By Sabrina Kelly, Techstars Vice President of People Operations
At Techstars, we define our mission in People Ops as the following: “We are strategic partners in building Techstars business by maximizing the value of our most important asset—our people. We attract, retain, develop, and support Techstars employees globally and aim to uphold our culture and values, in a manner that is inclusive to all.”
As VP of People Ops, I hear a lot of questions from founders. This series aims to answer the most frequent questions.
Q: What is the single biggest People Ops mistake you see startups make?
Hiring the wrong leaders and not course correcting soon enough.
Hiring leadership is hard at any stage, but there is a crazy amount of pressure on startup founders to hire them quickly. It’s really easy for founders to lose sight of the values that are important to them in these hires, due to pressure from the Board or other advisors on “who” and “what” is right for their business. This whiplash is amplified by the fact that they likely have a bunch of employees that need experienced leadership, and they are band-aiding that at the moment themselves.
Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.
My advice, as impossible as it might sound, is to take the time to get it right: be extremely thoughtful about the profile you are looking for, get alignment with your leadership team on how to interview, proactively source from diverse pipelines or hire a recommended agency to support. Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.
So, what if you do all of that and in six months you start to sense that it’s not working? As painful as it might be, you need to dedicate the time to figure out what the problem is—and if you find out it’s them, you let that person go as soon as humanly possible. It might feel like the company will crumble if you have to start over, but that pain is nothing in comparison to what can happen if you put up with the wrong leader for too long.
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