Establishing a startup is a common goal for entrepreneurs who want to develop a good idea into a successful business. One of the core aspects of helping a startup thrive is establishing the right positions within the company to guide its growth. While startups are small by definition, they still rely on talented staff members to accomplish essential business tasks.
In this article, we explain the eight most important positions at any startup and share tips for hiring a talented, dedicated launch team for a startup company.
What is a startup?
A startup is a company in its beginning stages with the primary purpose of developing a new service or product. Entrepreneurs create startups as a way to experiment with a new idea with the ultimate goal of scaling it into a successful business model. Many startups have a simple idea that still requires extensive research and development.
For a startup to be successful, its founders and managers have to be able to raise capital to invest in the company, proving to investors that their concept can thrive in the consumer market. This involves managing multiple aspects of a growing company, including its organizational structure, hiring plan, marketing strategy and technology needs.
The 8 most important startup positions to hire
Some startups begin with a single person or a pair of co-founders managing all aspects of the business, but even the smallest startups have to grow and expand by hiring employees for core roles:
Chief executive officer
All startups should have a designated chief executive officer (CEO) to guide the overall vision and development of the company. The CEO determines the vision of a company, develops its mission statement, oversees the progress of other executives and acts as a liaison among company leaders. Because the CEO oversees the general strategy and business plan of the company, it is often one of the first positions that founders create for their startup business. Even on a team of other executives, CEOs are leaders who are responsible for making major business decisions and achieving success for the company.
CEOs serve an especially important role for startups because they help the company grow. They decide what important benchmarks they want to achieve, determine how to expand product lines and envision what they want the business to look like once it exits the startup phase and becomes a mature business. CEOs assess factors like available talent, economic conditions and market trends to make educated choices about company management.
Chief product officer
The chief product officer (CPO) is in charge of knowing all of the details of the product or service that a startup is working on. Their main goal is to oversee the creation of products that solve problems for their target market. CPOs manage employees on the product management team like product designers, testers and engineers.
CPOs take the original product idea for a startup and find ways to improve the user experience of interacting with that product, develop new features, enhance existing products and find new uses or applications for existing products. CPOs ensure that an idea for a product can transform into a functional prototype, then use testing, troubleshooting and product refinement techniques to prepare the product for market.
Chief financial officer
Because startups heavily rely on fundraising and seeking out investors to sustain the business, purchase company infrastructure and scale operations, having a chief financial officer (CFO) is especially important. The CFO of a startup is responsible for preparing the budget and income projections for different phases of business development, then pitching that information to investors to demonstrate the viability of the business. They ensure the startup has the seed money to purchase business essentials and drive growth.
CFOs also develop the initial financial controls and policies that guide spending for the startup. This helps them ensure that the business can become profitable as soon as possible while managing debt, assets and equity. They look for areas where the company can save money and help decide how to invest revenue to generate the most profit.
Chief operations officer
Chief operations officers (COOs) build the operational infrastructure for a startup and determine the logistics of running the company, from building a team of employees to delivering products to customers. COOs get instruction from other executives about company goals, then determine what practical tasks they need to accomplish to reach those goals and sustain long-term operations.
COOs at startups coordinate all aspects of setting up operations for the new company, such as sourcing suppliers, developing a timeline for the supply chain, communicating with manufacturers, ordering equipment, scheduling inspections and instituting quality control measures. They project what positions they’ll need to hire for to meet demand at different phases in the company’s growth.
Chief technology officer
The chief technology officer (CTO) manages all aspects of technology required to run a modern startup. CTOs make a company’s products accessible to consumers by determining what technology products and interfaces its customer base uses. They determine what software programs and hardware tools the startup needs to build and expand the business. CTOs manage the launch of the company website and plan updates to ensure potential customers and clients can easily navigate web pages to make purchases or ask for more information about products.
CTOs at tech-based startups have an especially critical role because they research emerging technologies to integrate into the company’s products and services. They help create innovative technological solutions to problems within the organization, integrate updates and train staff on new technological systems.
Chief marketing officer
A chief marketing officer (CMO) oversees sales, advertising and marketing across multiple channels to promote the business. They decide how to make money for the business by finding ways to attract customers and encourage repeat purchases. At a startup, the CMO determines the initial target audience, conducts market research projects and decides on how the startup will position their products. The CMO helps develop the startup’s brand identity and discovers ways to promote awareness of its products and services before, during and after launch.
CMOs can also develop a strategy for hiring and training sales representatives to pursue clients. They research sales opportunities, create a strategy for defining sales territories and develop funnels to guide clients through the process of closing a deal. CMOs at startups determine appropriate sales goals in the beginning stages of the business and increase them proportionally as the business expands. CMOs collect data and metrics related to the startup’s sales and marketing success, then analyze the information to adjust their strategy.
Customer relations manager
Once a startup launches a product, it needs someone to serve the role of responding to customer concerns. At a startup, the customer relations manager is responsible for developing best practices for replying to any questions or concerns a customer might have about their product. Customer relations managers accept feedback from consumers intending to improve company practices and increase customer satisfaction. Customer relations managers help startups develop a positive reputation and build a dedicated base of repeat customers, which can help the startup establish a presence in the market.
Human resources manager
Human resources managers establish recruiting, hiring and employee relations practices for startups that are ready to expand. Even startups with a small staff should have a human resources manager to supervise the process of onboarding new staff members and helping existing employees with any ongoing workplace issues. Having a good human resources manager can help startups retain more employees and develop consistent workplace policies as the company grows. Human resource managers are responsible for setting up employee benefit systems like health insurance, which are essential for attracting quality applicants to join the startup’s team.
Tips for hiring people for startup positions
By implementing strategic hiring practices, you can build a leadership team that can help a startup achieve its full potential. Try implementing these tips when recruiting and hiring executives and managers for a startup in its beginning phases:
Network to find top talent. The best candidates for startup positions should already have industry experience to prove their leadership potential. By networking with other professionals in your field, you can find qualified, ambitious professionals who may be interested in the opportunity to grow a business from the startup stage.
Emphasize growth. When advertising for startup positions, focus on finding candidates who have an interest in their professional development. Top candidates usually want to grow alongside the startup and have their ideas about how to achieve rapid expansion and success.
Review applications for results. Look for resumes and cover letters that emphasize a candidate’s impact on their past employers. Selecting candidates with results-oriented applications can help you hire people with the ability to transform a startup’s ideas into reality.
Seek diverse perspectives. When hiring a new employee at a startup, consider what types of skills and perspectives you don’t have on your team yet. Startups require innovation to be successful, so having a diverse range of ideas and experiences within your team is important.
Offer an attractive benefits package. Attract dedicated employees by providing a lucrative benefits package. Many startups provide their first employees with stock options, equity and other perks to incentivize them to join the company and commit themselves to its success.