How to compete against bigger competitors:
What makes a startup great? While some people will point to great technology and others great systems, the most important element of most startups are the people involved in building, growing and developing the business.
From technology industry giants like Google and Facebook to manufacturers and fashion brands, all of the world’s best companies have evolved from startups into large, powerful brands because of their people.
Startups face a dilemma when hiring: people are highly important to their growth and success, but hiring the best people is difficult when they’re competing against companies far larger and wealthier than they are.
If you’re running a small company with a limited budget and want to hire the right people for growth and development, don’t despair. These three tips will help your business hire the right people within its limited human resources budget.
Offer equity in your company.
If you’re hiring someone for a high-level position – such as a C-level executive role – you may need to offer equity in your company in order to match the compensation offered by your larger, more heavily funded competitors.
Highly competent people are able to command great rates from large, well-funded businesses – salaries that you probably can’t match. Equity in a high-growth startup is a compelling, albeit risky, offer for many top-performing people.
Thanks to the success of companies like Facebook and Google, many of which made their initial C-level hires on an equity basis, far fewer professionals are as scared of taking on equity-based roles in startups as they once were.
This strategy requires a great product, a great strategy and a huge amount of growth potential. If your startup has all of these necessary ingredients, offering equity could help you attract great people that would otherwise require far higher salaries.
Forget about typical job titles.
Since your company is young and still growing, it’s inevitable that many people will have to play multiple roles. Your CFO could become your COO on certain days, while your CEO could also become your CMO when required.
This is the nature of startup life, and it’s something you should keep in mind when you hire new people to add to your team. Flexibility is key, and flexibility can often mean forgetting about the typical job titles you’ve grown used to.
Forget about hiring a CMO or CFO – instead, hire highly qualified people based on the job description. Many people value the flexibility of startup life over the rigid, title-based work of large corporations – use this to your advantage.
This hiring strategy also screens for candidates that are most suited to a growth-focused environment. Rigid titles and startups rarely go hand in hand – flexibility, on the other hand, is one of the most important elements in a startup employee.
Focus on your company’s advantages.
Although your company may not be able to offer the financial compensation of an Apple or Google, it can offer something these companies can’t: the chance to be an important part of a growing, influential business.
There’s an incredible energy to being part of a rapidly-growing small business – a type of energy that will often attract people accustomed to higher salaries and the relative stability of working for a large, established company.
Make your company stand out from the crowd in its job postings by emphasizing its growth and development. Most of all, emphasize its potential to be something great – an iconic brand that’s known globally – with the right people’s involvement.
Steve Jobs hired John Sculley, Apple’s first CEO with the following pitch: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
If your company has a truly exciting product, huge growth potential and a culture that attracts the best, you can compete by emphasizing these elements, not those that your company doesn’t share with its larger, more established competitors.
How can your startup hire above its potential?
Every startup, from technology companies to service businesses, has the potential to attract people that most would consider “beyond” its abilities. The key is focusing on your company’s advantages – its growth potential, its influence or its culture.
What does your company have that its larger, better funded competitors don’t? Find your company’s biggest benefit – its culture, its product or its sense of fun – and put it out there. You’ll be surprised by how many great people respond.