It is always good to get an experienced opinion, so when Hermione Way asked if I had some questions to put to Michael Smith on Techfluff.tv I got typing. Michael Smith is co-founder of firebox.com (turnover £12m) and CEO of Mind Candy. I squeezed two questions into my 140 characters of twitter message:
@bmje: What defines the difference between a good and a bad startup? What are the most important things in hiring a team?
…so I would say that the most important thing for a start up is people. One of my mantras is to hire slowly and fire fast. It is absolutely critical that you have a great team around you that believe in the product and are passionate about it. As soon as you get a few people who are “average” or only “quite good”, it can affect the whole team; it can damage the dna of the whole business as you go forward. So it is critical that you keep a very high bar there. There are lots of other things that are important. Focus – not getting too distracted. So many different directions a start-up can go in but you have got to remain very very focussed on your core business. A great quote that Danny Rimer uses – some great American entrepreneur said this “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – and I totally agree with that.
Or, to quote a US company chairman I worked with “focus like a laser beam”. You can see the whole first episode of techfluff.tv here including a must-see British version of the elevator pitch: the escalator pitch. If you are in the position to be hiring staff, you might want to read Keeping Notes and Hiring Good People, which expands on Michael’s points.