“A good idea doesn’t make a business, the people on the team do,” Leura emphasizes, “It’s important to remember that hiring the best people doesn’t necessarily mean bringing on people with the strongest resume or tactical skills.”
Having raised over $25 million in funding from top firms such as Charles River Ventures, Benchmark, and rapidly building her team to 60 employees and 1,000 designers in the last two years, Leura Fine Founder and CEO of Laurel & Wolf knows a thing or two about hiring.
Designing the perfect team has to be a mix of intuition and skill, and Leura has managed that artfully. She shared with the Startup Grind SoCal audience some of her most important considerations when bringing on new talent.
Hire For Your Weaknesses
Before hiring, ask yourself, “What are all the things can’t I do?” and “How do I find amazing people to fill those [roles] out?”
Leura’s first three hires were all engineers because while she was strong in business development, sales, marketing, she couldn’t build the platform herself. Having come from a traditional design agency where communication between clients and designers had always been offline, her vision was to build a 100% digital process, and technology was crucial to her company.
She focused on her weakness, and invested her energy into filling just that one role.
Bring an Expert to Help You Hire
Hiring new talent should always be a combination of gut and data; however, what happens when you have limited data? Although Leura knew how important it was to bring on a strong CTO, she didn’t know the first thing about what to look for.
Luckily, she was able to find a technical friend who was willing to help her vet her first engineers. They worked together to ensure the candidate was a fit in both categories.
Using her gut, she asked herself intuitively,
“Does this person have passion for our mission?”
“Do they care about what they’re building?”
Her friend was able to offer his insight on the data, the hard skills.
“Does this person have the technical qualifications to build the product?”
Mo’ Bodies Doesn’t Mean Mo’ Business
After raising money, it is enticing to start quickly bringing people in to fill out roles; however, Leura advocates discipline around hiring. After both their seed and series A rounds, she deliberately focused on slow and methodical hiring that allowed her to spend time bringing on the right talent that would allow the company to grow.
Growing too quickly can easily impede your business, and in order to scale the business, you need to scale the people first.
Look for Empathy, Curiosity, Positivity
Oftentimes, the first person to leave the organization is the person who was hired for skills, but lacked the passion. Ultimately, Leura says it comes down to three things:
1. People who care about people
2. People who think outside of the box
3. People who are innately positive and will be able to find solution to overcome any obstacle.
During interviews Leura says she will “always ask people to give an example of craziest most stressful day they can think of in their last job.” This question allows her to see how the candidate deals with stress, how they describe interactions or assign blame, and how they turn challenges into opportunities for growth.
Every founder inevitably will hire at least one employee who won’t be a good culture fit, especially if they are desperate to fill a particular position. But when you know it’s not a fit, you need to move quickly because just one bad employee can bring your company down.
“It doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest to let something sit just because you’re scared to make a move,” Leura says. “It can often times be painful, but those are the types of calls you really have to learn how to make quickly and decisively.”
Vet Your Board As Carefully As Your Employees
“Your team extends into the boardroom." Leura's board has been active in helping her hire senior leadership and they are all strong individual contributors.
“When it comes to hiring senior leadership, it has to be a group effort, you need buy in from all parties,” and the board plays an integral role in this process. “I expect just as much from my board as anyone else in the organization.”
Ensure Your Culture Pervades the Entire Company
“Everyone must want to win as much as person sitting next to them.”
At Laurel & Wolf, Leura is always encouraging people to connect with each other outside their specific vertical in order to give them a more 360 view of the business. She does this by offering structured team building including quarterly skill set workshops like branding for engineers and coding workshops for non-technical employees.
In order to facilitate transparent communication as the organization grows, Leura hosts town hall meetings on the 1st of every month, which includes open Q&A with the CEO.
Evidently, designing the perfect team is more art than science, and as Leura’s team has grown, she highlights the importance of flexibility. “The most important thing is to be flexible with company structures and reconfiguring in ways that will be most beneficial for disseminating information and keeping everyone focused on the same large mission.”
Ultimately, the most exciting part for her is seeing how much people resonate with the company’s mission, and she is firm in her understanding that she couldn’t have gotten to where she is today without her team. “My job is not any more important than anyone else’s,” Leura smiles, “When you work towards same goal, when you win together, it is so much sweeter.”