How Ryan White went about hiring the first employees at Huntforce
(Guest post by Ryan White) Just about a year ago, my dad and I found out we were accepted into the Straight Shot accelerator. Things got real for HuntForce, real fast. We debuted our trail camera photo software in front of hundreds last October. And then the real work began. While we still had the
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. April’s topic is early hires.
Just about a year ago, my dad and I found out we were accepted into the Straight Shot accelerator. Things got real for HuntForce, real fast. We debuted our trail camera photo software in front of hundreds last October. And then the real work began.
While we still had the support and help of Straight Shot, Aviture, GoodTwin, Dundee Venture Capital and Treetop Ventures, we were calling the shots and making the tough decisions about what to do next.
We just added four people to our small, tightly knit team, and I am grateful to say those people are now helping us significantly grow HuntForce.
We took our time to make these hires. Lots of time. Some of that is because both my father and I are cautious founders. Some of that was just not wanting to mess up the first time around. We have tough timelines and strict milestones to meet.
We needed a team that could go through all of that with us.
Here’s an intro to our team and some of what we learned hiring our first employees:
Scott Pawloski: Social media Jedi Knight with an alter-ego and it’s rumored there’s an airport in Russia named after him. Took the HuntForce Facebook page from 100 likes to more than 15K likes in six months.
Ryan Kinworthy: Commanding officer of the ship named Technology and, if bothered to do so, could crack the DaVinci code in 43 seconds. Titan on the keyboard and in real life; the dude is 6’9.”
Travis Martensen: Some say if you tune into 109.9 FM you can hear his thoughts and that his face appears on high-value stamps in Sweden. All we know is he’s one helluva engineer.
Eric Nipp: Our in-house global operations badass. He is one of few people who can stake claim to being a CPA and top 10 percent attorney who also was raised by wolves. Seriously, you don’t want to screw with this guy.
Here’s what I can tell you about those early hires:
Timing is everything.
This is always a delicate balance between time and money, features and scope.
For us, the strategy was to move to an internal team post MVP. Like the first version of anything, it’s going to be wrong, at least in the eyes of the founder.
When the time comes to evolve the product to its full potential, you will need a team that will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, day in and day out. You don’t want contractors pulling all-nighters.
Plan on this transition months in advance and get a head start.
Culture matters. Results matter more.
Since we’re a hunting company, we weren’t going to be hiring any PETA members.
The culture of HuntForce started truly forming with the founders, but the first couple hires are incredibly important for continuing that culture.
We speak our mind around here; no holds barred, we hold each other accountable to our positions, actions and words. We love this company and are passionate about being not just the best, but the only solution.
This is a “get shit done excellently” environment and that’s that.
Check references. Check them again.
People tend to present themselves perfectly; don’t take their word for it. Demand they prove themselves and if they are the real deal, it wont be a big deal.
Talk to people who have worked with, for and above them. Give those conversations the right amount of time. Don’t just make that quick phone call and move on. These people will help you build your company—get the hiring right! There will be no greater asset than a great team, so give it your all and get it right.
Set the bar with your own options grant vesting schedule. If you’re fully vested and have never had a vesting schedule in place, congratulations, but don’t let your first employees get away with the same deal.
Luckily, there are some standards set that you can use as a baseline. Typically you will see a four-year schedule with a one-year cliff, meaning that 25 percent of their option grants vest after 12 months and the remaining 75 percent vest at 1/36th the next three years.
Paired with the right milestones you can use this schedule as an effective incentive lever as your team performs at exceptional levels.
About the authors: Ryan White and his family moved from Kentucky to join Straight Shot in 2013. Ryan is an avid hunter, hence the passion behind his startup, Huntforce.
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