*Non-Obvious* Lessons From My First 32 Hires

• 3 min read

Hey, I have 3 great news:

🚀 In February we did $375k GMV, that is +11% to January result and an absolute record.

🤯 We did out first $1m GMV in 2021 just in 83 days

🤘 I'm working on a free mini-course on branding for starups. I hope to finish and give you access to you in 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, I want to share lessons from hiring first 32 employees for lemon.io that I shared on Twitter.


We are growing like crazy, but I made every mistake in the book. Non-obvious lessons from early hires

1. No one gives a shit about you until everyone worships you.

This goes for investors, users, and especially job seekers. The competition for good talent is even more brutal than for market share, and until you are unknown... YOU LOSE!

So even before you start hiring, make yourself known. The easiest way to do that is to build in public. It will help you to attract attention from everyone. You can also start being smart-ass in media and local communities. **

2. Pitch the candidate.

If this is a great candidate, they have offers from many companies. Make them want to work for you so bad, they'll stop talking to other companies at all.

3. Don't compromise

I know how painful it is that everything moves soooooooo sloooooow and you need someone to do the job so bad. If you compromise on your standards to hire faster, in 99% you'll regret it.

4. "We want candidates to shares our values" is the dumbest thing.

How are you going to make sure they have the same values during the 10-40 hours you spend with them before hiring?

A lot of bad people are excellent liars

A lot of good people don't interview well

5. Spend as much time as you can with candidates

  • We did a 2-month project before hiring our CTO
  • Consulted 1 year with the head of sales before hiring him

We do long, paid test projects with all our hires. We get to know them professionally and their work ethics.

6. Hire for potential, not past experience.

Early hires are usually jacks of all trades. If they are good, they learn, grow with you, and skyrocket you.

Our best hires:

  • CMO was a copywriter without experience
  • CTO had a different tech stack All 22 people are like that

7. Ignore "don't hire friends and family"

  • my co-founder is one of my old best friends
  • head of client success is my wife best decisions ever

Just hire the best people regardless of prejudice

8. Onboard well

Have dosc in place, spend time with them until they feel comfortable. Then trust them to own the project and don't micromanage Otherwise, they'll become demotivated and will burn out soon.

9. Sense of ownership is the best gift an early employee can give you.

How to achieve this? Give them permission to have ownership. They'll contribute like you have no idea.

It's also the best way to keep employees from being hunted.

10. Create a healthy psychological environment

An early-stage startup is stressful not only for founders.

  • Always celebrate their wins
  • Take all the blame on yourself
  • Be their busboy - everything they need
  • Give a lot of feedback

11. Fear overqualified hires

A superstar, who was successful in a $100m company, might fail in yours:

  • CMO needs data and big budgets
  • Head of sales needs a steady stream of leads and a strong brand.
  • VP of engineering can't the first engineer
  • etc.
← It's been so long, I've missed you
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