Week one of Junto II concluded last week with the class, Hiring, Managing & Firing. Led by the always-entertaining, full-of-conviction, and ridiculously-experienced Jay Goltz, the class was moved up in the program because of what we learned last year: building a business is really all about the people.
Contrary to popular opinion, it's not the funding, the product, the market, or the competition. It's not the marketing plan, financial management, sales strategy, or operations. Every one of those is dependent on having the right people. And we're worried that the subject of people - not just the founding team - doesn't get enough coverage in the startup ecosystem.
The people make the business, from hire #1. It's their talents, experiences, and skills that help build the product, find the market, or beat the competition. From the very beginning, the people matter more than anything else. But how do great companies find and hire the right people?
As Jay put so emphatically, "Great companies have well-tuned hiring practices." They put systems into place that are followed consistently in order to produce desired results. From the writing of the job description (attract the right people) to the interview process (get prospects to be as candid as possible) to reference-checking (confirm their capabilities), great companies and their leaders spend the necessary time to get it right. That's what "hire slow" means.
In addition to the right systems, great companies also set high standards. For instance, if a company cares deeply about quality (what great company wouldn't?), then it would have zero tolerance for typos on a resume. After all, if a job candidate isn't able or willing to ensure their own resume is perfect, how can a company expect him to do the highest quality work? Or if a company actually checks references, its standard may be to ask for contacts who had a working relationship with the job candidate and can share character and job performance feedback (in other words, not be restricted by corporate rules).
Hiring is far too important for any young and growing company to ignore creating systems and setting standards. In fact, we believe it's the most important activity for any startup. And the ones that put in the time and effort - and continually improve - are the ones that go on to become great companies.
One of the main lessons learned from Junto I was the power of including key employees in the learning process for company founders. So for Junto II, we put that lesson learned into action: each company is now able to have up to four founders and key employees participate in the program.
During Jay Goltz's class, we could see and feel the effects of this change. Two big takeaways for us:
- The key employees who attended can reflect back on how they were hired and provide priceless feedback to the company founders.
- That can lead to a conversation on how to improve the hiring process, helping the key employees shape the company's culture immediately, but in a more strategic and intentional way.