For many startups, hiring the best and the brightest is not an option — it’s an absolute necessity. You’ve probably heard this sage, albeit generic advice before, “Only hire ‘A’ players.” Of course! Who doesn’t want ‘A’ players? Who doesn’t want people who have the talent, skills and drive to make a company successful?
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But the real question is: Can you recognize an a top performer when you meet him? We all like to think we can, but even the best can overlook real talent. Think back to Facebook and Twitter. Both companies failed to hire Brian Acton, cofounder of WhatsApp, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion.
Simply put, ‘A’ players are great competitors. Avoid overlooking one in your midst by understanding these five characteristics:
- A desire to compete. ‘A’ players skip excuses. Their drive to compete leaves no time for excuses when pursuing various strategies to win. Plus, they love to compete. It’s in their blood. They put themselves on the line and take responsibility for their performance. Not everyone has this desire to compete; in fact, some people prefer working for companies that have already won. This doesn’t make for a great cultural fit at a startup.
- A champion’s mindset. A top performer will have unwavering faith in your company’s ability to achieve. A champion’s mindset includes the belief that winning is inevitable, not a remote possibility. This speaks to a level of mental toughness and passion about a business. Those who can internalize a company’s mission and goals are more likely to make valuable contributions to the business.
- Self-discipline. A startup’s environment is always changing because it is growing so fast or quickly pivoting to survive. With so much in flux, an employee needs to have self-discipline and confidence in their ability to endure failure, recover from it, and persevere. Because they are self-starters, ‘A’ players are able to motivate themselves and know how to focus, prioritize and re-prioritize as needed. These folks have a self-imposed regimen that helps them thrive at what they do best.
- Integrity. This should go without saying. One shouldn’t pursue to win at all costs. If you lack integrity, there is a cost to winning. A competitor today could be a great partner tomorrow. How you treat the customers who use your product or service, how you collaborate with others, and how you choose to follow through on your word can make you or break you in the long run. ‘A’ players have enough fortitude and potential to endure what it takes to learn the game, master the game and play by the rules. Compromising one’s integrity reflects poorly on the company, and is simply bad form.
- Think ahead, anticipate and act. By understanding what to expect in each situation, great competitors know how to best position themselves see opportunities developing ahead of time. They anticipate what’s coming so they can adequately prepare. Moreover, they have an innate sense of urgency to move quickly. Procrastination is not an option.
No matter what role you’re looking to hire for, start with these five characteristics of ‘A’ players when building out your team. Look for people who will have the confidence to wear many hats, the capacity to take on more than an average person can handle, the natural inclination to take initiative and the ability to grow with your business.
What characteristics have you found in your best hires?
Mary Ray is the co-founder of MyHealthTeams, which owns and operates social networks for chronic condition communities. She is always on the lookout for A-players. She drives the product vision and product development of all the MyHealthTeams’ web and mobile applications, oversees marketing, UX, design.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.