#26: Turn Your Startup’s First Hires Into Champions And Top Lieutenants – AJ Bruno

On this episode of the 1 to 10 podcast, we chatted with AJ Bruno, founder and CEO at QuotaPath.

Episode Overview

1 to 10? Try 0 to 20.

At least, that’s what AJ Bruno drove TrendKite to do before it sold for $225 million. Now, as founder and CEO at QuotaPath, AJ is implementing everything he’s learned from operating a crazy-successful startup.

What’s the most important factor when it comes to selling a new idea?

The people who help you.

AJ gives us the inside scoop on what characteristics a startup’s first hires should possess.

Know that candidates are interviewing you, too

This idea is important to keep in mind when you’re interviewing candidates, especially for a startup.

As a startup, your credibility is obviously going to be lacking a little bit. Candidates should be intrigued to learn just as much about you as you about them. It’s entirely normal and appropriate for a candidate to reference check you.

If a candidate isn’t adding anything to the interview, it can be a sign that they’re not nearly as invested as you need them to be. Not to mention, a leadership position in your company probably won’t be a goal of theirs.

Hire people who get behind your idea

New hires need to have passion and vigor for your company’s mission.

To successfully communicate the “why” of your startup, AJ encourages uncovering your mission, vision, and values early in conversations. You should be able to tell if these elements resonate with the candidate.

Hiring individuals who connect meaning to your company’s mission, vision, and values will contribute positive energy to your culture. Your culture is a result of the people you hire; make sure they can get behind your ideas.

Accept that skillset isn’t everything

When you’re recruiting professionals for a startup, it’s necessary to recognize that not all skills are going to be there.

Helping your new hires develop the necessary skills is part of the process of creating leaders. AJ stresses that foundational communication skills should be present in any individual you hire, but expect to teach them in more technical areas.

Find teachable individuals

AJ points out that teachability is one of the most important characteristics of a new hire.

So important, in fact, that he and a few others on his team conduct a trial run to test it in each candidate. The test is carried out as follows:

  1. The candidate is asked to prepare and deliver a presentation.
  2. AJ’s team gives three points of feedback; one compliment and two constructive criticisms.
  3. The candidate presents the criticized areas again, after (hopefully) taking heed of the feedback.
  4. AJ’s team analyzes and concludes on the candidate’s ability to receive feedback and successfully implement it.

The teachability test demonstrates a candidate’s willingness to improve. It also tends to exhibit the candidate’s level of accountability. If they’re adamant on justifying the criticized areas, it’s likely that’s how they will handle work in your company.

This type of person can be detrimental to the work you produce and your company culture. If you plan on building leaders, individuals who can take feedback and grow from it are essential.

Plus, by hiring teachable people, you’ll generate a strong network of potential industry leaders. AJ has had the opportunity to work with professionals he hired at TrendKite who have gone on to establish their own companies.

What’s the #1 Thing Someone Can Do to Grow their B2B Tech Company?

We ask every guest on our podcast if they have one grand piece of advice for any growing B2B tech company. AJ’s advice to anyone looking to grow their B2B tech company:

Consider the plans you set each day.

When AJ is planning out his personal and professional schedules, he sets daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. This helps him act with more intention every single day.

AJ encourages other B2B professionals to find a schedule that syncs with their lives. Everyone has different processes that work for them.

Connect with Guest, Subscribe to 1 to 10

This post is based on an interview with AJ Bruno from QuotaPath.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The 1 to 10 Podcast:

Of course, you can listen to every episode here on our Episodes page.