The First 4 People To Hire for Your Startup

The First 4 People To Hire for Your Startup

Starting a business can be a rewarding experience, but it comes with a considerable amount of responsibility. A startup is a company in the early stages of business. Startups can be found in various industries, including AI technology, health care, finance, e-commerce, education, and many others.

Creating a new company requires building foundational processes. Startup leaders often encounter challenges during this time, such as attracting customers and dealing with regulatory requirements. To overcome some of these difficulties, startups can hire new employees to fill critical roles in early stages to scale the business for growth.

In this article, we’ll explain the first roles to hire at your startup and answer commonly asked questions about finding and hiring employees for your new business.

Table of contents:

The founding team

The founding team of a company is the first group of people to represent the company, not typically categorized as hires, but essential to get the business started. Startup founders and co-founders are responsible for making important decisions related to the company's strategy, vision, and mission. They work to lay the foundation for the company and establish a strong brand identity.

Co-founders may get involved on day one or be brought onboard very early to support the vision and mission for the startup and complement the founder’s skill set. They may help to manage the day-to-day operations of the company, oversee various business processes, and ensure that the company is moving in the right direction. They are instrumental in executing the organization’s vision and bringing it to life.

Together, the founding team members strive to establish a successful business that can withstand the challenges of the industry. They set the tone for the company's culture, values, and work ethic and establish a strong foundation for future growth and success.

Below are some potential roles and responsibilities of founders and co-founders.

Roles and responsibilities of founders or co-founders:

  • Company ideation. Establishing the company's mission, vision, and values
  • Business strategy. Developing the company's business plan and pricing strategy
  • Financing. Identifying and securing funding sources
  • Team building. Hiring and managing employees
  • Establishing guidelines. Creating and implementing company policies and procedures
  • Collaboration. Supporting the startup with business processes
  • Managing daily procedures. Handling day-to-day operations
  • Business strategy. Developing and managing the company's marketing and sales strategies
  • Networking. Building relationships with clients and stakeholders
  • Financial management. Managing the company's finances and budgeting

First 4 roles to hire

Hiring the right employees can help get your business off the ground, drive revenue, and increase productivity. We've compiled a list of the first four roles to hire, people who will help you build a solid foundation for your early-stage startup.

1. Product or service developer

Product developers play a central role in creating new products and improving the existing ones to meet customer needs and expectations. These products can range from physical products such as consumer goods, electronics, and medical devices to software and digital products like mobile applications and websites.

Service developers are experts in helping service-based startups to create, launch, and scale their offerings successfully in the market. Service-based startups are businesses that offer services like consulting, financial planning, education, and coaching rather than physical products.

Both of these roles directly influence the company's success by catering to the customers' demands with tailor-made products and services, ultimately driving revenue and increasing customer satisfaction. Hiring a skilled product or service developer involves choosing someone with the necessary skills and education needed to be successful in this role.

Responsibilities of a product developer:

  • Market research. Performing market research to identify product opportunities
  • Cross-departmental collaboration. Collaborating with engineering teams to design new products
  • Product design. Developing product specifications and creating prototypes for testing
  • Fine-tuning products. Monitoring the product's performance and making improvements as needed

Education and qualifications of a product developer:

  • Bachelor's or master’s degree. In product design, engineering, or a related field
  • Analytical prowess. Strong analytical skills with the ability to analyze and interpret data
  • Teamwork abilities. Excellent communication and collaboration skills
  • Design skills. Proficiency in design software and tools
  • Product development experience. Familiarity with product development processes and methodologies
  • Technical skills. Ability to translate customer needs to technical specifications

The responsibilities of a service developer may include:

  • Consumer research. Conducting market research to identify customer needs
  • Prototyping. Developing and testing service prototypes
  • Planning and strategy. Creating a business plan for the service
  • Developing processes. Designing and implementing service delivery processes
  • Relationship building. Establishing partnerships with suppliers, customers, and stakeholders
  • Implementing changes. Continuous improvement of the service based on customer feedback
  • Technical interpretation. Ability to translate customer needs to technical specifications

Education required for a service developer:

  • Bachelor's degree. In business administration, marketing, or human resources
  • Industry knowledge. Familiarity with industry trends and best practices
  • Relevant experience. Expertise in the company's field, such as website creation, data analysis, or mobile app development
  • 2. Sales and marketing

    The primary goal of the sales and marketing team is to attract customers and increase revenue by promoting and selling the company's products or services. In the very early stages, one person may fill the combined sales and marketing lead role. As the business grows,  the team becomes two collaborating sections, usually headed by a sales manager and a marketing manager. These professionals know how to work together to implement sales and marketing strategies that align with the company's goals and values.

