start up hire

What makes a good early stage start up hire?

The conundrum of finding or formulating a befitting formal education for entrepreneurs is ongoing. Most people believe entrepreneurship cannot be taught and the skills required to launch and lead a start-up to success cannot be acquired. Rather, these are traits wired in the individual from the beginning- curiosity, a questioning gaze, a knack to look for solutions, the power to look beyond the immediate and identify things invisible to others etc. 

The idea is attractive and it gives a very high positioning to entrepreneurship. However, talking practically, every start-up needs to hire employees in order to grow. A tech firm will go about to hire the best of software and IT professionals, a leading newspaper company would hire the best journalists available. There is a formal education dedicated to almost all prominent industries to supply them with the manpower they need to run.  

However, an entrepreneurial venture could be spanning over any of the conventional sectors and yet belong to neither of them. In the absence of any formal education in entrepreneurship, which professional makes a good early-stage start-up hire? 

The answer is quite opposite of what you would expect. Surprisingly, studies and insights suggest that lawyers make some of the best early-stage hires. 

You would ask- ‘But aren’t they the opposite of what a start-up needs?’ They are trained in following the law and making things go as convention demands. Afterall most successful start-ups today were challenging the law if not breaking them. And some of them like Facebook even forced the law to amend itself or bring in new regulations because they were unmanageable with the existing set of legislations. How then does a lawyer make a good hire? Here’s how-

They help avoid costly mistakes as you go commercial- There comes a time for a every start-up when they move a step ahead and go commercial. As revenues rise and money begins to flow in, so do complications regarding taxation, intellectual property ownership, security laws, etc. Having a corporate lawyer on board who has the experience of dealing with setting-up requirements will make things easy to understand and negate the risk of committing a blunder that nips your venture right in the bud. 

Help understand various deals and associated risks – As a start-up grows, it goes through multiple rounds of funding as well as enters into new collaborations with suppliers, and other players in the market. Most of these deals involve heavy negotiation and carefully laid out clauses that might end up being catastrophic for you if not looked into carefully. Corporate lawyers have the experience of navigating deals and the risks associated and may help avoid a fatal mistake for your start-up.

They are trained in asking the right questions – Lawyers are trained to read between the lines, to over-analyse things and in cautious and strategic decision-making. They ask very pointed yet crucial questions. Although their intervention might appear as crippling to a start-up, they can force you to see things that could otherwise be big blunders and avoid them. Having a lawyer early on in your venture can introduce a tradition of data-driven, thoughtful decision-making which spontaneity of the start-up culture tends to miss.

Hiring a lawyer in an advisory role if not a decision-making one can only do your start-up some much needed good. It is always desirable to have people from opposite mindsets rather than a set of like-minded people to learn and grow.

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