This is the 2nd in a series of what I believe are the four basic components needed to turn a start-up into a successful long-term company.
The second ‘P’ is passion. When hiring people you want individuals that share the same level of enthusiasm and excitement as everyone else on the existing team. Passion goes beyond liking a particular product or industry. Just because you like Ferrari’s does not mean you would make a great car mechanic or car salesperson. However, if you eat, sleep and breath cars and in particular Ferrari’s then you might make a great addition to the Ferrari organization. You have to be consumed by that product or industry and want to read everything about it and learn as much as you can.
I started my career as a technical person building large scale wide area networks and spent countless hours optimizing routers to get TCP/IP packets from destination A to destination B. Did I have a passion for it, probably not. Since the 7th grade, I have been consumed by financial markets. Most of my classmates thought I was going to be a stockbroker because I was reading the Wall Street Journal back then. I love technology but financial markets are my true passion for reasons even I don’t fully understand.
When you are passionate about something you just naturally tend to be more knowledgeable about that topic area because it interests you. And when you are more knowledgeable it adds so much more to the team. The drive and passion does not have to be in the main area of the company. If you are a technology startup and your CFO is in love with Excel and gets excited by P&L statements, then lucky for you.
An example of someone with a lot of passion is Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary has a passion for wine and it shows – he runs a retail wine shop in New Jersey but has became an internet sensation with his Wine Library TV podcast. When you watch one of his podcasts you can feel the excitement and passion he has for wine industry and he can talk about vineyards like its second nature. Gary has turned a field that was typically dominated by older middle aged men and “crushed it” as he would say. With passion comes knowledge and it shows, Gary is someone you would trust blindly because he eats, sleeps, breaths and drinks the wine industry.
Startups have enough drama on their own in the early days and you want the core team to stay and build up the company. Early on, having team members come and go can throw off the overall rhythm of a startup. By finding passionate people they hopefully will stick around even if things look grim because they are enthusiastic and excited about the product or industry they are in.
But finding passionate candidates is not straight forward. Luckily in this age of social networks, you can keep tabs on someones blog or twitter stream to get a better understanding of what interests them. More often than not, you have to interact with them on an ongoing basis to build a mental social graph of what truly gets them enthusiastic, excited and passionate.