Best practices in hiring June 8, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in Entrepreneur, hiring, start-up, startups.
Marc Andressen’s latest post on how to hire the best people you’ve ever worked with is long but useful reading for all entrepreneurs. It reminded me to post a hiring process that I recommended to some entrepreneurs recently; I figured I’d paste it from the email as it may be of broader interest:
1. Get resumes prescreened against a profile from a recruiter (or from some referral source you trust like me or friends in the industry or whatever)
2. For resumes you like, do a phone interview of no more than 30 minutes – you’re looking for reasons to say “no” at this point
3. For people that you like on the phone, have one person do an initial interview in person for one hour. Ideal is to aim for end of day, say 4pm or later.If it IS working out, make sure that others are available to meet afterwards if the first interviewer likes them so that you don’t have to bring them back. But If its not working out, be frank about it, and don’t be afraid to cut the interview short rather than wasting your time and theirs. You can just say “thanks, bye” and not waste anyones time.
Make sure that you have a standard set of questions that you ask people interviewing for the same job. I personally prefer “behavioral interviewing”. e.g. focus on behaviors and not just skills. Skills you can test quickly and from resume. But behaviors are things like “Can you tell me about a time when you had to launch a new product – a release 1.0, rather than an upgrade of an existing product”; “We work on short deadlines here – can you tell me about a time when you had a project to do on what you thought was an unrealistically short timeframe”. etc. You frame up a specific behavior that you need and ask them about a time when they faced that same behavior. They often tell you what they WOULD do – make sure you keep them focused on a REAL SITUATION and what they DID do. Then look for behaviors in their answer that would either fit or not fit.
4. If you like ’em, make an offer almost right away. Its a hot labor market right now, so know what “market comp” is beforehand (we can help with this; so can a contingent recruiting firm”) and the best folks are not on the market for long.
5. Reference check yourself (ie don’t rely on the recruiter), and do it obsessively. Not just the people that they supply you with – look deeper, call people you know at those companies, ask the references for other people that they worked with etc. This is a massive time suck, and you will hate doing it, but it is the single most important thing that you can do.
6. Once you find people you like, sell them hard and from every angle. [Your investors] can help with this, so can partners, other employees etc.
7. Its not likely for top calibre talent that you can bring them on as a contractor first, then transition to full time. Some employees (a small minority) prefer this becasue they are test driving you as much as you’re test driving them, but don’t count on it.
8. If its not working out, don’t let it fester – move quickly to terminate. You’re too small to be able to afford people who are a bad fit and you can’t carry dead weight. And people rarely come around – your first instincts are usually right.
If you forget everything else, make sure you remember #5. Reference check obsessively. People don’t do it anywhere near enough.
Ecommerce 2.0 is happening now June 7, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in business models, Ecommerce, Entrepreneur, Internet, start-up, startups, web 2.0.
I just spent the last two days at the Internet Retailer conference, and emerged convinced more than ever that we’ve just scratching the tip of the iceberg with ecommerce opportunities. There are still many more $500m+ revenue ecommerce companies to be built, and many of the people building them were at the show.
A lot of attendees were entrepreneurs running businesses doing single to double digit millions in revenues in categories ranging from diapers to skis, from power tools to blinds. While many had built their technology in house, there really isn’t any need to do that anymore. The sheer volume of vendors who can help with everything from the ecommerce platform to the affiliate and search engine marketing, from alternative payment systems to pick, pack and ship, was just remarkable. An entrepreneur willing to do the work to pick a good category and line up vendors could launch a business with very little technological expertise.
PAC supplies customized and branded mailing/packaging material to ecommerce vendors. For example, they produce the envelopes that your Netflix DVD’s arrive in. Its a great idea for e-tailers focusing on building a brand and an ongoing relationship with their consumers.
Arroweye allows retailers to sell customized giftcards and greeting cards. A customer can not only buy a giftcard for a friend, but can put their own picture on the card, get it inserted into a custom printed greeting card, and get the whole thing mailed, all from inside the browser. Its an incredible boon for the delinquent gifter, and an additional revenue line for retailers.
Excitingly, many of the vendors work on a SaaS/variable cost basis, so an ecommerce merchant can trial with very low risk (both technological and financial) new functionality whether it be customized gift cards, behavioural marketing (NB Lightspeed is an investor in MyBuys), collaborative filtering, or customer reviews. How very “web 2.0″.
Its definitely a good time to be an ecommerce entrepreneur! I’m interested in hearing from merchants who have passed the $10m sales mark, see real sales momentum, and are looking to raise capital to accelerate growth and address large market opportunities, as well as vendors looking to address a common pain point for etailers.