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How to find and motivate the best employees for your start-up 

You’ve got the product, you’ve raised the money and your business is up and running.  


Now, however, you need help. You have too much work, you have the cashflow for wages and, to increase profits and/or reduce overheads, you need an extra pair of hands. 

If you are growing, you will have to bring in new people. This can feel like “handing over”, even just part, of your business to an employee and the need to keep control and to micro-manage your staff is very tempting.  

The elite staff you want to attract, however, will not appreciate micro-management.  

More to the point, the reason for recruiting an employee is to free you up to focus your energies on what you are good at ie. growing your business. 

Here are some pointers to help you attract the best - inspired, committed and trustworthy  - employees who ideally don’t need your supervision.  

And remember, our employment solicitors can advise on the most appropriate employment contract, including matters such as intellectual property, confidentiality and non-competitive behaviour, as well as the wider range of employment matters. 

Crafting the job description 

Remember, you need to INSPIRE this wonderful person to want to work for you! 

Sit down and write a job description that  

  • reflects your own character and values - after all, you are the business. 
  • is infused with your own inspiration for your business or product. 
  • enthuses about your 5-10 year vision and financial prospects. 
  • explains in detail how the advertised role fits within that vision and those prospects. 

You need to “sell” your business to attract the talent that you want.  By and large, that means “selling yourself”. A job description brimming over with controlled energy and enthusiasm for the product and its future and which is clear about the part the new employee will play in it all will intrigue the right people; they will want to find out more. 

eg. “This is a dynamic flexible and fast-moving business willing to disrupt and strategise…It is not for the faint-hearted or for those wishing for a quiet life. Our profit forecast in the next 5 years is …The Marketing Manager is absolutely central to the success of this forecast..” 

Put in everything you want this role to cover. 

Think about how the role will make a difference to the business. Get excited about how fantastic it will be with exactly the right person on board and then write your job description based on that excitement.  

This is your selling strategy - remind yourself of what you are offering and your enthusiasm will be palpable - who wouldn’t want to work for you?! 

Compensation for start-up employees 

How much to pay?  

Of course you want to keep costs down as much as possible but, if the new recruit might be doubling your revenue, you must pay competitively.  The best talent will expect to be rewarded appropriately. 

What can you afford? Sit down with your accountant and thrash out the figures.  

Find out what others in the market are paying - ask your mentors, fellow entrepreneurs, recruiters, even ask competitors. 

Can you offer other incentive arrangements, such as remote or flexible working? Training? Non-pecuniary advantages can be very attractive, especially when (as isn’t unusual with start-ups) financial rewards may take a while to filter through. If you're considering a remote workforce, see our guide to onboarding a new employee remotely

You are probably not in a position to offer incentives such as health plan or gym membership. This is why it is so important in your job description that you communicate your conviction in the company’s prospects and how your ideal person’s career vision - including compensation in the future - can fit within and be satisfied by those prospects. 

The practicalities of hiring 

There are several ways you can seek out your ideal candidate. Try the following: 

  • Your personal network - mentors, fellow entrepreneurs, former work colleagues, accountants - all can put the word out there on your behalf. They may even know of a suitable fit. 
  • Your social media network: job boards on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter. Specific recruitment websites like Indeed. Job boards such as these are fast, have widespread reach and, by and large, are a cheap option for promoting your role. The disadvantage is that you might be inundated with numbers of applicants - pleasing in itself but it means you have to spend time filtering out the unsuitable ones - all of which takes more of your precious time. 
  • Recruitment agencies. These agencies can help you prepare the crucial job description, can screen out the unsuitable candidates and prepare a shortlist for you. They might also be useful as a sounding board as to current levels of compensation. However they do cost money… 

The interview process 

This is where you obtain those crucial first impressions of a candidate and have to ask yourself: can I imagine working with this person? Could I imagine entrusting my start-up to them? 

These are essentially personal reactions and so it is difficult to set down hard and fast rules about what to look out for.  These are some suggestions: 

  • What was your first impression? 
  • Be clear on the values you hold that have created your business then try to find out if the person shares those values. 
  • What are their aspirations? 
  • Do you really believe your business and their aspirations are a match? 
  • What do they know about your particular sector?   
  • Are they in it for the long haul? 
  • How do they respond to the idea that the role may change as the needs of the business change? The prospect of unexpected change is not always appealing. 
  • Set them tasks that will reveal their skill and knowledge levels. 
  • How is their experience to date comparable to the role in question? 
  • How transferable is their knowledge? 
  • Do you like them? Can you really envisage working with them? 
  • Ask them to come back for another interview. 

Ask mentors or fellow entrepreneurs for questions which can flush out enthusiasms or reservations. 

Have someone who knows you sit in on the interview. It’s so valuable to have another person’s view; you may have missed vital reactions or comments that can make all the difference. 

The interview is also the place where you continue the process of “selling” the business, yourself and the role. 

  • Be clear about how much you believe in your business. Again, share your vision for it - what need it meets, how you want it to expand and how you see it growing over the next five years.  
  • Explain how the role fits within your projected expansion.You want the candidate to feel they really want the role because they understand how important it will be - they will be - within the business. 
  • Share with them their unique value - why it is that you called them for interview and what it is about their particular strengths that interests you. Illustrate how their unique strengths and experience will make a valuable contribution to the vision and expansion that you have just explained. 
  • Finally, opportunity: you have shared your vision and expansion forecasts; explain further how that vision is big enough to encompass and enable in their own career vision. Show them that, while there may not be huge recompense at the moment, your growth forecasts indicate that in a few years’ time they could be earning much more. This will show them how their performance will directly affect the performance of the business, which will encourage those who are interested in the future and committed for the long haul. 


Quality time spent with your key asset - your people - before they are on board will always reap benefits. You will attract employees who have a greater sense of contribution, a greater level of commitment and a greater willingness to put forward suggestions and become involved in the running of the company. This can only benefit the business, your customers and your employees.  

For further information, you may be interested in reading some of our related articles to support founders with people management

What next?

Hiring at an increasing rate? Make sure you have the right employment law support in place. Get in touch on 0800 689 1700, email us at or fill out the short form below with your enquiry.

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