    The sales team is responsible for generating leads, negotiating contracts, and closing deals. Each salesperson works closely with potential customers to provide them with solutions that meet their requirements. The sales team also maintains relationships with existing customers to make sure they’re completely satisfied with the services or products they’ve purchased and identify new opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

    On the other hand, the marketing team is responsible for building brand awareness and creating demand for the company's products or services. They develop marketing campaigns that resonate with the target audience by using a variety of channels such as social media, email marketing, content marketing, and advertising.

    They also perform market research to identify customer preferences and trends, which helps them to create compelling messaging and positioning for the company's offerings. They provide input to the development team to articulate new product and service opportunities.

    Responsibilities of a sales manager:

    • Sales strategy. Developing sales strategies to reach sales targets
    • Mentorship. Coaching and motivating sales representatives
    • Networking. Managing customer relationships
    • Proven success. Exhibiting a solid track record of closing deals

    Qualifications required to be a sales manager:

    • Leadership. Excellent communication and leadership skills
    • Past experience. In sales and customer service
    • Analytical prowess. Strong analytical skills to interpret sales data

    Responsibilities of a marketing manager:

    • Leading projects. Creating and executing marketing campaigns
    • Consumer research. Performing industry-specific market research
    • Financial budgeting. Managing marketing budgets
    • Managing brand voice. Communicating with cross-functional teams to ensure brand consistency

    Education and skills required for a marketing manager:

    • Bachelor's degree. In business or marketing
    • Creativity. Strong creative skills for campaign brainstorming
    • Marketing training. Experience in advertising and branding
    • Language prowess. Superior communication skills

    3. Operations and customer support

    Smooth operations and excellent customer support make sure your customers are happy, orders are fulfilled on time, employees are updated on their responsibilities, and everyone is aligned with the same objective.

    The role of an operations manager is to ensure the streamlined functioning of the organization and establish performance goals for the team. On the other hand, the customer support manager is responsible for handling all customer feedback and complaints with utmost care and attention.

    Responsibilities of an operations manager:

    • Daily procedures. Overseeing day-to-day operations
    • Reviewing performance. Setting and meeting performance targets for safety, quality, delivery, and cost
    • Operations protocol. Implementing operational policies and procedures
    • Collaboration. Coordinating with other departments to ensure customer expectations are met

    Education requirements for an operations manager:

    • Bachelor's degree. In business or operations management
    • Operations training. Relevant work experience in operations management, such as overseeing production processes or managing logistics

    Responsibilities of a customer support manager:

    • Leadership. Managing the customer support team
    • Meeting expectations. Ensuring excellent customer service and support is provided
    • Employee management. Training new hires and organizing the functions of the customer support staff
    • Responding to feedback. Interpreting customer feedback and data to identify areas for improvement

    Education requirements for a customer support manager:

    • Bachelor's degree. In business, customer service, or a related field
    • Customer service training. Relevant work experience in customer service or customer support management

    Again, these two roles may be filled by a single individual during a startup’s initiation, but very quickly most startups assign separate roles for the inward operations and outward customer support roles.

    4. Business development and finance

    Business development officers are responsible for seeking out new business opportunities. To grow the company's customer base and revenue streams, they reach out to potential stakeholders and customers to secure partnerships and sales development. They also collaborate with the marketing teams to align their efforts and maximize the effectiveness of all business development initiatives.

    Startups also need in-house financial expertise to manage their funds effectively and make informed financial decisions. The chief financial officer (CFO) oversees financial operations and ensures compliance with financial regulations. They help the startup to avoid financial pitfalls and challenges while also identifying opportunities for growth and investment.

    With their expertise, the CFO can provide valuable insights into the company's financial health, helping the team to make strategic decisions that will support the company's long-term success.

