7 Qualities of Successful Startup Employees

Updated: August 6, 2017

Finding the right employees to help you grow a business is a concern for all employers, but it is critical for startup companies.

Hiring the right people can make or break your business in the early years. Here are seven qualities to look for in potential employees that are indicative of someone that will be successful in a startup environment.

1. Love of Egalitarianism

Successful startup employees are people who work best in an egalitarian environment, where all employees are on equal footing working towards a common goal.

They prefer transparency in company decision-making because it allows them to fully understand the company’s mission and goals.

Employees that are successful in a startup environment are also those who are willing to wear many hats in the process of getting their job done, whether they need to help paint the conference room before a big meeting or do all of their photocopying themselves rather than relying on an assistant to do it for them.

2. Preference for Action

Startup companies need to accomplish a lot in order to make it in this competitive market. They need all employees to think carefully and quickly, and put their plans into action right away.

There is no time for a long series of meetings to slowly deliberate over every tiny detail of a plan before putting it into action.

Successful startup employees are comfortable thinking on the fly, making quick decisions independently, and working until the job is done. They would rather do something than talk about it.


3. Flexibility

Employees that thrive in a startup environment are flexible.

They enjoy being allowed to have a flexible schedule by their employer, and in return are usually willing to work nights, weekends, and take on new responsibilities when it is needed to get a product out, meet a deadline, or fix a problem.

This comes down to respect and personal responsibility. Good employees expect respect for their time from their employers, and will respect their employer’s needs in return.

4. Resourcefulness

Funds are usually tight in a startup company, and employees that know how to make the best use of available resources will contribute to the business’ success.

Looking for ways to accomplish more with less should be second nature to people interested in working for a startup. If an employee is used to spending money in order to solve problems rather than thinking their way through them, then they are not a good fit for a startup environment.

5. Focus on the Mission

Startups are usually highly focused enterprises, with one or two specific products being sold.

All hands need to be focused on directly supporting the company’s mission by whatever means necessary, rather than focusing on busywork associated with their job.

If an employee makes a presentation, then they should focus on clearly communicating information rather than making the fanciest slides of anyone in the company.

Employees need to be interested in getting things done, and getting the right things done.

6. Results-Oriented

Going and in hand with being focused on the company’s mission, a successful startup employee is someone who is focused on getting results rather than refining the process they use to get the results. That can come later.

The first couple of years of a business’ life are critical to its success, and every employee needs to be focused on getting the needed results to support the business’ growth.

Employees should be enabled to do so by clear directions from management, as is done at Hampton Creek Foods.

7. Independent Thinker

There is a lot of autonomy for employees working in a startup environment, and so a successful startup employee will be someone who is comfortable and productive while working independently.

Being able to solve problems on their own is necessary when employees are in the field or working late at night and there is no one in management around to ask for help from.

Someone who enjoys working independently, both in situations where they are working alone and working in teams independent of the chain of command, will do well in a startup environment.

In Summary

Employees who do well at mid-sized or large companies have different qualities from those best suited for startup companies. People who do well in a startup environment are independent, results-driven, flexible, and focused. They highly value their autonomy, equality in the workplace, and transparency from their employer.

By looking for these seven things in prospective employees, leaders can make hiring decisions that will support the success of their new business.

This article is written by Robert Suez, a venture capitalist from California.

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