Using Startup Advisors To Help Your New Hires Can Be The Difference Between Their Success or Struggle
Why Pairing Junior Executives With External Mentors Can Accelerate Your Hiring and Their Professional Development
Often at a startup it’s better to hire for talent, ambition, and commitment, than years in role or ‘did they have the job already somewhere else.’ For example, imagine a high-performing Operations IC at Stripe, with relevant experience and an itch to get into a role that allows her to spread her wings further. My intuition? Hire. Don’t worry that she hasn’t had a senior title or whatever. Just get her on board.
And then build scaffolding around her. Success isn’t her merely a signature on the offer letter, it’s making sure she excels as part of the team. And one way to help is with mentorship. Not just inside of the company but outside. Ask her if there’s someone senior in her career that’s been a great manager, and if so, bring them on as an equity-compensated advisor to your company. If there’s someone in industry she really admires but doesn’t yet know, reach out to them on her behalf. Or ask your cap table who is the best “XYZ” that they know and give them some skin in the game. Monthly 1:1s and as-needed tactical advice, introductions, and so on.
What should your relationship (as a founder) be with this person? They [mentor and mentee] need to have safe space together— neither can feel like you’re asking the advisor for performance feedback all the time because if so it’s less likely they’ll have honest, open conversations. But it is ok to keep open lines and ask for periodic feedback on how you can best help the team member grow, and/or pass your thoughts to the mentor on growth opportunities. Remember, the idea is that you’re all in this together on behalf of the company, and your employee.
I’ve also found that during a recruiting process telling these types of candidates that they’ll get an ‘advisor equity budget’ to bring people closer to the company who can be useful is a signal of trust and agency. You can even present it as part of their ‘comp’ — an equity grant they have ability to distribute (with your approval).