Which Roles Should Startups Hire For First?

By Tanisha Lele

“You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible.”

Paul Graham 

Starting a business is far from a piece of cake. It requires great planning, the savvy needed to generate funds, and most importantly, some really capable hands to run it smoothly. 

Aside from the challenges of management, being a founder initially also requires a lot of cost-cutting. This leads a lot of startups to work with freelancers, which can certainly be cost-saving, but there are some key roles that one should most definitely not compromise on when hiring. Without these roles, a business’s team remains incomplete, which also reduces its human resources and growth potential. 

Therefore, without any second-guessing, an entrepreneur should hire for these roles right away: 

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) 

Although it probably goes without saying, the CEO is essentially the guiding hand of the company’s strategy, and has the most authority when it comes to business decisions, particularly in the early stages of a startup’s life. This person shapes and builds the organization’s vision – it is under their direction that the firm functions. The CEO’s management style also establishes the workplace culture, something that is very hard to change later on.

Finding a candidate suitable for this role is the toughest part, as this person can make or break your business Nonetheless, it is absolutely essential for this role to be filled before any other. In most cases, the founder, or one of the co-founders, takes up this role – both in order to stay true to the founders’ original vision, and because it is often difficult to entrust an outsider with this level of responsibility.

Chief Operations Officer (COO) 

The COO looks after the startup’s day-to-day functions and ensures that the work gets done. Just like the CEO’s role, it’s usually one of the founders who assumes this responsibility. They also have to know the business inside and out – a big ask, but not impossible for an external hire to learn as long as they’re brought in early. 

Product Manager

This person looks after all things related to your tech solution or physical product, and therefore, should be at the top of your hiring list if you intend to have anything to sell. The success of a product, curating a strategy and roadmap for the development process, and even defining the product line, are some of their responsibilities.

This position is somewhat similar to that of a brand manager. The product manager also sets a vision for the product, and works toward its development. Hiring for this spot, rather than handling it internally, can also help entrepreneurs revisualize their initial concepts or even change some things for the better.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO) 

Though this may not have been an essential role a few decades ago, digital transformation is important for every business, not just tech startups alone. The CTO is the person responsible for making technology-related decisions, including creating policies around the build-out and usage of technology.  

Having an individual specifically dedicated to technology and development is a must for tech startups, and fairly important for startups in non-tech fields as well. Everything from the choice of hardware, to the organization’s use of third-party technologies, is decided and tested by this person. 

Chief Marketing Officer 

We are living in times of cut-throat competition and it isn’t shocking for an exceptional product to do poorly or go unnoticed. All of this depends on how you market your brand and product. 

Today, social media and the Internet are the main avenues for companies to bond with their customers. It takes skill to leave a good impression based on what is often just a few seconds of facetime with a potential customer. 

Here’s where the person looking after all your marketing comes into the picture. They decide who your target audience is and how to win them over. This person is responsible for shaping how your customers view your product or service. No matter how revolutionary your product is, without this person, your product might not seem as impressive. Therefore, it is important to hire for this position as soon as your product is designed and approved, and make sure the person you hire believes in the product as much as you do. 

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Idowu Koyenikan rightly wrote in his book Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability, “If you are going to be in business, you must learn about money: how it works, how it flows, and how to put it to work for you.” 

It is crucial for every business to have someone who is solely responsible for managing the money. That’s precisely where the CFO comes in. They keep an account of the company’s finances, something that is of utmost importance especially in the initial years. All issues relating to the handling of money are borne by this person, including keeping track of debts or payments to other entities. This role is essential for ensuring financial security and stability in the long-term. 

In conclusion, while it may seem extremely daunting to fill all the roles mentioned above, especially with the limited funds that startups have, it is a step that you have to take in order to progress and make sure that your business runs smoothly. 

These skilled hires will not only add to the value of your organization, but will also become its pillars. And it is no secret that a company with a strong team only flourishes.

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