Startup Hiring: The First Positions You Must Fill

In any organization, who you hire plays a key role. This rings most true in the case of startup businesses, especially in the early stages. Startups face the additional challenge of the initial hires becoming the DNA and building blocks for the culture and success of those businesses.

But what are the first key positions and roles you need to hire for a startup?

The answer varies depending on the type of business/organization but below you’ll find the roles that are absolutely necessary in an early stage startup and beyond.

Early-stage startup hiring: The first key roles your company needs to hire for at the onset

  • Operations Person
  • Marketing Jack-of-All Trades
  • Scrappy Sales Person
  • Writer
  • Product Manager / Engineers (for Tech Businesses)
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Operations Person

Oftentimes, you’ll see founders occupying this role, but no matter who is doing it, somebody who manages operations is key.

The operations person at an early stage startup is responsible for managing invoicing, accounting, finances, employee operations, business filings, and day-to-day operations.

Think of this person as a hybrid of a CFO-COO-Office Manager, Business Analyst, General Manager or Chief Anything Officer.

You’ll often find founders take on this role. But, depending on the type of company, you may see them focus more on product and sales and leave operations to a trusted operations person.

Responsibilities and Duties of the Operations Person

  • Process design: The operations person is responsible for designing business processes/systems that support continuous operations of the company and managing/improving/automating these processes and systems.
  • Employee operations: The operations person must be competent in training employees to complete required operations processes independently, setting employee schedules/performance expectations and supervising employees in their completion of daily operations functions.
  • Finances: The ops person will be managing invoicing, accounts receivable, bookkeeping, resource/funding allocation, approval of expenditures, tax payment/strategy, and other financial matters.
  • Business relationships: To ensure future ops continue, the founder/opsperson is often engaging in high level talks to secure favorable business relationships and funding for future company growth.
  • Inbound communications: Operations people are often managing daily inbound inquiries and/or providing guidance for other employees responding to inbound inquiries/requests.
  • Daily operations: Your operations person is responsible for ensuring continuous operations throughout the company on a daily basis through close supervision of teams and individuals, and through their own direct work advancing business processes.

Marketing jack-of-all-trades

The marketing jack-of-all-trades can come from any number of marketing focuses, but people with well rounded experience and a keen eye for presentation excel in these startup roles.

Typically, when startups think about hiring their first marketing person, they think about a director of marketing or chief marketing officer.

Whether you’re referring to them as a ”Growth Hacker” or “Marketing Manager”, you want to find a well-rounded marketing person, who’s used to wearing multiple hats, and is experienced in most areas of marketing.

Responsibilities for your first marketing hire

  • Email marketing: Your first marketer will be managing all email marketing, and should be able to drive leads to your scrappy sales person through their successful campaigns.
  • Web design: Your company website needs to give customers and investors the right impression, and your marketer must be able to provide you with this online asset.
  • SEO basics: SEO is crucial for ensuring that your company’s site is seen by the right people, and your marketer should have an understanding of SEO basics to boost organic rankings.
  • Management of paid budget: Your first marketer will be responsible for managing PPC and other paid advertising initiatives, and for driving maximum ROI for these marketing strategies through rigorous testing.
  • Experience in events: Early stage startups need to have an impressive first showing at events and trade shows, and your marketer needs to make your company look good at its first public appearance through designing promotional materials and managing all event details.
  • Branding/PR: Your first marketing hire should have some experience in building partnerships and relationships to build some buzz around your brand. Being experts in the area of public relations and branding isn’t a must, but they should be able to adapt and manage these processes for your brand.
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Scrappy salesperson

Every startup is going to need someone who knows how to manage high level sales that increase the stature of your company. But, this salesperson also needs to be scrappy and get their hands dirty no matter the sales deal size.

They need to be willing and able to hunt for deals, schedule them, and close them.

Responsibilities of a scrappy salesperson

  • Prospect hunting: The scrappy sales person will have less support in finding leads than if they were working for an established company, and they need to get creative when hunting down prospects.
  • Pipeline management: Pipeline management is essential for sales success and the salesperson must use and update your recruiting CRM religiously with pertinent data.
  • Sales calls/system setup: Your sales rep will be the one testing your product’s performance in the open market and will be refining their pitch and your sales system as they go along.
  • Closing deals: Salespeople need to close deals because that’s what they’re here to do. Your scrappy salesperson can be the lifeblood of your early stage startup, so ensure they are receiving competitive commission rates for closing deals for your startup.

Writer (a.k.a. word magician)

The above roles may seem a little more obvious, but a good writer is just as necessary.

Your writer is responsible for crafting your initial website and product messaging, help with building content that is used for SEO, and write your email marketing campaigns and scripts.

Responsibilities of your first writer

  • Understanding of product messaging: Your writer will be helping the founder communicate their vision to the world, helping your sales and marketing pros to craft compelling emails communicating product benefits and creating other key written product assets.
  • Technical writing ability: Beyond crafting compelling product benefits in your brochure, writers need technical writing ability for internal process documentation, internal policy writing, contract creation, user manual creation and other technical writing tasks.
  • Ability to match writing to personas: The writer may be asked to help support the founder, sales or marketing, so they need to be comfortable wearing different hats and shifting their writing style to match those of individuals they are supporting.
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Product manager/engineer

Looking for great product and engineering people in the early stages of your startup hiring is essential, if you’re a tech-focused company.

Regardless of whether one of your founding members is acting as CTO or has built the product themselves, you’re going to want to find them help in the engineering department, or the visionary requirements of developing your next big product.

Responsibilities of a product manager/engineer

  • Creating your products: This person is responsible for developing, producing, or creating the product your company sells/plans to sell. Whether its software, hardware or consumer goods, they need the technical expertise to transform the founder’s vision into reality.
  • Perfecting products: Every new product has glitches, and your product manager/engineer will have their hands full post-launch ironing out the kinks in the first generation of your product and implementing improvements on original designs.
  • Identifying market gaps/opportunities: product engineers need to have a keen eye for the next big thing and are responsible for keeping your startup competitive in your industry. You want product managers who are keenly aware of what is considered to be the cutting edge and someone who always wants to be ahead of this curve.

The above roles are all required for the successful operation of a startup of any size.

By prioritizing these roles — and sourcing for them with a modern ATS + CRM solution — you can cover your bases for the time being and move on to driving the growth of your startup.

Find out how early-stage organizations elevate their startup hiring strategies and scale their businesses with LeverTRM, our complete talent acquisition suite. Schedule a demo today.

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Further reading