Any solo founder who has tried to raise financing knows the conundrum: Investors want to invest in a team and recruits want to join investor-backed startups. It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem. While this problem is peculiar to early-stage ventures, the solution may come from the Fortune 500.
In big business, experienced executives set strategy and their junior colleagues execute the tactics. There’s a clear division of labor. Founders of early-stage startups are indoctrinated to be “lean,” so the thought of recruiting multiple people to fulfill one particular role seems counterintuitive. We want to hire one rockstar with the experience to guide strategy and the time (and risk tolerance) to execute the tactics. If this is your strategy, I’d advise keeping your day job for now.
Fortunately, by segmenting your operational needs into strategic and tactical tasks, you just may be able to recruit the talent you need to attract investors and break through the conundrum.
1. Identify Experienced Advisors to Help Craft the Strategy
In setting the strategic vision for your company, you’ll want input from experienced operators who have been there before. Unfortunately, it is difficult to lure these seasoned operators away from better-paying, more secure opportunities. Fortunately, you don’t have to – simply offer them a spot on your board of advisors in exchange for a small amount of equity. While keeping their (paying) day jobs, these advisors will help you establish strategic objectives and should participate in monthly calls to discuss your progress, challenges and next steps. It’s a small ask that can produce tremendous results.
2. Recruit Junior Talent to Help Execute the Tactics
But what happens between advisor meetings? How do you actually get sh*t done? With strategic tasks covered, you can focus on recruiting tactical talent, with a different set of attributes – time, risk tolerance and a willingness to learn – attributes that are plentiful on any college campus. College students and recent grads have a demonstrated ability to learn, think and follow through. They are also better positioned to dedicate time to, and bear the risk of, a new startup compared to seasoned operators. Under the guidance of a strategic advisor, your inexperienced tactician will learn and grow, helping your new venture do the same.
By segmenting your (marketing, product, sales) needs into strategic and tactical tasks, you can recruit a two-headed monster capable of replacing the rockstar early hire you hope to stumble upon while playing quidditch with the tooth fairy to win a pot of gold found at the end of a rainbow.