I’ve always believed that a talented team is one of the biggest asset a company can offer when it comes to attracting talented people. This is particularly true in creative positions such as software engineers, researchers or artists in which talent is as important as knowledge. Last week, I got a firsthand example of this at Tellago.
A couple of weeks ago, we extended an offer to a top engineer of one of our competitors to join our team. To not disclose names, let’s just call him Andrew. From the beginning Andrew was clearly attracted to join our team but he expressed some concerns about the change. At the end, excepting a significantly higher salary and the opportunity of working in our team, the position had little benefits compared to his current job. We were asking him to leave a team leader position to go back to be a developer, put up with the madness of a fast growing company and transition from being “The Man” in his current employer to being another engineer in our team. To that, you can add that our competitor was doing everything possible to retain Andrew by offering even better benefits.
During a Tellago management meeting, I expressed some concerns that Andrew might not accept our offer. Almost immediately, a couple of my colleagues who had been in similar situations to Andrew’s before joining Tellago asked to talk to him directly. Even though I was surprised by this reaction, I was very intrigued and definitely pleased by the initiative shown by my team and so gave them the green light to talk to Andrew.
The next day, we received a call from Andrew accepting our offer and expressing how excited he was to join Tellago.
When I asked my colleagues the details about the conversation all I heard was “J, don’t worry, we got this…”
There are a few important lessons to be drawn by this story which, as entrepreneurs, sometimes we forget as we get caught up in the intensity of running the day by day operations of our companies.
Is not about money
You see it all the time with organizations like Google, the US Basketball Dream Team or the MIT Media Lab in which talented people make serious concessions in order to work in more interesting environments in which they have the opportunity to accomplish things that matter, things that can have an impact in the world.
As a startup, you should look for people who will make your company better and that are passionate about building great things. Money is very important and you should offer your employees competitive salaries, high bonuses, and the opportunity of growing with your company, but I will go as far as saying that, as a startup, you SHOULD NOT HIRE PEOPLE THAT ARE PRIMARILY DRIVEN BY MONEY. In the long run, those people won’t make your company better and they are likely to not stand by your side when you face difficult times ( and, trust me, you will face difficult times )
Nothing attracts talent more than talent
Talented people are naturally attracted to work with other talented people. If you have a uniquely talented team, then other people in the space will be attracted to join your company and it will be up to you to keep the high standards. An important lesson to learn here the best talent are not the people who excel individually as engineers, programmers or architects but the people who, in addition to that, have the ability of making everybody around them better
Let your team recruit for you
Seeing your team market your company and recruit people for you is one of the most gratifying feelings you will ever had as an entrepreneur. If you are truly building a different company, one that makes a difference in the lives of your employees, then your team will be proud to share that message and recruit other people they will enjoy working with.
Highlight your weaknesses
As a startup, a lot of times you won’t be able to offer the same benefits or working conditions as bigger firms. Things like normal working hours, large offices or big benefits packages are difficult to offer in your early days as a company particularly if you are bootstrapping the company. A lot of startups try to hide those aspects and make artificial promises to their employees instead of focusing on their core values. The fact of the matter is that none of those things is really fundamental to the success of your company. Instead of seeing those things as limitations you should use them to your advantage and tell everybody about it.
At Tellago, it took us almost one year before we decided to open an office but, instead, our employees enjoy working from home most of the time and their productivity levels were incredible. We rarely work 8 hour days but, instead, we guaranteed you will be working on exciting projects with new technologies. More importantly, we are always honest and transparent about the state of our companies and our immediate plans.
Even though a lot of the reflections expressed in this post seem obvious, it took us some time to embrace them and put in practice at Tellago and Tellago Studios. As of this moment, Andrew is scheduled to start at Tellago in the next few weeks and we couldn’t be more excited about it.