Everyone will go on, song and verse, about how important people and hiring the right additions are. However, when you push a little deeper, you realize that this is the largest blind spot for new entrepreneurs (and many vets).
Recruiting is the biggest black box. How do you find and hire the right team members? Unfortunately, there is no set playbook since every company I have been involved with has approached this from a different angle. Here are some of the best practices I have witnessed:
1) The A Philosophy: Marc Andressen said it best..."A managers hire A lieutinents and B managers hire C lieutinents" because they are threatened. Layout the core elements of your culture and your key success differentiators. Make certain that culture is maintained and the factors dramatically enhanced.
2) Take Your Time: this leads to point two. Be deliberate in your hiring process. You will feel an incredible pressure to get positions filled. However, you are making a covenant with a new hire and the rest of the team when you bring someone on. Settle for "good enough" and a) you will get C-type hires below them and b) will suffer a very disruptive process should you have to unwind them, their hires and their strategy.One simple test...if you feel comfortable giving a major project to your lieutinent and have confidence it will get done perfectly without your intervention, you have the right person. Too often, you will have a deep dread about this and either get pulled back in or find it necessary to intervene (just make certain this isn't you being a control freak...). If you are cleaning up a lot, you have the wrong person. Listen to your gut.
3) Spread the Net: the key to recruiting is getting a wide funnel set. Your best source of leads will be your current employees and close friends/advisors. Continue to build this out and leverage it for help. One of the simplest strategies is to offer a $1-3,000 bounty to employees for sourcing new hires. Figure out the best potential firms to raid from in your world and network (and have your employees network) aggressively into them. Use trade shows, business deals, etc to get to know as many people as possible. Dice, Monster and such are fine, but generally lack the quality you need early on for impact players. These candidates are often out of work which is usually not a good sign.
4) Delegate: the other side of the coin is that Founders often do not bring in the right lieutinents in early enough. They feel a need to have a finger and control in all aspects of the business. There is either a dread to increase burn (good thing) or a guilt about passing on core responsibilities (bad thing). Be careful about burn, but also make certain you have the right lieutinents in place early enough, especially in areas that they bring skills that you lack but need. Start the process early and it will give you the luxury to be demanding.
5) Cut Bait: give your lieutinents clear goals and milestones, give them the resources they need and move quickly when it is clear they are unable to deliver. The start-up is too fragile to act as a training ground at the senior level. Too often, entrepreneurs are too patient with underperformance and it eventually brings the firm down.
6) Let them Shine: if you have hired the right people, let them become the face of the firm. You will cover more ground and build more resilient managers. Divide and conquer on the speaking circuits, the interviews, etc. Let the world know about the depth of your team. You obviously don't do this if they are not strong enough to doo this (however, this fact indicates if you have brought on the right players).
6) Pass the KY: runa rigorous diligence process. Have candidates meet all core managers and potential direct reports. Culture is key and you want to make certain new hires fit in or things will likely fail for non-performance reasons. Also, listen to your (and your team's gut) on hires. If something bothers you, it won't go away and will usually fester into a cancer.
While entrepreneurs will pay lip service to the importance of recruiting and hiring, many, if pushed, are unable to layout the process, culture and specific criteria for key hires beyond rather generic answers. More importantly, the most frequent error is in hiring the "good enough" person because you have either not been demanding enough in your specifications or been to rushed in filling the spot. Wait for the right pitch before swinging.