3 Most Critical HR Challenges for Startup Founders


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Startup founders often have to juggle numerous priorities. When it comes to HR-related tasks, they are often caught up in *tactical* problems instead of *strategic* ones. This presentation outlines 3 critical and strategic challenges that should command significant attention from startup founders (and early stage employees).

This presentation was originally delivered as part of Communitech's Level Up series in Waterloo, Canada.

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  • We’re aware of what this means from a recruiting perspective (and we try to involve advisors) but we don’t always think about it beyond that annecdote
  • http://luclevesque.com/post/15881999207/how-to-help-new-employees-be-rockstars-a-new-approach
  • “If Apple was like everyone else a marketing message might be: We make great computers. They’re user friendly. Want to buy one? …Here’s how Apple actually communicates: everything we do, We believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” So start with why instead of what when you are rethinking your marketing strategy, and this flip can change how people think about your company and why they should do business with you. This applies directly to HR and team leadership
  • Look at the Zappos website…
  • Note that nowhere on this page is anything that says “we sell shoes”
  • Here’s what it looks like at TribeHR
  • 3 Most Critical HR Challenges for Startup Founders

    1. 1. The 3 Most Critical HRChallenges for Startup Founders
    2. 2. Where these opinions came from: 2002 2012 Involved in 5 Startups in the last 10 Years The most important thing I’ve learned from them is the importance of…
    3. 3. Priority 1: Ruthless Prioritization
    4. 4. Spend your time like it costs you $1500per hour
    5. 5. How much is your time worth? Imagine this (crappy) consulting offer: “We agree your time is worth $150/hour. However, we can’t pay you for four years, at which time we will pay you in one lump sum.”Source: Jason Cohen, http://blog.asmartbear.com/value-time.html
    6. 6. Bill Yourself $1500/hr15% chance they exist and pay their bill $150/hr ÷ 15% = $1000/hrAdd 10% annual premium for making you wait $1000 × 1.14 ≈ $1500/hr
    7. 7. The Extremely Scientific Way I Picked The Top 3 Challenges:Would I pay someone $1500/hr if they could solve this problem?
    8. 8. Separate Strategic and TacticalWe don’t often hear about HR as a core challengein startups, but when we do, we hear these:• Recruiting• Development• Project ManagementThese are tactical issues, not strategic ones!!
    9. 9. The 3 Most Critical Challenges• Personality• Transparency• The Why Forward
    10. 10. Challenge 1: Personality Matters
    11. 11. Groupthink is deceptive andImpossible to avoid
    12. 12. Where is it a critical problem?• Groupthink in hiring decisions• Groupthink in product decisions• Groupthink in marketing decisions• Just about everywhere else…
    13. 13. It is Often OversimplifiedBecause we are most comfortable with peoplethat think like ussocial circles and industry groups end up withskewed distributions
    14. 14. We are surrounded by like people (Using the MBTI Indicator, we see some interesting things) General Population Software Engineering Industry "TJ" Other Other "TJ" "FP" "FP"Source: Capretz, LF, Personality types in software engineering,Department of Electrical an Computer Engineering, University of Western Ontario
    15. 15. Ask Yourself:How likely is it, that your customers and/ormarket have the same personality breakdown asyour company?
    16. 16. Tactics to Overcome Problem Areas Marketing  Customer Personas Customer Support & Sales  Customer Profiles UX Design  Verify & Mouseflow Product Management  Customer Shadows
    17. 17. Conflicting voices will emergeand must be embraced
    18. 18. This Can Be Very Isolating… CEO VP Sales Developer Developer
    19. 19. The Hardest Personality Problem“If You Wanna Make The World A Better PlaceTake A Look At Yourself, And Then Make AChange” - Michael Jackson
    20. 20. How do I setup a mirror for myself?Here’s how one Canadian entrepreneur tacklesit: he gives a blueprint of his quirks to new staff
    21. 21. To Solve for Personality We Need To…• Counteract type clustering• Reinforce idea that differences are good• Constantly use that mirror
    22. 22. Challenge 2: Transparency
    23. 23. How much transparency is theright amount?
    24. 24. Here is an example TribeHR BoardMeeting AgendaLet’s highlight the sections we share with staffafter the meeting
    25. 25. We Are Easily Tripped-Up By• Shifting Priorities (e.g. Product Roadmap)• Over-Weighting (e.g. Investor Relations)• Irrelevance (e.g. Corporate Structure)
    26. 26. Issues of TransparencyCost You Speed
    27. 27. Speed is Critically ImportantIn a startup, you have limited time. Use thehighway analogy – you’ll see why. You’re in a car, travelling from A to B (100 miles away). You hit traffic and it takes you an hour to travel ½ way, how fast do you need to go for the last part of the trip to average 100 mph? Answer: It’s impossible – you’d have to teleport instantly
    28. 28. To Solve for Transparency We Need To…• Determine the right level of sharing• Adjust that level as the company grows
    29. 29. Challenge 3: The Why Forward
    30. 30. Dan Pink is way smarterthan I am …
    31. 31. … and so is Simon Sinek
    32. 32. Early Team Members are Flag-Bearers• Formal On-Boarding• Articulating Company Values• Championing Your CultureIf you can help them understand the “why”, theycan take care of the rest.
    33. 33. To Drive The Why Forward We Need To…• Figure out the “why” for ourselves• Share it with the team• Trust them to run with it
    34. 34. The 3 Most Critical HR Challenges• Personality (distribution, conflict & mirror)• Transparency (identify level & adjust)• The Why Forward (identify & communicate)
    35. 35. Feel free to connect at joseph@tribehr.com http://www.linkedin.com/in/josephfung http://www.twitter.com/josephfungPhoto CreditsBrain Hue Collection - http://www.flickr.com/people/lapolab/White Vinegar - www.flickr.com/people/mgrimord/Wrestling - http://www.flickr.com/people/slagheap/Flow_Charts - http://www.flickr.com/people/reactionphotography/Milestone - http://www.flickr.com/people/mdesive/