If your project shows promise, then one thing is for sure. You are going to have to grow. Of course, you are going to need investment - that’s a whole challenge of its own, but the other thing you’re going to need is a bigger team.
So what do you know about recruitment? Chances are not much - it just not a practical skill that is taught well in most business courses, and not at all in the sciences. But you’re an entrepreneur now, so it’s time to learn on the job.
Luckily your first hires are likely to be junior versions of yourself, which means you kind of know what you are looking for. But as your growth accelerates, you are going to hit a couple of significant bottlenecks.
Firstly you will find that recruitment is very time-consuming. Hiring one person is manageable, but what happens when you need to bring on several new employees a month? It can quickly take up most of your valuable time.
Secondly, as you move from proof of concept to commercial scale-up, you are going to start hiring people whose expertise is outside your sphere of knowledge. It will be increasingly hard to know where to find them. Also, how will you judge if you’re hiring the right person for the job?
This might be an excellent point to think about outsourcing recruitment. It may seem like a cost to the business to pay someone else to do it, but what is the opportunity cost of your time?
More importantly, what is the cost of a bad hire, or an empty desk? It’s sobering to remember that a high-performance employee can outperform an average employee by a factor of 4, so you owe it to yourself to attract the best.
Chicken or Egg?
Another thing to consider is this. Ask any venture capital expert 'what is the most important factor in your decision to invest in a start-up?', and they will tell you, ‘it’s all about the people - if that isn't right we walk away’. So before you go asking for investment, ask yourself - 'do I have the right people on my team?'
Rule of Thumb
It can be tough to know exactly when is the right time to engage with external recruiters, but I would suggest asking yourself the two following questions:
Can I afford to yet?
Can I afford not to?
The answer quickly becomes apparent.
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Dr. John Bethell has 28 years experience in health and life sciences recruitment. He is co-founder of two successful recruitment firms employing over 100 staff and delivers training on setting up recruitment systems for start-ups.