Tips On Hiring and Retaining Remote Employees for Early Stage Startups
Here at Altcoin Fantasy — a crypto trading simulation game that have taught thousands how to trade cryptocurrencies risk-free — we pride ourselves on having a completely remote and distributed team as an early stage start up. Starting a start up is a monumental task and a key ingredient to having a successful company is to have a high functioning team. I personally worked as a remote employee for 3 years prior to launching Altcoin Fantasy and I see the potential in remote work, so I try to take a very different approach than other startups. The traditional thinking when it comes to early stage startups is that everybody needs to be in the same room at the same time. However, what we found was that for motivated self starters, being in the same physical location doesn’t necessary mean more output. By not limiting ourselves to a certain geographical unit, the pool of Total Addressable Self Starters (aka TASSes) increases dramatically. In this article we will share what worked well for us as a company and tips on how to hire and retain remote employees and contractors for an early stage startup.
Tips On Finding Great Candidates
This is a little paradoxical, but the single most important thing you can do to find the best candidates is to actually let them find you. We have hired employees and contractors that believe in the product so much that they want to come on board to help drive the company forward. Now you might be thinking, how can I do this? There are 2 strategies that we used to do this:
Strategy #1 – Talk to your users on your platform
Look no further than your users if you want to recruit passionate team members! There’s a few reasons why this is ideal. First off, they love your product and they are passionate about your offering. Often times these are the most motivated people who you should bring on your team. We have a company goal each week to interview 8 users on our platform. We use Mautic, an open source automation marketing tool to schedule personalized e-mails to our new users after specific triggers happen (in our case after they traded for a few days). This is an example of an e-mail we send to our engaged users:
With this strategy, we are able to get a great open and response rate. The really passionate users will want to talk to you and through this approach, we were able to recruit a few of our employees/contractors.
Strategy #2 – Post your product to niche sites/blogs that are in your vertical
Another strategy that yielded success for us was to post our product on sites where our potential future employees frequented. One example is Indie Hackers, a site for entrepreneurs to document their startup journey and a founder centric site. We were able to get a few inbound candidates via this approach after we detailed our startup story and eventually brought on a Head of Partnerships this way.
Tips On Vetting Candidates
There are a lot of people who say they can help with your company, but there are only a few who are truly self starters and can contribute to a high functioning team. Therefore, it’s imperative to vet the candidates first. Our manifesto when it comes to bringing people on to the team is that a bad hire is worse than a “no hire”. It will negatively impact the culture, the velocity of the team, and also the overall speed of innovation. I’ll share a few tips here to help vet out the candidates.
Tip # 1 – Have more than a few conversations first before going forward
This seems like a no brainer, but really take the time to have more than just a few conversations before potentially bringing someone on board. It’s very important that both parties are in alignment with the company’s vision and values. Ask for time commitments and any other engagements that the candidate has to ensure they have time to devote to your company. I’d say the average number of meetings we have before we send out a contract is around 4 or 5.
Tip # 2 – Ask for references and talk to them and make sure they are trusted sources of truth
When you are ready to move to the next stage of the process, be sure to ask for at least 3 references related to the role you’re hiring for to gauge their history. Specifically, try to determine their level or autonomy, how well they are able to work remotely, and what business impact the candidate brought to the company. Since it’s an early stage company, ask about initiatives they took to drive the growth of the company. Also make sure that the references you talk to are legitimate and not friends of the candidate.
Tip # 3 – Have advisors/co-founder do separate interviews
It’s good to have another opinion when it comes to cultural fit and gauging a person, so don’t be afraid to ask an advisor or your co-founder to do an interview or even just a chat with the candidate to ensure the values and the goals of the company are aligned with the candidate and vice versa.
Tip # 4 – Have a trial period with clearly defined deliverables
In an early stage startup, there is no slack for inefficiencies. Therefore, each person that comes on board needs to deliver. Having a very defined goal for the hire is a very important thing to do as you want to clearly tie the value that the person will bring with deliverables for the company. For example, if you were to hire someone to do sales and/or partnerships, you would set a quota for that person and then check in with them each week. Here at Altcoin Fantasy, we usually have a trial period of 1 month just to ensure that both sides are aligned with the company goals.
Tips On Retaining Employees
Great employees and contractors have a variety of options when it comes to employment. Therefore, it is imperative that you, as a founder, ensure the high performing employees are happy and motivated. In the book High Output Management (a must read for founders), Andrew Grove talks about the main duties of a successful manager. One of the things that you should be doing is consistently gathering information to ensure that everyone on the team is performing at a high level and contributing to the growth of the company. Another thing you should be doing is nudging people and guiding them through challenges. As a manager and a co-founder, you don’t want to dictate to people because employees would lose their sense of autonomy, which is the whole point of having the freedom to work remotely. So how do you retain your star remote employees?
Tip #1 – Have weekly 1 on 1s
One of your main jobs as a manager is to gather information and having weekly 1 on 1s will enable this. In addition to updating the employee on the company health, you are also trying to gauge the level of motivation and to spot any issues that can cause issues down the road. Therefore, it’s imperative that these be done, especially for remote workers since they don’t see you in person on a regular basis.
Tip #2 – Always pay the performant employees/contractors promptly
This is one thing I learned from my Dad, who had a business for many years. You want to keep good employees and contractors and show them you appreciate them by promptly paying them. This is often overlooked by busy founders and managers but having been on the other side of the role myself, it was always a nice token of appreciation from the company when I was promptly paid.
Tip #3 – Don’t micromanage
Don’t try to be a micromanager by always having to double check a remote employee’s work. Instead, sample their work, if it’s good, then decrease the sampling rate; if it’s not, then provide guidance on it and/or increase the sampling rate until you are satisfied with their work. Andrew Grove also talks about this in his book High Output Management.
Tip #4 – Give people the benefit of the doubt, but don’t be too lax if they repeatedly non-perform
See the good in people and realize the fact that people have personal lives. Set deadlines and very clear objectives. If those deadlines and objectives are repeated not met, then bring it up right away in a timely manner and work together on creating a plan where your employee can meet their goals.
Tip #5 – Share any small wins with the team
There are a lot of moving pieces in a startup and as such, you as the founder/manager, need to communicate to the team. I personally share any small wins (ie. good chat with a potential partner, weekly stats showing progress, any mentions of Altcoin Fantasy in the news) to the team. Develop a culture where people are encouraged to celebrate small wins in life and keep the motivation fuel tank full.
Tip #6 – Be on call 24/7 to help
You are the manager/founder, so you need to be very available to any of the employees/contractors. That’s not to say you shouldn’t sleep at all, but do be very mindful that in most cases these remote workers are from all over the world, so Mean Time to Response (MTR) is very important. When they’re blocked, the efficiency of the company suffers as a whole.
Tip #7 – Visit them!
Try and take the opportunity to visit your contractors/employees in person! With the digital age, it’s easy to just video conference, but nothing beats physical face to face time as you will build trust and camaraderie with your employees and they will be more likely to stay and be loyal to the company.
Finding great remote employees is no easy feat. Finding great remote employees while you’re an early stage startup is even harder. Your job as a founder is to ensure that the people you bring on to the team are high performing and share the same vision of the company that you do.
Do you have any other tips when it comes to hiring great remote workers or employees in general as an early stage startup? If so, leave them in the comments! Meanwhile, if you’re interested to learn more about the best and most realistic cryptocurrency trading simulator and potentially win weekly prizes, head on over to Altcoin Fantasy! Looking to join us? We’re hiring a Rails developer! Let us know 🙂