What is one tool you use to better screen potential hires? Explain what it is and why you love it.
For engineers, I’ll actually take a current problem that I’m working on and either ask them to work through it with me, or have them sit down an pair program with me on a new feature. Giving someone actual work that they will be required to complete is the best way to determine how that person will perform as an employee in your environment.
What is one thing all effective leaders do a lot of?
Effective leaders are experts at making informed decisions and always surround themselves with great people. They realize it’s unrealistic to be an expert in every subject, so they hire qualified people to make up for their weakness areas and empower their teams to be autonomous. In other words, they’re effective at putting good people in place and then staying out of the way instead of getting in the way.
What is your favorite alternative venue to do business outside the office? Why?
Nearby co-working spaces are my favorite alternative offices. When starting my business, I took the entire engineering team off-site every Thursday. It’s amazing how that translated into our team spending more time interacting with each other and really gelled the team quickly. There are many factors to consider when building your initial team, and chemistry is one of the most important. Having a team that feels comfortable interacting / sharing (opposing) viewpoints yet still enjoys socializing with each other outside of work goes a long way to setting your company culture off on the right foot. Having off-site days at alternative venues is a sure way to help your early team grow together.
How did you get started on your current business? (Longer answers welcome.)
CoachUp solves a pain point that I experienced first hand. When I was younger, I played sports that neither one of my parents knew much about (sailing and skiing). When I wanted to get serious and really start competing, it was obvious that practicing on my own and with my team was not nearly enough to get me to the next level, so they opened the phone book (there was no craigslist or other services we take for granted now) and found me a private coach.
The experience of working with a private coach over the course of a couple seasons fundamentally shaped my life and was the single biggest reason I decided to compete in college. After graduating, I met up with my co-founder who had a similar story of finding a private coach by chance, which ended up fundamentally shaping his life as well. Together, we knew we could build a better way for people to find reliable sports coaches, so we set out to build CoachUp.
“As a start-up founder, what three soft skills do you look for most when hiring a new team member? “
The three most important soft skills I look for when hiring a new team member are: team first mentality, ability to work under pressure or within deadline constraints, and communication. You need team members who understand the big picture and operate by doing what is best for the business as a whole. Startups need to move quickly and having team members who can meet deadlines and work under pressure is an absolute necessity. Finally, communication is essential to getting a business off the ground. You need team members who are capable of articulating their opinions, as well as accurately relaying information from others.
What is one email rule you live by that saves you hours every week? (Example: Batching responses, using a certain app, etc.)
Email is the single largest hinderance to productivity. I set aside 1 hour a day to focus on email. That’s it.
Remember, when you live in your inbox, you’re focusing your energy on accomplishing what OTHER people want you to get done instead of what is most imperative for your business.
Inbox zero is not something that you should strive for. Whenever I hear someone say that they are an ‘Inbox Zeroer’ I think to myself ‘Wow, I wonder how much more productive this person could have been if they weren’t putting all of their effort into clearing out their inbox’.
Instead, focus on what you need to get done to drive your business forward and stop wasting time on what other people are asking you to focus on. You know what your business needs better than anyone else. Trust yourself, and execute!
In the next 5 years, what piece of technology do you think will be totally outdated for businesses to be using and why?
I think email is the single biggest time waster in companies today. There has been much innovation to make email more efficient, however I believe that email is broken at its core. It just simply is not a productivity tool and I’m willing to bet that within 5 years it will be phased out for another tool or technology that provides the same level of communication in a more efficient manner.
Even entrepreneurs get burnt out. What is one tried and true tip you have for avoiding this?
Starting a business is hard, grueling work. I can’t stress the importance of regular exercise enough. You must stay healthy if your business is going to have any chance of succeeding. The other important component is to have partners you can depend on. Everyone gets burned out eventually, so you need to have cofounders you can lean on and are capable of sticking it out and sharing the burden through tough times. It’s a team effort, and just like any sports team your top players don’t always have great games. When that happens it helps to have other players step up and carry the team.
What is the best lesson you have learned personally from founding your company so far?
The first couple hires you make for your company are super important. They will set your company culture and create the foundation for which your entire organization will be based. You cannot build a solid business on a shaky foundation. Find great people and surround yourself with them!
If you had to pick just one, what book do you wish was required reading for your entire staff and why?
The best business book I’ve ever read is the E-myth by Michael Gerber. The E Myth teaches entrepreneurs how to think about building their business so that they can turn their company into a well structured, systemized business. I truly believe too many entrepreneurs do not follow the advice in this book, which is why 80% of startups fail