How to find people with business background to complete the team?


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We are a very strong team technology-wise but little start-up/business experience on board. It would make an awful lot of sense to extend the team with someone who potentially has start-up experience already and/or has a track record in strategic sales, etc. - we're located in Ireland. How and where to find such people and what are the criteria to find a 'perfect match'?

Sales Partner Business

asked Mar 13 '12 at 15:31
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Michael Hausenblas
118 points
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2 Answers


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I'm based in Ireland too, and I recently join a startup myself. The founder and I "met" on the most visited place on the Irish slice of Internet, i.e. Boards.ie forum. He posted a request like yours, and I replied to it explaining why I was interested, what I could offer and so on.
I'd therefore suggest you could do the same, and give you the following recommendation:

  • Be clear about what you do and what you're looking for. You don't need to disclose everything about your business on a public forum, but you must be interesting enough to get some answers.
  • Make sure all candidates are clear about what they can do for your business, and why they would like to join.
  • After an initial screening, get in touch with the best candidates and meet them face to face (even better if the meeting involves more than one member of your actual team). The initial meeting can be informal (we met in a pub), as it makes everybody more relaxed. Important : good candidates should ask you some questions after you answer theirs, as you're talking about becoming partner, not just an employee. They should be asking about business plan, strategy, objectives and all the "business stuff" that's involved in running a profitable company. If they're just interested in a salary, you can exclude them from the "partners" list and add them to the "potential employees" one, if they are skilled.
  • Review the candidates after the first meeting, and, if you believe you found some good ones that you can trust, meet them again. This time, make sure you bring the answers to the questions they asked you in previous meeting (for example, a copy of the business plan). Tip : Depending on how confidential is the documentation, you may ask them to sign an NDA before you give them any document. If they are serious about doing business with you, they will understand.
  • Give the candidates time to "digest" the information you gave them in the second meeting. A business plan requires careful analysis, and so do projections and estimates. A good business partner will ask, ask and ask again if he/she's not sure your plan is good. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it actually tells you that they spent time reading the documents.
  • After the second meeting, you should have a clear idea of what candidates are suitable and which ones are not. You should have enough information to make them an offer and negotiate it from there.

One final note: while we, technical guys, can talk for hours about the latest feature added to our software, most business/sales people are not very interested about it and are used to talk about money. This makes them better negotiators than us (I've seen IT guys afraid of asking for a raise after doing an excellent job, but never a sales man asking for it despite poor performances). I'd therefore recommend to set clear limits (maximum salary, performance review, how many shares you'd be willing to give) and stick to them. If a candidate promises a 500% sales increase, just say that you'd be happy to review his/her position when it will happen. Agile and Adaptive development! :)

Source :

  • 15 years in IT business.
  • I had my own Ltd, for which I had to find a partner, and I recently joined an Irish Startup.

Best of wishes for the future (and maybe, one day, we could meet in person)! :)

answered Mar 14 '12 at 03:00
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Diego
116 points
  • Thank you very much, @Diego! – Michael Hausenblas 7 years ago
  • You're welcome! Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like some advice. I'm not a "business guru", but I like to help. Besides, I might need to ask you something about Node.js, one day. :) – Diego 7 years ago
  • He he, thanks and will do @Diego - and re Node.js, sure, just drop me a line via michael DOT hausenblas AT gmail DOT com ... – Michael Hausenblas 7 years ago

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My advice might be more specific to the US. But generally (and it's not a perfect rule) if you can't get your ideal minimally executed enough to engage others, and don't have enough of a network to attract partners - then you are not ready for a startup. Either you need deep enough experience in one area (enough to make the idea seem real to other stakeholders) or you have the reputation and rolodex to get lots of help. If you have neither, then you are merely someone rather inexperienced with what may-or-may-not be a good idea. It may sound harsh ... but it is something to consider.

answered Mar 14 '12 at 05:24
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Cj Cornell
471 points
  • And if he skulks off tail between legs, how is he supposed to *get* experience? But at a level you are right. Michael should try to marshall the troops *now*, while failure is a non-lethal option. – Peter Wone 7 years ago
  • Thanks for this advice but it doesn't really help me. We have enough interest and traction to make it fly, worry not. What I'm really saying is: we have identified a potential weakness that might/will bite us in the back down the line. @CJ Cornell, does this give you enough details to provide me with a concrete answer ? – Michael Hausenblas 7 years ago

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