The first rule is:
If you’re going to fire, fire fast.
You normally need just one day to get to like a person, a week to find out how well they’ll get along with other members of your team, and a month to find out if they’re suitable in terms of knowledge, attitude and work habits. So within a month you should know whether or not to keep the person.
If you’re still not certain, decide on a specific additional trial period – and on the specific things you want to learn during that time. You might, for example, decide to keep a person on for two more weeks, specifically looking at how well they do at completing tasks on time. Or it might be an additional month, to learn whether or not they will responsibly make decisions and originate creative and sensible solutions.
One way or the other, set definite parameters, and then act decisively based on what you see and feel. Don’t make the mistake of keeping a questionable employee around forever, hoping maybe they’ll someday become a real asset to the team. That can be very expensive, and it’s unfair to everyone involved.
Bad employees are very expensive for a start-up (or any company, for that matter). You should only hire people that you’re at least 97% sure will be extraordinary. Otherwise just wait for a better candidate to appear.
Make sure you have specific and measurable criteria for employees. For hiring them, and for retaining them. And make sure that each criterion relates directly to added value for the company.
Once you have the right team, make certain they all understand your overall goals, and how you intend to achieve them. Make sure the team has a leader – a star who inspires, sets a good example, gives good advice and direction, gets things done, and motivates others to get things done.
You want a consistent culture within your company. It may be a hard-working company. It might be a fun and funny company (that still accomplishes its objectives). Whatever it may be, though, the most important thing is that all team members are well aligned with each other and with the company’s purposes and objectives. When you have such a team, you can develop your business in the right direction, and achieve what you set out to, as a team.
A good team can take some pretty heavy stress now and then. The team’s spirit and sense of purpose can be much more important than money. Constant or too-frequent stress is not sustainable, though. If you see too much of it, there’s something wrong, and it needs to be treated or the team you’ve built, and all their productivity, are likely to crash.