What sort of person is the right hire for a start-up?
I’ve had this conversation multiple times, with NOW Money team members, other start-ups and investors. There’s no magic bullet, but there is a common theme. You need to be a grafter. And as it turns out, your early experiences might be what dictates the way you work later….
This is a sample of real, paid positions held by the NOW Money team at some point during the last 15 years.
- Person dressed as a life-size human cigarette for No Smoking Day
- Beer stock counter in Siberia. It was -30’C
- Cutter of chicken’s talons
- Medical sample collector
- Pizza delivery. Had to use own car which forever after smelled of pizza
- Supermarket rotisserie chicken spearer
- Mock fox. Involves covering yourself in fox scent and running through forests to provide fox-hunters with a cruelty-free trail to chase
- Sunny Delight orange juice factory pulp adder
- Pen logo inspector. Of 10,000 pens 30% had incorrect logo and had to be manually rejected
Does this sound like the kind of experience that qualifies people to build a fintech start-up?
Most people would keep quiet about this list of oddities, never mind publish them online. The internet is forever. But, here at NOW Money we think these early experiences are what’s now (pun intended) driving us (inshallah) to success.
You truly haven’t known endurance until you’ve worked in a start-up…. or have you stood on an icy street for 12 hours in a cigarette costume? Washed pots until 2am and then 4 hours later driven to a farm to cut the talons of live chickens while they try to scratch your eyes out?
OK, maybe you prepped yourself a bit on the stamina side.
You’re a pizza delivery guy, your next customer lives a long way away and there’s a fallen tree across the road. Sorry, no pizza for you.
You’re a strawberry picker and the strawberries in your punnet are a bit mouldy. Whatever, laters.
SAID NO ONE WHO WORKS ON COMMISSION, EVER.
There will be times when the chips are down, you fail and have to resort to Plan B, C, D to get the job done. If you already know there’s more than one way to skin a cat, you’re going to adapt and progress where the competition give up.
Imagine a patient hands you a blood-encrusted toenail (not in a specimen bag). Another patient tries to give you a leaking sample of something else. And another gives you chocolates to say thanks for always being cheerful when she was coming in for cancer appointments!
That thick skin will serve you well in the start-up – but don’t let it dull the Hallelujah moments.
“Don’t stand on people’s hands as you go up the ladder – you’ll never know who might be there when you’re on the way down,” my grandfather once said (after my promotion from bottle-cap-screwer to pulp-adder). Whilst he was warning against hierarchy, it was also a lesson in building and maintaining networks at any level.
Some of NOW’s biggest supporters are from these early days – for example Deb, who put me in the cigarette costume. Always a shrewd businesswoman, she now owns a multi-million dollar business and continues to provide guidance and introductions 15 years later.
You speared too many rotisserie chickens today – chickens that could have lived another day and are now coming out of your wages for lack of attention to detail.
Your beer stock count was wrong, a pub is livid their delivery is short, and no one’s cares you gaffed it because you were counting at a cryogenic temperature.
You won’t make those mistakes again, but wasn’t it lucky you were making them before the business was yours? Listen to what customers want, carefully work out how much you have and can afford to produce, spend wisely.
It’s not easy to be passionate about tipping orange pulp into sugary liquid, knowing it may rot the teeth of thousands of children, but do people like it? Yes.
Are you enjoying the efficiency of being part of a slick team who come together to get a great product out on time to people who want it?
Do you like the puzzle of working out what will make that product better, for customers and its fantastic employees?
Sit back and enjoy giving people something they want and how passionate you are to give it to them. Your drive will be what makes this business (and dentists’ pensions).