Startup Playbook: 5 Ways to Think Like A Coach When It’s Time to Recruit New Hires

I’m sure at some point you have heard this expression in sports, “You win in the locker room first then on the field.” As cliché as it may seem...

I’m sure at some point you have heard this expression in sports, “You win in the locker room first then on the field.” As cliché as it may seem I tell you from experience, truer words were never spoken.

The same holds true in business, you win in the office first then in the marketplace.

My experience as a consultant, with client turned business associate Chris Parisi, CEO of Turf Dawg USA, reflects this. I began working with Parisi in 2008 as he built his sports footwear accessory startup from the ground up.

Over the years it became evident to us both that there is nothing more important to the success of any organization or team than the relationship between recruitment and culture. With a startup recruiting people that are the right fit for your company culture sets the tone for everything you do.

How do you ensure the right fit?

It is not an exact science and there is an art to selecting the right team members. Parisi has a keen awareness of this and our work together has provided a blueprint of five steps to help you shape your recruitment to fit the culture of your startup.

1. Recruit for work ethic and passion first, experience second.

With a start up there is twice as much work to do and you need teammates who can count on one another. Experience in the field can be gained with time. Passion and work ethic typically cannot, so recruit people who bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm to their work.

According to Parisi, “Our passion is the fuel that sustains us when we encounter obstacles.”

2. Recruit for resilience first, winning second.

Parisi explained to me this method put into practice, “Our company began with a direct sales model and success was limited. In order to grow revenue our team had to blaze new trails: recruiting retail partners and team dealers as well as partnership with a national charity and its celebrity spokesman.”

As many startups learn, you cannot afford to recruit people who expect to walk into a situation where they think they will simply win right away. You need trailblazers who are mentally tough enough to venture into the unknown.

3. Recruit for flexibility and agility first, “salesmanship” second.

Only one Turf Dawg employee has a true “sales background” and sales experience isn’t what got him hired. His background as a versatile football player with upstart University of Connecticut impressed Parisi more than his success in pharmaceutical sales.

Customer development is a commonly misunderstood concept with startups. The traditional sales professional isn’t going to be the right fit 99% of the time. With a start up, employees tend to perform multiple roles until they build a track record of performance and the subsequent role clarity that then can accompany it.

Unknowns and change dominate the day to day operation of a business and this is something many sales people aren’t comfortable with. For example, in 2008 Turf Dawg’s Unknowns and Changes were:

– What is your market?

– What does the ideal client look like?

– Who is the buyer and decision maker?

– What’s the best pricing and discount structure?

Today, Turf Dawg’s unknowns and changes include deciphering the best sales channels, client base, margins, pricing, terms.


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