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Building a startup’s founding team is never a "one-size-fits-all" type of situation. When forming your team, it is easy for you to fall victim to following whatever information is presented in the first three results on your Google Search for "how to hire my founding team." Unfortunately, we live in a reality in which a startup that has been built from the lifetime savings of a 35 year-old average Joe may differ on how, who, and when it hires, compared to that of a startup founded by the 19-year old son of Bill Gates. Since we can’t all be the son of Bill Gates, here are some tips on how to recruit a founding team for the average (soon-to-be extraordinary) startup:
Over-hiring is not the solution
A single job posting can amount to an overwhelming influx of applications. With no one to help sift through all of these prospects, you might tend to over-hire. Obviously, you go with those CVs that stand out. But, applicants with C-suite, VP, or directorial titles to boast should not even be options for two reasons: first, their salary is probably enough for you to move out of your makeshift garage office, and second, they're through dealing with the hustle lifestyle that you're just entering. In a podcast for The Startup Chat, Hiten Shah, co-founder of KISSMetrics, categorizes over-hiring as "counterproductive."
The solution to this? Know who you need and for what. All you need are five people: a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) who will serve as a catalyst to buffer sales; a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who will advocate for the entirety of your startup; a Chief Product Officer (CPO) who will serve as the design genius behind what you're selling; a Chief operating Officer (COO) who will serve as your right-hand in the decision making process; and lastly, for tech startups, a Chief Technological Officer (CTO) who will be the brains behind the architecture of your product.
Headhunt for flexibility
Now that we've established that only five people are needed for your founding team, this point justifies why you only need this group — at least just for the first few years. Your newly hired CRO will be the person who refrains from marketing collaterals because he or she knows your product like Mark Zuckerberg knows a grey shirt. Flexibility is key for your founding team members. Change is inevitable for startup companies, and shifts in operational functions can happen within weeks or days. Your first hires should be able to keep up with these changes.
Opposites DON’T attract
The ability to keep up with the changes your company goes through is a key characteristic for your founding team. Each individual’s compatibility with the startup culture of hustling should be taken into consideration. It's not enough to have you and your co-founder agree with your vision for the company. Your founding team should share the same values and beliefs as well. Both parties, your team and yourself as a founder, will be presented with challenges regarding company culture. For your team, the challenge will be adapting to the culture you embrace in your startup. For you as a founder, the challenge will be providing a collaborative environment for your team to grow into.
Authentic passion speaks volumes
A genuine connection is what you need to look for in your founding team. You need people who have an equal amount of passion to devote to both your product and your audience. Passion is what drives people to go to work every day, and you need people who, as soon as they wake up, are hungry to deliver for you. In her interview with Fast Company, COO of Geek & Sundry, Felicia Day furthers the need for people with authentic passion for what they do and further emphasizes the importance of drive and dedication within every startup’s founding team: “authenticity and passion must revolve around the thing that we’re all trying to make together.”
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