Everything I needed to know about Entrepreneurship I learned from a Comedy Troupe: Hiring

I consider The Callbacks, the comedy group I founded at BU to be my first successful startup.The following posts is a series of lessons I learned while leading them:

Hiring (3 of 3)

Finding the right talent in a start up is a very hot topic right now and one that most companies struggle with. Finding the right talent for The Callbacks was no exception and something we really struggled with in our first two years. We were fortunate enough to have a great group of founding members, but when we started bringing on new people we ran into a lot of problems.



The Pain of Losing Great Talent

One of the founding members transferred schools after our first year, crushing the group’s morale at the beginning of our second year. He was incredibly funny, organized and passionate as well as the cinematographer who created the awesome videos that got us such great recognition. To fill the void I took on more responsibility by doing administrative tasks and fortunately another member stepped up to do the videos.

Lesson learned: It’s risky to rely too heavily on one person in an early stage company. Even if they are dependable, things can happen that are out of their control. Ideally you’d like clearly defined roles, but it’s important that employees in your company are familiar with each other’s work. Delegation and cross functional projects should be regularly practiced in any sized company so that everyone understands the different elements involved with significant business processes. That way if someone can’t work for a given period of time then other employees will have the know-how to complete their assignments.

Finding the Right Talent

Last year we brought on two new members that I had great hopes for. Joseph was one of the most naturally funny people I’d ever met. He easily churned out great sketches and lit up the stage. Unfortunately, he didn’t fit in with our culture as well as we’d hoped, and when his class schedule got too intensive, he quit. Kevin was funny (at auditions) and impressed me with how much he seemed to want to be in our club. His passion made me want to have him in the group, even though his talent wasn’t all there. He turned out to be neither funny, polite nor passioinate so we ‘fired’ him at the end of the year.

Lesson learned: After our experience with Joseph and Kevin we started expanding the interview process, bringing on more people after auditions and creating an ‘evaluation period’. Once we got familiar with the new members we started empowering them by giving them added tasks that fit their interests i.e. social media, event planning, filming. We’ve found that it gave them a sense of ownership with the group and kept them active during down times. We still lost a member this year because he had to leave the school, but since we delegated tasks throughout the group the pain wasn’t as bad as it had been in past years.

The culture you create in your company will inevitably determine the kind of talent you retain and attract. Once you’ve identified a great candidate make sure to empower them as soon as possible. Get them working on significant projects with several different functional areas involved. Learn what excited them and what turns them off and with the proper guidance they’ll be able to rock the job. But if they don’t take the initiative, or seem disinterested ask them to leave and get someone else to do it.


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