How To Know You've Hired A Killer Team

Rocky Balboa

If there’s one thing every entrepreneur will agree on, it’s that hiring great people is critical to success. 

Building great companies is a group effort, and even the most talented entrepreneur will never be able to do everything.  So you have to have a great team.

And building one is tough.

In addition to raw skills, you need  an intensity that borders on obsession–an attribute that is not a prerequisite for success at a larger company. 

Basically, you need people who do their jobs as if the life of the company were on the line. 


Because the life of the company is on the line.  Every day.  The day you forget that is the day you’ll be headed for the scrap heap.

Many talented folks from big companies are seduced by the idea of startup life…right up until the time they actually start working for one.  Then they realise that the company depends on them in a way that a larger company never will, and they find the responsibility (and workload) overwhelming. 

A great startup executive, meanwhile, wants to carry the fate of the company in his or her hands.

You need to find the latter folks.  And you’ll find them, in part, though trial and error.  Interviewing and reference-checking helps, but you won’t know for sure that you’ve hired a winner until they hit the ground and start sprinting.

In the two-year life of the Business Insider, we’ve hired several talented people who turned out to be better suited for companies that didn’t depend on them every day for their survival.  All of them have since moved on.  We have also hired many talented people who are thrilled that we depend on them every day for our very survival.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do we know when we’ve found the right folks?

They have a passion for effectiveness that borders on obsession.

In editorial, for example, our successful writers and editors know that they if they don’t produce stuff people want to read, we’re toast.  So they check their readership numbers obsessively.  And when they find themselves low on the readership list, they do something about it.

One morning about a year ago, for example, I woke up at my usual time–5am–to discover that several stories had already been posted to the site.  This was a new and welcome experience.  Previously, at that hour, I had had the site to myself. 

I had never asked the new writer responsible for those posts, Joe Weisenthal, to start at that hour.  He had just been annoyed to see that I was up before he was–and getting read more–so he started getting up earlier than I did.  Now, thanks to Joe’s intensity, as well as that of several other amazing folks on our editorial team, the site’s in good hands with or without me. 

The same intensity is fueling our sales and tech teams.  Earlier this week, we heard whoops and hollers from the sales offices when they re-signed a huge client after several months of courting.  Our tech folks, meanwhile, emerged from their coding cave a couple of months ago to be greeted by actual applause in the newsroom for yet another major site improvement.

This intensity, by the way, doesn’t come and go.  When you have the right people, it’s there every day. 

Yesterday, I awoke at 5:30 to find not one or two new posts on the site but what seemed like a full day’s work, with the first post having hit the site around 3AM. 

I asked our new Deputy Editor, Joe Weisenthal, what had gotten into him. 

“Honestly,” he said, “I dreamt that Tiger Woods had given up golf.  And I had to get up to see if it was true.”

THAT’s the sort of intensity you need.

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