By Danny Beckett Jr., founder and CEO of FlexTal™.
In a digital, post-pandemic world, survival for startups is tough and finding the right talent to avoid sudden death isn’t easy. Ninety percent of startups fail, and with that statistic in mind, the need for elite talent to have a fighting chance becomes even more desperate.
In the first three years, most startups spend a majority of their time and resources finding product-market fit, and this time span is vital to the company’s success, However, any entrepreneur will tell you firsthand that hiring the right talent can be incredibly challenging and costly — at least when done the traditional way.
With a short amount of time to find product-market fit, startups need excellent talent, and they need it fast. Unfortunately, hiring full-time talent the “typical” way wastes time and money that most startups don’t have — the average time to hire an FTE (full-time employee) is 36 days. Add in the possibility of a failed hire that could cost approximately 30% of their first-year expected earnings and you’re no closer to product-market fit than you were before, with less money and still no talent. However, it’s not all hopeless. A third option exists to save startups both time and money while giving them access to the skills they need: flexible talent.
FTEs are essential to the success of a startup, but they can’t do everything or specialize in niche skills that crop up as they search for product-market fit. Flexible talent are independent contractors who can be brought in on-demand and offer the flexibility in time and commitment that startups need as they grow.
Still not convinced? Let’s dive in to see how flexible talent can bring companies closer to product-market fit and give them a competitive edge in their industry.
Product-market fit requires agility.
In a startup, things can change quickly: shifting needs in the market, the varying flow of funds, retention of core team members, etc. To be successful, agility is nonnegotiable, but traditional full-time teams often can’t provide this as quickly as the company needs.
Due to their very nature, most startups don’t have much liquid capital as they work to get off the ground, and their numbers can often fluctuate with profitability and changes related to investors. Due to these changes, startups have to be selective with their teams to ensure they run lean. While this is economical, it doesn’t allow for much agility in terms of skills diversity. Fortunately, more agility can be achieved by simply switching around the traditional talent model.
In a startup, especially during the early stages, there may be shifting around in terms of team members and roles. While it will take some time to nail down steady full-time talent who will make up your core team, flexible talent can be brought in as needed to fill a more specialized skill gap or fill a role quickly, providing a malleable model that startups can easily change during growth phases.
Flexible talent provides lower-cost options without compromising speed and agility.
One of the most beneficial aspects of flexible talent for startups is that they don’t require the same heavy lifting that the typical hiring process requires. The average company spends approximately $4,000 on the hiring process, and for many startups, even this cost can be a burden when struggling to stay above water.
However, when hiring flexible talent, the paperwork, interview slots and onboarding are essentially null as they are considered experts in their field and don’t require the typical formalities that FTEs do. These workers can start on the project or role at hand immediately, collaborating with FTEs to begin working on product-market fit faster than full-time teams alone could achieve.
In addition to the speed of hiring and start, flexible talent is cost-effective, especially for startups that are already strapped for cash. Since they don’t work as complete FTEs, flexible talent doesn’t require a salary or benefits package, meaning most are paid hourly for their work. Not only does this save money, but it also allows for flexibility. For example, projects or roles change as the company does, and if less or more hours are needed, flexible talent schedules can be easily adjusted to fit budgets as things shift in the early stages.
How do you find flexible talent?
Whether they are full-time or flexible, finding talent is an incredibly daunting, time-consuming task. For startup leaders, time is money, and time wasted on finding talent can be enough to throw the company off track.
There are a few options you have when looking to hire flexible talent: freelance marketplaces, deep talent platforms or you can do it yourself using internal resources. As the CEO and founder of a talent matching platform, I’ve seen the benefits of flexible talent first hand, and no matter how you choose to source this talent, it’s important to keep your business’s goals, budget and skill needs in mind. These should all be clearly communicated to any potential talent to avoid any miscommunications surrounding hours, pay, etc. after hiring is completed.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that this talent will be working hand-in-hand with your full-time team members, therefore, ensuring they’re a culture fit is key. Don’t be afraid to share what the team culture is like, and explain what some expectations and norms within the company are. For example, weekly virtual team lunches might be expected to build connections. You’ll also want to emphasize how much team collaboration will be required, and if any in-person work will be necessary. By doing so, the talent won’t feel blindsided at any point during their work and know what to expect as they are integrated into the team.
The beginning stages of a startup and finding product-market fit isn’t easy. However, by utilizing flexible talent, leadership can pivot as needed as the company takes shape, quickly adding skills and relying on agile teams to get the job done.