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Posted On January 30th, 2018 by Crowded Ocean

Startup CEOs: Overpay for initial employees

As 2017 ended, a number of forums asked startup CEOs the most valuable lessons they’d learned in their first forays into leadership. And the topic that came up the most was attracting and retaining those key initial employees.

The bottom line they discovered—and that we’ve seen in our work with nearly 50 startups—is that the days of the starry-eyed, ‘anything for the company’ employee are over. It’s a jungle out there—and the big animals (Google, Facebook, Apple) are offering both job security and top-dollar salaries.

So what’s a startup CEO to do? Well, first off, the one advantage you have over the Big Boys is founder’s equity. For many early/critical employees the romance of the startup is still there—especially if it’s complemented by stock. So use your equity both generously and wisely to attract—and most importantly, to retain—those critical employees.

Finally, at the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, know your prospects’ “currency”—what matters most to them. If it is, in fact, currency itself, then you’re screwed, since you can’t compete with the Big Boys. But take a look at the imaginative practices of other companies (such as Netflix’s self-policing vacation policy) and put them to use in creating the kind of culture and environment that will make you attractive—initially and in the long term.

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