Entrepreneurs who create their team of people to launch a company are in the position to create the soul of the company from the start. Recruiting your initial team of employees and leaders sets the stage for determining workplace values and whether the work environment will be cooperative or competitive in nature.

Get one thing right

Recruiting the right group of individuals that meld into a collaborative, finely-tuned workforce goes beyond a potential candidate’s resume. According to a Harvard Business Review interview with Andreas Ehn, co-founder and chief technology officer of Wrapp, a digital gift card service, the keys to leading high-growth, technology-driven startups is recruiting.   “If you can get only one thing right, it’s recruiting. You need to find excellent people who are a good fit and outstanding in their fields. Everything else is secondary,” states Ehn. 

Entrepreneurs and small business start-up professionals need to ask hard questions about the workplace culture they desire before the hiring process begins. To put top talent in key positions, ask questions such as: 

  • What is the company’s vision?
  • What culture dynamic am I seeking for the workplace?
  • What employee attributes, skills, and experience level do I need?
  • What is my process for company growth and employee development through training? 

Wise business founders and entrepreneurs answer these questions with conscious choices; otherwise decisions are made by default and become reactive instead of proactive. Excellent, ethical, organizations aren’t born without conscious and persistent effort–you need the right employee mix and culture to start with.  

Recruiting for start-up companies is difficult to say the least. They lack brand recognition, proven track records, and longevity. Founders must be adept at explaining their vision and mission to talented candidates and get them to take a leap of faith on the founder’s vision. These new hires will initially forgo higher salaries to mold the company and its global reputation. Business founders must realize they need to hire individuals of varying skills and expertise who also share the dream and ethics of the business founder. Bad hires are costly to start-ups, drain energy, kill productivity, and ultimately the startup.

So just how do you onboard the best new hires that will grow with a company?

Here is how Southwest Airlines handles the recruitment of top talent that has the skills and behavioral attitudes they seek: 

Over the years, Southwest Airlines has elevated the practice of identifying its most valuable performers and understanding what makes them tick. They have devised interviews, group exercises, and other techniques to probe for those same attributes in new employees. They start with a group interview of potential candidates and give them a scenario where they have to brainstorm as a group to solve a problem scenario and make some hard decisions in a very limited time frame. 

Southwest Airline judges watch intently to see which candidates speak out forcefully, hang back, become diplomats to calm tempers, and who will ultimately crack under the strain. The judges are not looking for the right answer. They’re looking for the right attitude. “It doesn’t matter what solution the group comes up with,” says Sherry Phelps, who spent over 30 years as part of the company’s People Department. “What matters is how they’re interacting with each other. Who’s emerging as a leader? Who’s soliciting other people’s help? We’re not interested in specific answers or a particular style. We’re looking for what makes you who you are.” 

Onboarding Resources for Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

Start-ups obviously aren’t as big or have the deep pockets like Southwest Airlines. However, they do need readily accessible resources and business tools to streamline the hiring process and create the foundation of their business culture.

The TIGERS Team Wheel Game, for example,  is a proven business development resource that helps business founders and entrepreneurs determine their work place cultures, reveal employee skill sets, and discover strengths and weaknesses of candidates and employees alike. With a time limit of 30 – 45 minutes set for game play and then two to three hours of debrief directed toward building consensus for cultural understandings , startup founders catalyze clear direction of how to: 

  • Reduce laborious, time consuming interviews that reveal little about the candidate and get the answers they seek
  • Uncover candidate attributes that aren’t a good “fit” for the organizational culture
  • Discover the personality types, natural traits and abilities, behavioral styles, and values in candidates that match their own values.
  • Find potential candidates that solve problems…not create new ones
  • Remove culture conflict in the workplace, which establishes sustainable  productivity 

Niche Memberships Provide a Wealth of Information and Business Tools

Founders and entrepreneurs just starting or expanding their new business venture have little funds for a full time training or organizational development professional. Look for reputable organizations that can provide the tools you need to build a “dream team” of employees and expand your business. For instance TIGERS Success Series offers a tiered membership for business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders to ensure a successful start-up and on-boarding of employees to create a cooperative and productive work environment. With membership to any reputable organization, you should expect:

  • Monthly newsletters
  • Training pod casts
  • Webinars – often many are complimentary to members
  • Discounts on resources and tools
  • A global community of like minded individuals to brain storm and troubleshoot workplace issues
  • Private coaching sessions 


As a startup founder or entrepreneur, recruit for complementary skills and cultural fit.  Utilize the various business tools and resources offered by niche organizations to guide you through the pitfalls of recruiting to hire top talent that will bring cohesion to the workplace and a profitable bottom line to the company.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series by Dianne Crampton  


About Dianne:

Dianne  Crampton is the Founder of TIGERS Success Series. She is the leader in building successful quality-focused and cooperative team culture communities. As a thought leader in the team culture movement, she has been published by Barrett Koehler, Pfeiffer (an in print of John Wiley & Sons) and Three Creeks. Her latest work, TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures and Why They Thrive has received international acclaim. Nominated by Merrill Lynch for Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for a team culture change system that helps leaders bring about desired team culture change remarkably fast, she certifies and licenses consultants, facilitators, and HR leader to use the proven TIGERS team culture system within their organization with measurable success. TIGERS helps leaders build and improve trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk, and success in teams which results in a dynamic work environment that attracts and retains very talented, quality-focused people. Subscribe today to receive instant access to Dianne’s general membership where like-minded professionals discover valuable resources for team, leadership, and cooperative work environment development that grow organizations in a scalable and measured way.