    Below are some of the responsibilities and skills needed for the two roles.

    Responsibilities of a business development officer:

    • Company growth. Identifying new business opportunities and potential clients
    • Networking and building relationships. Securing partnerships and contracts that align with the startup's goals
    • Legal negotiation. Negotiating deals and contracts

    Education and skills required to be a business development officer:

    • Bachelor's degree. In marketing, business, or a related field
    • MBA. Some employers may require candidates who have an MBA
    • Analytical skills. Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

    Responsibilities of a CFO:

    • Financial leadership. Overseeing financial operations, including accounting and budgeting
    • Compiling reports. Preparing financial reports and presentations for stakeholders
    • Capital administration. Managing cash flow and investments
    • Adhering to regulations. Ensuring compliance with financial regulations

    Education and skills required to be a CFO:

    • Bachelor's or master’s degree. In accounting, finance, or a related field
    • CPA or CFA certification. Employers may prefer candidates with a CPA or CFA certification
    • Detail-oriented focus. Excellent attention to detail
    • Interpersonal skills. Strong leadership and communication skills

    While business development and finance responsibilities may be assigned to a single individual from the start, these roles again take outward and inward focus very quickly, generally evolving to two separate roles.

    Additional roles and considerations

    To ensure smooth operations and to scale the startup, businesses may invest in specialized roles like technical writers, HR managers, and UX design specialists.

    Technical writers make sure that your startup's technical information, manuals, and other documents are clear, concise, and understandable to customers and internal resources. By doing this, you can improve the credibility of your brand and ensure that your customers are satisfied with your products or services.

    Design/UX specialists are responsible for creating visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces for your products. Their work can help attract more customers and improve user engagement, leading to more revenue for your startup.

    HR managers create and maintain a positive work environment for employees. They oversee employee relations, hiring people, onboarding, recruitment processes, and retention efforts. A strong HR team can help ensure that employees are capable, satisfied, and motivated, leading to increased productivity and better performance.

    Building a cohesive team leads to a positive work environment and good team dynamics that can help foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration, leading to better outcomes for your business.

    Startup hiring FAQ

    Hiring new workers to scale your startup can be a straightforward and streamlined process if you know what to do and where to start looking for qualified employees. Below are answers to frequently asked questions in regard to simplifying the hiring process for your business in its early days.

    How do I find people for a startup?

    Freelance platforms like Upwork enable organizations to post job openings and hire freelancers on a part-time or full-time basis. The talent marketplace offers a variety of features, such as the ability to search for early hires based on their skill set and experience, view their portfolios and ratings, and communicate with them directly through the platform.

    Upwork also offers time-tracking and invoicing tools to help streamline the hiring process. With Upwork, startups can quickly find qualified talent for their projects without the need for a full-time hire.

    How many employees should a startup have?

    The number of startup employees you should have depends on various factors, such as the industry, business model, and funding. For instance, a tech startup may require fewer employees to operate than a manufacturing startup.

    Similarly, a startup that relies on automation and technology may need fewer employees than one that depends on manual labor. Some startups may also outsource work to freelancers or contractors to keep costs low. Hiring skilled leaders on a fractional basis can bring in strong expertise without long-term resource commitments.

    When should I hire my first employee for a startup?

    You should invest in your first hires for a startup when the workload becomes overwhelming, when you need skills beyond your capability, or when you want to scale the business. If you have funding, hiring an employee can help you grow faster. As you make this decision, consider the cost and risk of a hiring commitment and determine whether outsourcing work to freelancers or contractors is a more cost-effective option.

    Find top talent on Upwork

    Upwork is a great platform that offers a wide range of opportunities for startups to find and hire talent from around the world. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to search for and connect with potential candidates who have the right skills and experience to meet your business needs with the following roles:

    1. Product developers
    2. Service-based product managers
    3. Sales managers
    4. Marketing managers
    5. Operations managers
    6. Customer support managers
    7. Business development officers
    8. Chief financial officers

    If you have strong skills in any of these valuable areas and are looking for an exciting and fulfilling opportunity, explore these startup roles on Upwork to contribute to the growth and success of new businesses.


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    The First 4 People To Hire for Your Startup
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    Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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