, an NDA makes sense after you have spent 500 hours developing an idea that is not patentable and hasn’t been released to the public yet. When you’re at the idea stage and trying to recruit other co-founders, secrecy is not your friend.
As an entrepreneur, you should be approaching problems that you have expertise in and are passionate about. Other people will be drawn to work with you based on your own excitement to solve the problem and the advantages you bring to the table like industry knowledge or special connections.
2. Don’t assume people understand your idea is a good one
You’re probably thinking about your business day and night. You go to bed late working, dream about the problem you’re solving or product you’re building, and wake up early in the morning for meetings. It’s important to remember that the people you’re trying to recruit haven’t been doing that. It can be really easy to pitch everything from the “big picture” and skip through some of the less fun details about how you are going to get there.
It’s best to treat your interviews like you might treat investor pitches. Make sure you walk through everything with lots of detail and let the person ask as many questions as possible.
3. Don’t try to recruit too early
Before you have any conversations with anyone about building a team you need to understand why you’re building the team. Following the 500 Startups model of hacker, hustler, and designer is not enough. You need to know your personal strengths and weaknesses and be able to articulate what the team really needs to be successful. Having an amazingly clear understanding of the market you’re entering and the competitive landscape is a must. Not having reasonable answers to questions in these areas is almost always a deal breaker.
Giving a potential co-founder the sense that you will be able to execute on a well-thought-out plan is extremely important. Side note: Your plan is going to change 100 times, but you still need to show your ability think critically about your situation in a holistic way.
4. Don’t ask people to work for free
Be transparent about your expectations, goals, and timelines. The people you’re talking to are intelligent enough to understand the situation. Everyone is working for equity including you, so be generous and fair with equity splits and have paperwork drafted up right away. It’s also worth checking out Orrick’s Start-Up Tool Kit for resources and pre-drafted contracts.
5. Don’t bullshit statistics
It’s easy to spout off stats that back up your statements based on something you remember reading before or something someone told you once, but just don’t do it. Make sure and keep all of your reference material and that it comes from a legitimate source. You lose all credibility if you can’t back up the stats that show your business’ target audience, the revenue your project could generate, and other important details.